This cook’s street cred was built from a box recipe, until now
Do you choose a signature dish? Or does it choose you?
Once upon a time, I thought I’d be known for my luscious desserts, but I was mistaken. Embarrassingly, I’m best remembered for my Corny Corn — a five ingredient, no-skill-required, decidedly unfancy recipe, if you can even call it that. It bakes up in the same casserole pan you mix it in. The main ingredient is from a box, for crying out loud. And yet, Corny Corn is beloved by my friends and family and often requested.
RIP Corny Corn. Meet your replacement.
The crumb in this recipe is rich thanks to a generous helping of butter. The batter is studded with fresh corn and peppers. Bacon makes not one appearance, but three. The crust bakes up crisp thanks to the cast-iron skillet. And to gild the lily, a heaping portion of creamy pimento cheese sits like a cloud atop the pan.
As my friend Denise said, “Oh, Corny Corn, you never saw it coming.”
Skillet Cornbread With Pimento Cheese Cloud
8 thick-cut bacon slices, divided
1 tablespoon bacon grease
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup sugar
15 tablespoons butter, chilled and cubed
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup diced jarred roasted red peppers
1½ teaspoons finely chopped scallions, green part only
2 teaspoon finely diced pickled jalapeños
1 ear fresh corn, kernels removed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook bacon in a skillet until done. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve grease. Let cool, then finely chop bacon and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with reserved bacon grease.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, smoked paprika, kosher salt and sugar. Beat on low speed to incorporate. Add the butter and beat on low speed until broken down into pea-sized pieces. Add the buttermilk, roasted red peppers, chives, two-thirds of the chopped bacon, jalapeños and corn. Mix on medium speed to combine.
Pour the batter into the prepared skillet. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
Meanwhile, make the pimento cheese (see recipe).
Drop the pimento cheese by heaping spoonfuls evenly over the top of the cooled cornbread. Sprinkle with bacon bits to finish. Serve immediately.
Yields: About 1¾ cup
4 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces grated shape cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons pickled jalapeño brine
1 tablespoon diced jarred roasted red peppers, blotted with a paper towel
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1-2 splashes of Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Cayenne pepper, to taste, optional
In a food processor or electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, cheddar, jalapeño brine, roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, smoked paprika and cayenne, and process until smooth.
Alicia Cahill is the owner of The Kitchen Chick, 2402 Market St. in Galveston.