Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fast, Cheap and Easy (I Like My Cornbread Like I Like My...)


I keep hearing insinuations that Keith and I put massive effort into our food all the time, that we eat huge fancy meals every day. I thought I'd set the record straight here! We do eat good, home-cooked food for the most part (though I have to confess a weakness for Annie's Mac & Cheese and Pizza Roma). But it's usually not fancy. You just hear about it when it is, because I'm proud of a special occasion.

Tonight was a far more typical night. We had blackeye peas and cornbread for dinner. Sounds homely, but it was delicious, healthy, and hearty. The trick to a simple frugal meal is to do it right from scratch; it takes maybe an hour of mostly passive time to cook, which admittedly is longer than microwaving something, but it's worth it. These blackeye peas were pretty simple, just simmered in broth with balsamic vinegar and pepper flakes and then topped with a little bit of grated cheddar cheese. The cornbread... well, I'm feeling generous, so I'll share a cornbread recipe that took me years to perfect. Enjoy this cornbread - it's never once let me down.


1 Tbsp canola oil (see note)
1 c cornmeal
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 c honey
1 c buttermilk (or 1 Tbsp cider vinegar + milk to equal 1 c)
1 egg

Note: If you have a cast-iron skillet, put the oil in it and stick it in the oven to preheat right along with the oven. If you're making this in a regular pan, then omit the oil and understand that the cornbread won't have that nice crispy crust on the bottom.

Preheat the oven (and oiled skillet) to 425 F.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a fork or whisk. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients (I usually just mix them all right there in the measuring cup), beating the egg into the honey and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and give it all a quick stir just to moisten it. Don't overmix! Some lumps are okay. Pour it all into the preheated skillet and bake it for half an hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

See? Not fancy, not hard, just quick and delicious and dirt-cheap. You can't get better than that.

UPDATE 3/18/11: Some friends of mine have gone gluten-free and I tried making this recipe with brown rice flour instead of wheat. Since the cornmeal dominates, the wheat isn't necessary, and I've repeatedly found that it's actually better with rice flour. So if you're not into the gluten thing, no worries, and if you normally eat wheat, try something different and enjoy the surprise!

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