There is a lot of really bad cornbread out there served in restaurants and it gets a bad reputation. There is also heated debate especially in the South whether it should have sugar or flour, in my opinion the resounding answer is no. This version will convert you if you’re a skeptic. You should use the highest quality ingredients as you can afford with recently ground cornmeal if possible. Don’t skimp on your cornbread and you might find yourself making it a few times a week. Of course it’s best served fresh from the oven still in the cast iron skillet.
4 ounces quality smoky bacon *
2 cups yellow cornmeal *
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
* If you want the very best ingredients use Benton’s bacon and Anson Mills Antebellum Coarse Yellow Cornmeal. These items will have to be special ordered online. *
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Put a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.
Finely mince the bacon. Add the bacon to a skillet large enough to hold it in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat stirring until the fat is rendered and the bits of bacon are crispy, usually 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the bits of bacon to a paper towel to drain, and reserve the fat. You need 5 tablespoons bacon fat.
Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and bits of bacon in a bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and combine the remaining 4 tablespoons fat, the buttermilk, and egg in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not over mix.
Move the cast iron skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of bacon fat and coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It will sizzle.
Bake the cornbread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm.