Saturday, November 2, 2013

Skillet Cornbread

There's something about cooking in a skillet that makes me think of miners kicking back at the end of a long day while supper sizzles in a cast-iron pot over an open fire. Living in the middle of a large metropolis, I don't do much panning for gold or any other precious metal, but I can always dream while stir-frying veggies or flipping turkey burgers in one of my well-seasoned skillets. They're solid and heavy (sometimes, when filled with hot stew, perhaps a little too heavy) and seemly indestructible, though their enemy is rust, which does happen when the pans sit in water for any length of time.

My love affair with the skillet awakened a fondness for a particular recipe for skillet cornbread from one of my go-to cookbooks, Ruth Reichl's 2004 The Gourmet Cookbook. It's simple, relatively quick--less than an hour from mixing ingredients to finished product--and the bonus for those who aiming to reduce the gluten in their diet is that, unlike most cornbread, this one doesn't contain any flour at all. I like to serve it with one of those other things I enjoy making in a skillet--stews and chili. It's also perfect with a bowl of soup (isn't everything?) or with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for breakfast. The buttermilk keeps the bread moist and even a little bit creamy in the center. I upped the sugar from 1 tablespoon to 2 (I've even been known to increase it to 3!), but that's the only change I made from the original recipe. Here it is:

Skillet Corn Bread

Serves 8

(from The Gourmet Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, medium-grind
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Special Equipment: a well-seasoned 9- to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet*

Mix until just combined before pouring into the skillet.


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat a skillet in the oven's center rack for 10 minutes.

2. Stir together dry ingredients: cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

3. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a medium bowl until blended.

4. Remove hot skillet from the oven and add the butter, swirling it gently with a fork until melted. Don't worry if the butter sizzles and browns a bit around the edges. Try to leave a slight coating of butter on the bottom and sides of the skillet so that the cornbread won't stick.

5. Whisk the butter into the egg and buttermilk mixture, and return the skillet to the oven. 

6. Stir cornmeal into the buttermilk mixture, combining until evenly moistened but still a bit lumpy.

7. Scrape batter into hot skillet and bake until golden--20 to 25 minutes. Let cornbread cool for a few minutes in the pan before turning upside down on a rack to cool completely. **

Lodge 9-inch skillet

*Reichl says that a regular pan will produce an "anemic-looking" cornbread. If you don't own a cast-iron skillet, you can buy one that's already seasoned and ready to use through Amazon or Lodge, one of the major manufacturers. They're also available at many cooking supply stores.

**I've found that the cornbread sometimes sticks a bit to the skillet if you try to take it out immediately after removing it from the oven. If you allow it to cool slightly, it tends to hold together better when you remove it to a plate. Another thought is to just serve it straight from the skillet.

Nutritional Info (1/8 recipe)

Calories: 165
Fat: 8 grams
Carbs: 45 grams
Fiber: 4 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

On the Side

Ruth Reichl includes a recipe for buckwheat honey butter to serve with the cornbread. Combine 1 stick of softened butter (8 tablespoons) with 2 tablespoons of honey. Mix well. It works just fine with other honeys or maple syrup.

1 comment:

  1. This is a comment from my friend Beth after she made the recipe with a few pals:

    Hi, Ruth! I made the cornbread tonight and it did come out wonderfully well. This was a trial run, as I plan on making it for Thanksgiving dinner. I had 3 taste testers tonight and they all agreed that I should throw in that extra spoonful of sugar, to make it three, and I think I'm going to try making it with a fine grind of cornmeal, as there were some really crunchy bits in there that were just a little jarring when you bit down on them. I used Bob's Red Mill medium grind. But it cooked perfectly, brown around the edges and a nice crisp bottom, which did not stick to the cast iron pan at all.

    Thanks for the great recipe!