I've had a rough week so far. I came home today feeling like a freight train had gone through my head. So I made some Appalachian comfort food: a pone of corn bread. Now, if you've never had Southern corn bread, let me describe it for you: it is savory, not sweet like the usual restaurant corn muffins (which I refer to fondly as "Johnny cake"). It's a white corn meal instead of yellow. Lots of butter... if you have a nice cold glass of milk to dip it in, that's even better. Some folks like buttermilk with it, but I prefer sweet milk (translation: regular, non-butter, milk) with mine. I hope to dive into it as soon as the mister gets home from karate.
A few words of advice for first-time Southern-style corn bread bakers:
- Pay attention to the meal that you are buying. I learned the hard way, that there is corn meal (much like you would buy flour) and then there is corn meal mix (kinda like Bisquick, except with corn meal). The mix already has the correct proporations of baking soda, salt, etc., to make it rise. Plain corn meal does not. My favorite mix is Three Rivers. I think it's only a regional brand, though, because in my short stint in Boston a decade ago, I couldnt find anything but Martha White. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a area where Three Rivers is available, I highly recommend it. Most of the measuring work is already done for you, and it is a high quality blend.
- Watch what kind of cooking oil you use in the batter. I advise using a mild-flavored oil, such as canola. I used olive oil once, and I hated it. Now, I am a big fan of olive oil over all, but it just overpowers the corn-breadiness of the batter.
- Be sure to grease the pan well (with butter!) to allow the bread to release when it is done.
- It'll keep on the counter for a couple of days if you put it in a sealed plastic baggie. You can reheat it by wrapping it in a paper towel and nuking it for 10 - 20 seconds, but it is also great cold. It is good for lunch the next day.
- Cast iron skillets are wonderful for cooking it in. They can go in the oven safely and are usually well-seasoned enough to release the bread well. The various pans you can buy to make corn sticks or corn "fish" or corn "cactuses" are fun too.
- Fried corn bread is a delicacy. This is basically pancakes, except you use cornbread batter instead of pancake batter. I don't change the recipe at all from baked corn bread. My daddy loves to make this, line his plate with the cakes, and pour white beans (cooked slowly all day in a crock pot with a ham hock) over them and crumble some more cakes on top... a feast fit for a king!
I haven't been able to work on my costume at all this week. I've had very little time to play at all. Hopefully things will lighten up soon.