One of our cookbooks from our August cooking column combines an appreciation for the amber waves of grain with being super time-friendly. Heartland by Judith Fertig "celebrates its farm-to-table traditions, grounded in the bounty of the land and laced with the ethnic accents and pioneering spirit of the settlers." Read: you'll be cooking up the soul of America in a 2011 minute.
Missouri Skillet Cornbread
Makes 1 (10-inch diameter) bread
In the forested hills and bluffs of Missouri, gristmills were one of the signs of settlement along waterways with names like Shoal River, Big Indian Creek, Elk River—or the Mighty Mississip. Falling water powered the wooden water wheels, turning the big mill stones that, in turn, ground local shelled corn, brought to the miller in sacks that held two bushels each. As pay, the miller took one-sixth of the corn, which he fed to his hogs or ground for his own use in dishes like this one. With wood-grilled, fresh-caught fish or a juicy pork chop, this cornbread is a wedge of heaven.
- 1½ cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 slices smoked bacon
- 4 scallions, finely minced
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
In a large bowl, whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and milk together. Stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture until well blended. Set aside.
Fry the bacon in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and add the scallions to the skillet. Sauté the scallions for 1 minute, then transfer to the cornmeal batter. Crumble the bacon into fine pieces. Stir the crumbled bacon and melted butter into the batter, then spoon the batter into the hot skillet.
Immediately, wearing oven mitts, place the skillet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting.
Note: Turn leftover cornbread into croutons for Prairie Panzanella (page 147) or other salads. Cut the cornbread into ¾-inch cubes, spread on a baking sheet, and toast in a 350°F oven until the edges turn golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool, and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 3 months.