Friday, October 31, 2008

Skillet-Sizzled Heaven from Crescent Dragonwagon

As some DallasEats readers may recall, last year at this time I was busy working on a review of a new cookbook for San Antonio's alt-weekly, The Current.  The cookbook in question was The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon, and I chronicled my mouthwatering adventures exploring its fascinating subject matter in two posts - here and here.

Dragonwagon, the James Beard Award-winning author of Passionate Vegetarian, turned food historian for her follow-up book, tackling a homespun subject and revealing its deep-rooted relevance to cultures all around the world and right here in our own American back yards.  In The Cornbread Gospels she presents dozens of variations on the "basic cornbread" theme (illustrating in the process that cornbread is anything but basic), as well as recipes for cornmeal-based quickbreads, flatbreads, yeast breads and desserts.  

I fell in love with this book, quite by accident.  Hautily, I'd expected to maintain my professional detachment with ease while working on the project, ambivalent as I'd been about cornbread for most of my life - I'd always thought I could take it or leave it.  My first batch of Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread changed all that.  The moment I poured golden batter into a pool of butter as it bubbled in my mother's cast-iron skillet, I knew I'd been converted by Dragonwagon's Gospels.  I continued cooking my way through the book with a newfound hunger for the soul-warming comfort of cornbread.

Below you'll find Crescent Dragonwagon's signature cornbread recipe (pictured above in the top left quadrant), named for the acclaimed bed and breakfast she ran for many years in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  It would pair beautifully with FP's recipe for Green Chile with Pork, presented earlier this week.

Crescent Dragonwagon's
Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Spray a 10-inch skillet with cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.

3.  In a smaller bowl, stir the baking soda into the buttermilk.  Whisk in the sugar, egg and vegetable oil.

4.  Put the prepared skillet over medium heat, add the butter, and heat until the butter melts and is just starting to sizzle.  Tilt the pan to coat the sides and bottom.

5.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine quickly, using as few strokes as possible.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cornbread is golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Slice into wedges and serve.


Amy Severson said...

My grandmother was originally from West Virginia and made the best cornbread. She always greased her pan with bacon fat. Yum.

Food Czar said...

C@S, I understand your ambivilence about cornbread. Too many Southern cooks make it simply because "My Mom made it," and I feel they never gave much thought to preparation. For me, the issues have always been that it's usually too dry, not sweet enough, or doesn't taste like anything in particular. And just putting jalapenos in the recipe, as too many people have been doing lately, doesn't automatically make it good. This one sounds good!

Anonymous said...

I've never successfully made cornbread. Maybe this is the recipe that will work for me. I hesitate to even try, though, because I just hate failure!

Classy&Sassy said...

It's pretty much fool-proof, Margie - take my (inexperienced) word for it. It worked for me on the very first try :) Plus, you could totally do like Amy's mom and make it bacon-licious!