Friday 27 February 2009

Corn bread in a cast-iron skillet

A year or so back I read a piece in the Vancouver Sun extolling the virtues of the cast-iron skillet. The article made it sound like a real wonder-tool: an all-purpose frying pan that would pay back a little love and attention with a unique cooking experience that flimsy modern non-stick pans just can't match. It piqued my interest on a number of levels, but could I really justify the expense. Back in the days when I was paid commissions and didn't have 3 kids I used to love going and scouting round the fancy cookshops, where you'd spend $20 on the latest silcone non-stick easy grip teaspoon measure or some such nonsense. Now, though, I was back with a mortgage, a baby on the way and these kinds of thing just weren't really essential.

A week or so later I was walking up Main Street with one of the boys. For some reason we had to go to the dollar store, Welk's, at 19th & Main. It may have been halloween, I don't know. Anyway - imagine my surprise when amongst all the plastic food savers and toys designed to fall apart on their second use, I saw a selection of cast iron frying pans. There I was, expecting to have to shell out at least a hundred bucks and the dollar store had the most fantastic, simple, heavy cast-iron 12 inch skillet for only $14.

Needless to say, I bought it. I had great fun seasoning it - rubbing it with vegetable oil and then baking it in the oven upside down at 350F for half an hour. Job done! Ever since, it has given sterling service not only as a frying pan, but also for baking, especially corn bread.

Traditional southern corn bread served with a meal like meatloaf or roat chicken can make a great alternative starch. The kids love it because it's a bit sweet, and it's really easy to make. Cooking it in a skillet gives the crust a really nice caramelized chewiness.

This is the recipe I used for the one in the picture. I like it with less sugar than many of the American recipes I've seen.

4 oz butter
1 cup natural yogurt
1 cup milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 cup cornmeal (polenta)
1 cup maize flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 350F

Melt the butter in the skillet, swirling it around well to coat the pan. Whisk eggs, milk, yogurt and sugar together and pour in the melted butter. Don't worry about scraping it all out of the skillet - what's left in the pan will lubricate and cook the outside nicely. Put the skillet back on the stove to keep hot, but don't burn the butter in the pan.

Stir in the dry ingredients and mix to a thick batter and pour it into the skillet. Leave it on the stovetop over a low heat for a few minutes until you can see the edges starting to cook. Transfer it to the oven and bake for about 30 mins or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.

It's probably possible to cook the whole thing over a lowish heat on the stove, if you have a suitable lid for the skillet. I'm going to try this soon and report back.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

Posted via email from For the dough...

No comments: