Start to Finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes Servings: 6 Difficulty: Intermediate
Southerners are extremely particular about cornbread. Some cooks believe cornbread should never have added sugar, while others prefer to add a pinch or several tablespoons. Some recipes yield a cornbread that rises high and light, while others result in one that's flat and dense. Even the color of cornmeal -- white or yellow -- is a point of contention. Fried cornbread is no different. Southern fried cornbread can be a way to use up leftover bread for breakfast or a method of cooking cornbread in a skillet with lots of lard, bacon fat, butter or oil. This recipe, inspired by the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, yields a thin, crispy version of fried cornbread.
- 3 tablespoons bacon grease or lard
- 1 1/2 cups stone ground cornmeal, white or yellow
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a paper towel to grease a 12-inch, preferably cast-iron, skillet with lard or bacon grease. Leave any excess in the pan and place the pan in the oven.
Sift the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until they are thoroughly incorporated. Stir in the melted butter.
Remove the skillet from the oven -- the fat should be smoking -- and pour the batter into the skillet. You'll hear a deep sizzling sound. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the edges pull away from the skillet. Remove the skillet from the oven. Serve the cornbread hot.
Use butter in lieu of the lard or bacon grease for "frying" the cornbread. Butter has a lower smoke point than other fats and has a tendency to burn, so put the skillet in the oven ungreased while you mix the batter. When you're ready to bake the cornbread, remove the skillet from the oven and add the 3 tablespoons of butter that you're using in lieu of the bacon fat or lard; put the skillet back in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the butter melts and starts to bubble. Swirl the butter around in the pan before adding the batter and baking.
Alternative Fried Corn Bread
Another interpretation of fried corn bread calls for frying slices of day-old corn bread in several tablespoons of bacon fat. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until the fat is melted and smoking, add the corn bread and cook until the outside is golden brown and crunchy -- about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Top the fried bread with maple syrup and serve alongside slabs of country ham and fried eggs.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.