A few years ago, I bought my husband a cute little antique cornbread pan on a whim. It was after he mentioned his granny used a cast iron pan like the one we spotted at the Scottsdale Antiques Market to cook something he called "corn pone." Apparently that's Southspeak for eggless corn bread. With my limited cooking skills, I tossed a batch of store bought mix into the pan and baked them for an anniversary surprise.
Surprise as in, "Wow! These corn pones are surprisingly effing ugly."
Since The Virgin's previous tries at beet salad and potato leek soup turned out well, I figured whipping up a batch of cornbread from scratch using Alton Brown's easy-looking Creamed Corn Cornbread recipe would be a cinch. Unfortunately, I was the one that got creamed...
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup creamed corn
2 tablespoons canola oil
The Virgin's MisDirections:
This recipe requires absolutely no prep time, which is awesome considering my craptastic knife skills. The Virgin can use a can opener, dammit!
1. Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees as specified in Food Network's recipe. Then grab one of the many 10-inch cast iron skillets which I'm sure you have laying around in your apartment kitchen and stick it in the oven. Uh-huh.
Since I didn't want to plunk down the extra cash for a cast iron pan I'm sure I'd only use twice, I went with what I had: the aforementioned "corn pone" cast iron pan and a baking dish that the '70s would like back now. Use what you've got and it will all work out fine, right? *cue ominous music*
2. Combining the ingredients is a simple task. Just dump the corn meal, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and whisk until well-mixed. (Tip: Don't use the baking soda that doubles as a fridge deodorizer, no matter how temped you are. Don't laugh. I tried it once and ended up with a cake that tasted like rotting veggies.)
3. Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl and add eggs and creamed corn. I'm fond of the corn-studded version at Sweet Tomatoes, so I tossed in a half cup of whole sweet corn, too. Whisk it all together.
4. Add the bowl of dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture bowl and whisk until combined. Alton says, "If the batter will not pour, add more buttermilk to the batter." Mine was as runny as a kid's nose in wintertime, so no worries.
5. Next you're supposed to swirl the oil around in the, now hot, cast iron pan. Whoops. That doesn't quite work when your pan is a row of shallow corn cob shaped dents. Instead, I used a paper towel doused with oil to lightly grease both pans. Brilliant! Or so I thought.
6. Pour the batter into the skillet/pan/dish/whatever and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springy (about 20 minutes). With my replacement dishes, I spent the next twenty minutes staring at the baking cornbread through the door. With The Virgin's luck, it's either peek every few minutes or risk bread that looks like a charred hockey puck.
After 15 minutes, I pulled the corn pone pan out, leaving the ceramic dish to cook a few minutes longer. The little corn cobs looked perfect... until I tried to remove them from the pan. After cooling, I dumped the pan over and the little suckers wouldn't come out. I shook, I hit, I pried the edges with a knife. They wouldn't budge. Eventually I gave in and cut them out, resulting in sad, pitiful ovals that looked more like mounds of dirt than corn cobs.
Oh, well. The better looking squares of pan bread paired nicely with the homemade chili I whipped up from ingredients I had on hand. Riiiight... (Well, I did whip it up. Straight from the can.)
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With no savory element such as jalapenos or cheese to give the bread flavor, the cornbread was a bit bland (sorry, Alton!). Next time I'll up the sweet quotient with honey -- and either ditch the cast iron corn pone pan or drown the thing in oil.