Yesterday was chilly and windy and that made it perfect weather for a big (huge!) pot of chili and some home made cornbread.
My friend Jeff Reed gave me the perfect cornbread recipe a few years ago. I realize that just saying that a particular recipe is the perfect recipe is fighting words for some folks, especially when it comes to cornbread. Some foods just seem to divide people sharply along lines of opinion. Here are my cornbread rules, you probably have your own:
1. No cornbread worth eating ever came from a mix.
2. Sugar can be added if you are using it for dessert. Dessert cornbread is delicious. Otherwise sweet cornbread is yucky cornbread.
3. It's better with buttermilk.
4. It must be cooked in greased and preheated cast iron! You just won't get the right crust otherwise.
5. I like yellow cornmeal so much better than white. I think it tastes more strongly of corn, but that may just be a visual prejudice.
6. Never cook cornbread while shirtless. Especially don't accidentally lean your shirtless self up against the cast iron skillet when it is just out of the 450 degree oven, you hussy, you. Don't ask me how I know about that, but I will say I have two permanent reminders on my tummy.
So back to Jeff's simple recipe for perfect golden goodness:
2 beaten eggs
2 c buttermilk
2 T melted butter
2 c self-rising (Yellow!) cornmeal
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Grease a cast iron skillet. (I used to use Crisco shortening, but now that I know shortening is trying to kill me, I have been trying other things. Last night I used a combo of butter and olive oil and got the best crust ever. The crust is key.) Put the greased skillet into the oven and leave it there until it is really hot. Mix the ingredients together without over mixing, then pour the batter into the very hot skillet. It should sizzle like crazy. If it doesn't, then the pan wasn't hot enough and your cornbread is ruined and you should just go to bed now and cry yourself to sleep. Or am I the only one who would do that? Really? Oh, well, never mind, then. Bake it until it is done to your liking. I like it dry but not dried out. You kind of have to experiment with time to see how you like it.
The thing is, I get bored, even with perfect cornbread. Last night I was feeling cheesy, and oniony, and chile -y, so I added:
1c shredded extra sharp cheddar
1/2 c finely diced onion
1 small can diced chiles
a tiny splash of extra buttermilk
It was, simply, the best cornbread I have ever had. It smelled so good baking I almost couldn't stand it. The crust came out beautifully with the butter/olive oil. The cornbread was moist and the extra sharp cheddar, onions, and chiles created tiny bits of heavenly flavor throughout. The cheese was particularly awesome.
I had some for breakfast this morning. Cold. It is that good.
When I get home tonight I'm going to can 7 quarts of that ginormous Jethro pot of chili so it will be ready to go the next time I want some. The rest will go into the freezer. Real convenience food!
Does colder weather get you excited about cooking like it does me?