We all need a little “Skillet Love”….Cornbread

Cornbread can fall into many categories….the good, the bad, dry or moist, sweet or not, yellow or white.  This recipe for “Black Skillet Cornbread”, from the new cook book “Skillet Love” by New York Times Best Selling Cookbook author Anne Byrn, published by Grand Central Publishing, is in my opinion, simply “the best cornbread” I have ever eaten. I always hesitate to declare anything “the best” as that concept is full of conflict in that my best might not be yours. I take exception to my rule and challenge you to make it and see if you agree or not. The recipe itself is part of the deliciousness, but the key “ingredient” is the cast iron skillet in which it is cooked.

Cover photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

 “Skillet Love” has more than 150 recipes, from “steak to cake” all baked, charred, roasted, fried, grilled and browned in a 12 inch seasoned cast iron skillet. Did you know that you can quickly make a pound cake in cast iron? How about the crispiest crust pizza ever? A whole roasted hen along with vegetables? These recipes, the history of cast iron cookware, how to season a new cast iron skillet as well as how to keep your old one in great shape is all to be found between the pages of this delightful book. Beautiful photography by Danielle Atkins, lively prop styling by Jessie Pickren and the food styling by me and Anne.

All book photography by Danielle Atkins Photography.

When asked what is my go-to cooking pan, I always reply it is my much loved and cared for cast iron skillet that belonged to my Grandmother on my Mother’s side who I never met. It is old and shiny black with a beautifully seasoned finish. It has moved along with me in life, it has pleased me when life was not so pleasing and has cooked many tasty upside down cakes and crispy breads, never failing to satisfy. It is just a cast iron skillet, a material object, but it has a life of stories within. I have added many cast iron pieces to my collection of pots and pans over the years. Some of my favorites come from Lodge Cast Iron which is made right here in Tennessee. Lodge was the perfect skillet for this most perfect of cornbreads.

The “sizzle” is the key to success when baking cornbread. Placing the skillet, with oil, in a cold oven then turning it to 450 degrees and leaving the skillet until it is very, very hot and the oil is “shimmering” before adding the batter is how to get the crusty goodness.  Be patient. This can take a few minutes, which is when you can gather and measure out your ingredients. Maybe have a sip of wine or a cup of tea. Just be patient…see that sizzle?

A couple of things before we get to the recipe. Good cornmeal is also a key to making good cornbread. There are so many varieties on the market that it can be confusing when shopping. White, yellow, stone ground, rough, smooth, self rising or plain? I used Anne’s favorite cornmeal from “The Old Mill”. Their white self rising cornmeal can be bought from their online shop. It is stone ground, silky and grainy at the same time and makes a great skillet of cornbread as you can see.

This is how we ate it yesterday…a hot bowl of tomato soup topped with shredded Gruyere.

If you live in Tennessee you cannot get much more local than this cookbook. The author, the photographer, the prop stylist and I all live in Nashville. Lodge Cast iron is made in South Pittsburgh, TN. The Old Mill cornmeal is ground in Pigeon Forge, TN. Bon Appetit.

Black Skillet Cornbread

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease or veg oil
  • 1 3/4 cups self-rising white cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup veg oil
  • 1 1/2 cups full-fat buttermilk
  • 1 to 4 tablespoons water (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add bacon grease or veg oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Stir in the oil and buttermilk until smooth. If batter is too thick, thin it with the water.
  3. When oven comes to temperature, remove the skillet and pour in the batter. It should sizzle. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cornbread is deeply browned, 12 to 17 minutes.
  4. If need be, run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board, bottom-side up. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut into wedges.

Recipe used with permission, from the cookbook “Skillet Love” by Anne Byrn.

 

Berbere Seasoned Black-eyed Peas, Greens and Chicken Sausage Soup

The anticipation and dread of deep cold weather is over. It is here with its sharp-slap windy 20 degree days and nights. It will not last long. It will  leave us and then return again and again until it has worn us down. We will have a love-hate thing with it. Our geographic location will save us from a lengthy bout of deep winter, but for now it is here.

Soup, hot steamy bowls of soup. Daily doses are called for to chase off the chill of the season as well as the chill of our political climate. This soup is good for warding off all kinds of chill in these chilly times. Ethiopian Berbere seasoning adds just the right amount of piquant.  You can easily find Berbere in most supermarkets or online these days, but if not then I have added a how-to for making your own in my printable recipe. I wasn’t very familiar with this spice until this past year. I worked on a number of cook books in which some of the recipes called for it. It is now one of my go-to spice blends for many dishes.

To quicken the cooking I used pre-soaked Black-eyed Peas.

A generous portion of  Berbere seasoning was added.

Smoked Chicken-Spinach Sausages well-charred before slicing and adding to the soup.

Serve with your favorite cornbread recipe. Stay warm, stay cozy, eat more soup.

Berbere Seasoned Black-eyed Peas, Greens and Chicken Sausage Soup

 

Ingredients:

  • 24 ounces pre-soaked black-eyed peas or dried peas soaked for a few hours before cooking
  • 32 ounces chicken broth – I used chicken bone broth,  but any will do
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cans fire-roasted tomatoes or any canned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Berbere seasoning
  • 12 ounces smoked chicken sausages
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • water to add to soup if need be

Directions:

  1. Char sausages until well browned in a somewhat dry skillet. Slice into bite size pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add chicken stock and black-eyed peas to a soup pot. Bring to boil, turn to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until peas are slightly softened.
  3. Stir in crushed garlic, tomatoes, Berbere seasoning and chicken sausage. Continue to cook on simmer for another 20 minutes. Add more water or broth if soup needs it.
  4. Add in spinach leaves and cook just until wilted.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.  Serve hot with your favorite cornbread recipe.

Recipe for making your own Berbere Seasoning (there are many variations of this online but this is a basic one).    Combine all the ingredients in a jar. Shake to blend. Store in jar with tight-fitting lid.

  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup dried red pepper (cayenne, ancho, New Mexican, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Teresa Blackburn.  www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Young Guns Hatch Chili Pie with Cheddar-Cornbread Topping

We all have our family, home-life traditions and stories.  One of our is the annual September green chili roasting. Each year Wouter returns from his summer working in Santa Fe with a load of New Mexico  Hatch Chillies straight from the source….this year the “source” was pretty funny indeed……see name on box below…..

….those of you who know Wouter well may be aware that he had a very, very, wee, small part in the movie “Young Guns 2” of which much silliness has ensued at his good-natured expense. Or maybe you do not know this nugget of information? This is just one of the many “random Wouter-isms” that continue to keep it all interesting.

What were the chances of a recent Dutch immigrant in 1990 to modern New Mexico to end up playing the role of a late 1800’s immigrant carpenter with an accent, in an American western movie soon after his arrival to America? The scene with Wouter is about 3-5 seconds long and his one line is “They’re bringing someone in” right before a big gunfight in the movie.  Only in America I guess!

The bounty of chillies this year were particularly colorful and plump, just right for roasting.

Wouter really does most of the work as I “assist”.

When the chillies are puffy and charred then it is time to steam and peel and cook up something fitting. We put most in bags and freeze them for later cool weather soups and stews. We give away bags to friends who love them as much as we do.

This recipe for cornbread topped chili pie is very easy and flexible. The chillies could be any of your favorites. You can use fresh or canned as long as they have their own unique flavor. The roasted Hatch chillies have a delicious smokey, rich aroma and flavor.

As the weather cools off, hopefully very soon, this is a good one to add to your “one pan” dinner list. Good with a salad or coleslaw, additional chillies and a cold beer.  Thanks Wouter and the Young Guns Hatch Chili Factory for the flavor and the memories.

Young Guns Hatch Chili Pie topped with Cheddar-Cornbread

Ingredients for filling:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves smashed
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1.5 lean ground beef
  • 2 roasted hatch chili peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For filling, saute onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent in a heavy 10 inch skillet. I use my cast iron for this. Season with salt & black pepper. Stir in chili powder and tomato paste. Mix well.
  3. Stir in ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks, until meat is well browned.
  4. Add roasted chili peppers, can of tomatoes and black beans. Stir gently to blend. Set aside off the heat.
  5. In a mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Add the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter and blend together. Add shredded cheddar.
  6. Spread cornbread mixture gently over the top of the chili-meat mixture in the skillet spreading to cover.
  7. Bake until cornbread topping is a light golden color and filling is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
  8. Cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com           www.foodonfifth.com

 

 

Hearty Minestrone Soup with Feta-Parmesan Cornbread to Cure The February Funk

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The are many similarities between Southerners and Italians…we both like to talk excitedly and passionately about things we feel strongly about…we both love to cook and truly believe that food can heal among other things…a broken heart, the flu and any sort of general malaise. A general (February dark wet days) malaise seems to have fallen over many folks I have talked to this week. Nothing specific…just a general funk!

I suggest to cure your February Funk make this Minestrone Soup and Cornbread. Make a big pot to eat on for days. Make a big skillet of cornbread as well. I am sure you will brighten up and feel happier right away!

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My well-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet gives my recipe a very nice crust. A cast iron skillet like this one is a must for making true Southern cornbread.

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Minestrone Soup, Italian for a myriad of vegetable soups, can have pretty much whatever you want in it. One thing I always add is the leftover rind of Parmesan Cheese. Don’t throw them away as they add lots of flavor to any soup. I combine canned beans, fresh squash, canned or fresh tomatoes and chicken stock as the base for my version. You can add pasta or not. Experiment to come up with your own style.

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When I eat hearty winter soups like Minestrone a skillet of cornbread is part of the picture.  Experimenting with a basic cornbread recipe is my usual approach. This week I had lots of Feta and shredded-herbed Parmesan cheeses left over from a photo shoot.

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A good olive oil is what I put into the skillet while it is heating up. The cornbread will have a very crispy outside crust and stay moist inside if you get the skillet and oil very, very hot in a 400 degree oven before adding the batter. See what I mean below?

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Cook. Eat Well. Talk about stuff. Cook some more. You will feel better in the morning!

Hearty Minestrone Soup and Feta-Parmesan Cornbread

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Print

Ingredients for Minestrone Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 zucchini squash, cut into half moons
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into half moons
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 to 2 Parmesan cheese rinds
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded (optional)

Ingredients for Cornbread:

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herb mixture
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more for skillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Directions for Soup:

  1. Heat olive oil in a heavy soup pan over medium high heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent.
  2. To soup pan add broth, zucchini and yellow squash, cannellini beans, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes and Parmesan rinds. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Add salt and pepper and red pepper flakes  and shredded chicken if using.Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Also you can add a bit more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Directions for Cornbread:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating add a bit of olive oil to a cast iron skillet and place in oven to get very hot.
  2. Blend together, using a whisk, the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add in the feta and Parmesan cheeses and the Italian herb mixture.
  4. To dry ingredients add 1/4 cup olive oil, egg and milk. Stir until blended.
  5. Remove hot skillet from oven and add cornbread batter. Place back in oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Serve hot cut  with Minestrone Soup.

Teresa Blackburn   http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com    www.foodonfifth.com

Snow Day In Nashvlle Black Bean Mole Chili with Coconut Cornbread

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I just love this Southern city that shuts down neatly and absolutely at the first sign of a snowflake! I really do…totally…seriously. This morning I awoke to a hushed quiet…no clamor of jack-hammers, no hubbub of beeping trucks backing up, no babel of traffic…shhhhhh…it’s quiet here…can you hear it? I am right downtown and it is tranquil!

A day such as this calls for staying indoors & hot steaming bowls of chili. Any kind of chili you like. But how about my “Black Bean Mole Chili”? Thick with beans, tomatoes…spiced with chipotle chile powder, cocoa and freshly squeezed orange juice all cooked down to make a snow day anywhere more cozy!

Out my front window early morning.

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Not a true “mole negro”, but with much of the same flavor as one I remember eating in Oaxaca a few years ago. That mole was so thick and dark red-black in color smothering the roasted chicken I was eating  that the incredible flavor is forever part of my best-loved food memories. My version is in no way authentic, but is a tribute to the real thing.

Dark cocoa and chili pepper combined to enrich the other ingredients…all cooked down to a thick dark red-black color.

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“Coconut Cornbread Cakes” made in one of my favorite Lodge Cast Iron pans.

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Black Bean Mole Chili

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients for Chili:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1  small onion diced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp Chipotle chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 4 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes with juices
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan over medium high heat. Add onions to pan and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in, while stirring, the cocoa powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin powder, cinnamon and allspice. Turn heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes while stirring.
  3. Add orange juice to pan. Stir to blend and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Add black beans and tomatoes to the pan and bring to a low boil. Stirring often. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired. Serve with coconut cornbread cakes.

Ingredients for Coconut Cornbread:

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place cast iron pan (skillet or muffin tin) with coconut oil in the oven to heat while you make the batter.
  3. Mix together 1/2 cup of the coconut, cornmeal, flour, coconut milk, buttermilk and egg just until blended. Add more liquid if you need to.
  4. When pan is really hot, remove from oven and quickly pour in batter.
  5. Sprinkle top of batter with remaining 1/2 cup coconut and bake until cornbread is puffy and golden brown and the coconut is browned. Delicious served hot with chili.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     http://www.foodonfifth.com

Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup Au Pistou and Black Pepper-Thyme Corn Sticks

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Comfort food in a world of chaos and uncertainty is what many of us home cooks create to ease the tensions of daily life. Few foods are more comforting than soups. The ease of preparation and ingredients, the simple cooking methods…these are things we can control when there is so much going on around us that we cannot.

My version of the classic French “Soup au Pistou” is one of my comfort foods on these November days when darkness comes early and there is a chill in the air and in a small place in my heart.

Pistou is somewhat like pesto but without pine nuts. Just a blend of fresh basil leaves, garlic and olive oil all smashed together either in a mortar and pestle, or as I did in a food processor. Pistou is a sauce or condiment from the Provence region of France and you will find it simple and easy to make.

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Do you ever add the rinds of Parmesan cheese to your pot when making hearty soups? Try it if you have not. It is a good way to use those flavorful rinds and will make your finished soup even more delicious.

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I love cornbread so these crispy “Black Pepper-Thyme Cornbread Sticks” are good to serve with this soup. Baked in a sheet pan and then cut into sticks make them great “dippers”.

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Eat well. Be kind to yourself and others.

Cannellini Bean-Vegetable Soup with Pistou and Black Pepper Cornbread Sticks

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

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Ingredients for Soup:

  • Splash of olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced, white and pale green parts
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 zucchini squash, sliced & cut into half moons
  • 1 yellow squash, sliced and cut into half moons
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • one piece of Parmesan rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for Cornbread Sticks:

  • 1 package of your favorite yellow corn bread mix (I use Bob’s Red Mill) + ingredients called for on package directions)
  • 1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

Ingredients for Pistou:

  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. For Soup: Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat & add the anchovies. Use a wooden spoon to stir and cook until the anchovies break up and dissolve.
  2. Toss leeks and celery into the pan. Saute for 10 minutes or until vegetables soften and begin to brown. Add a pinch of sea salt & freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Add zucchini and yellow squash, chicken broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Add beans to pan, stir and turn heat to lowest setting to keep hot while you make cornbread and pistou.
  4. For Cornbread: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cornbread mix according to package directions adding the cracked black pepper, Parmesan and thyme leaves to the batter. Spread batter into a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack.
  5. For Pistou: Put basil leaves and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse a few times. Drizzle in olive oil just until mixture is a pesto-like consistency. I like a less oily pistou. If you prefer more oil then continue adding until it is to your liking.
  6. To: Serve. Cut cornbread into “sticks”. Ladle soup into bowls and add a dollop of the pistou to stir into the soup. Serve remaining pistou on the side. Enjoy.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstying.com    www.foodonfifth.com

“Autumn Supper Salad with Crispy Cornbread Croutons”

fall salad

Shhhhhh…did you hear it? Summer made a very quiet exit as Autumn crept in. I hardly noticed. Did you?

Regardless of the seasons we eat salads for Supper. Salads as entrees, not as sides. Salads with ravioli scattered on top, salads with thinly sliced steak nestled amongst the greens, salads with fruit & cheese. Spinach, Mixed Greens, Kale, Arugula. Carrots, Tomatoes, Berries and Plums. Feta, fresh Mozzarella, shreds of Parmesan Reggiano. Croutons made from baguettes, ciabatta bread or cornbread cut up &  tossed with olive oil & herbs, cooked until crispy.

Salad

Here is what you will need to make one of our favorite salads with lots of healthy stuff.

For the Salad: Salad greens such as Arugula, Spinach, Kale or Mixed Green. A handful of berries, grape or cherry tomatoes, figs or grapes, plums & Feta Cheese

1. Place greens in a bowl. Cut figs & plums into quarters and add to the bowl. Top with berries. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and toss into bowl. Crumble Feta over everything keeping it in somewhat big chunks. Set aside or cover and keep chilled until ready to serve.

Figs on cutting board

plums

arugula salad

For the cornbread croutons you will need some precooked cornbread (available at most groceries in their deli), olive oil, shredded Parmesan.

1. Add olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat. Cut cornbread into cubes. Place in hot skillet in a single layer tossing gently with olive oil. Turn once to brown on both sides. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan and let melt somewhat. Remove pan from the heat.

cornbread

cornbread croutons

Serve Autumn Salad topped with these slightly warm,  crunchy croutons and add a light drizzle of a light balsamic vinaigrette.

Life is busy. What could be easier than a salad for supper?