There are certain dishes that require cornbread to really complete them as a meal. Things like Black Eyed Peas, King Ranch Chicken, maybe Chili, and definitely Beef Stew.
Sadly, there is also a wealth of horrible cornbread out there, delivering results that miss the mark of perfectly complimenting a hearty dish that begs for a slice of cornbread. Too sweet. Too dry. Too flavorless. Too thin. Too greasy. Too cake-like.
My perfect cornbread is first and foremost crusty and craggy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. A crunch, followed by a satisfying softness. The flavor is tangy, with a hint of sweetness, but it in no way resembles dessert. I also want some heft, some height, something that can stand up to beans or stew.
My recipe for Buttermilk Cornbread is both a formula of ingredients plus a method. The formula is a list of basic pantry staples. The wet ingredients are mixed into the dry ingredients, and it comes together quickly without any fancy equipment needed.
The method is the real game changer. An 8-inch cast iron skillet is brushed with oil, then set in a hot oven to heat up before adding the batter. Once the batter hits the hot oil, it sizzles and instantly forms a beautiful crust. The batter continues to cook for twenty minutes until it is done in the middle. It is exceptional, and in my opinion, exactly what cornbread should taste like.
- 1/2 cup 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 extra large eggs
- 2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- vegetable oil for greasing the pan
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Pour a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into an 8-inch cast iron skillet and tilt the pan around to distribute the oil evenly over the bottom of the pan.
- When the oven is preheated, place the cast iron skillet (with the oil in it) into the oven and allow the pan to heat up for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the melted butter, buttermilk, and eggs in a small bowl or a large glass measuring cup. Stir it all together with a fork to break up the eggs.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula to stir, until the dry ingredients are just barely incorporated. It is important not to over mix at this step.
- Remove the hot cast iron skillet from the oven, and carefully pour the batter into the pan. It should sizzle a little bit. Don’t forget that the pan is hot! (I usually place a dish towel or oven mitt on the handle as a visual reminder that the pan is hot.) Return the pan to the oven, and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Alternatively, you can bake this is a 9X13 baking dish. Spray the dish with nonstick baking spray instead of using the oil, and do not preheat the pan.
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