Fork in the Road: A simple, lightly sweetened cornbread is a joy. A jalapeño and cheddar–spiked cornbread is a joy with a little kick.
Yield: Serves 8
What the Kids Can Do: Measure all of the ingredients and blend the batter. Pour it into the hot pan, with supervision.
Make Ahead: The cornbread can be made ahead and kept, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Note: Don’t have buttermilk, but like the slightly tart flavor? You can easily make a perfect substitute. Just take 1 1/4 cups milk at room temperature (if you need to microwave it for a little bit to get it to room temp, that’s fine), and blend in 1 tablespoon white vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Let it sit for 10 minutes or so.
Homemade cornbread mixes up and bakes so quickly; it’s really an immediate-gratification quick bread. And how much do we parents love immediate gratification? You do not need any special equipment for this; you can bake it in any ovenproof skillet, or an 8-inch baking pan, square or round. But, if you need one single reason to buy a cast-iron pan, or to take the one you have out of retirement, this would be it. What a beautiful crust you’ll get; you’ll see.
This cornbread is slightly sweet, making it a perfect accompaniment to pretty much anything you can think of. If you want to make almost any meal feel fully pulled together, make a pan of cornbread to go with it. Chili (page 247) and cornbread. Fried chicken (page 244) and cornbread. Soup (pages 88 to 99) and cornbread. You know you’d be thrilled if someone plunked down a piece of cornbread next to whatever you were eating.
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/4 cups milk, buttermilk (see Note), or plain yogurt
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Put the butter in a medium-size ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron) or an 8-inch-square or round baking pan and place it in the oven to heat until the pan is hot and the butter is melted, about 4 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix the egg and milk together. Pour the melted butter from the pan into the egg and milk mixture and whisk to combine (but don’t wipe out the excess melted butter in the pan).
4. You can continue with Step 5 or see the Fork in the Road to kick it up with cheddar and jalapeño.
5. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until they are barely combined. Scrape the batter into the pan that you used to melt the butter, and spread it evenly.
6. Bake the cornbread until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Place the skillet on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve the cornbread hot or warm.
This is decadent and a bit spicy and truly the kind of thing that people will talk about after eating at your house. Skip the jalapeño if you want cheesy but not so spicy.
When combining the wet and dry ingredients in Step 5, mix in ⅔ cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese, ¼ cup chopped scallions (both the white and green parts), and 1 teaspoon seeded and finely minced jalapeño pepper. Then, right before the cornbread goes into the oven, sprinkle another ¼ cup grated cheddar on top, if you like.
If you want to make some cornbread plain and some cheddar-jalapeño, it’s best to double the basic recipe ingredients. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in each of two ovenproof skillets; but then you add both skillets of melted butter to the egg/milk mixture. After pouring half of the batter into one of the skillets or pans, quickly blend the additional cheddar-jalapeño ingredients into the remaining batter and pour into the second pan.
Dinner Solved! 100 Ingenious recipes that make the whole family happy, including you.
Katie Workman is a gifted cook, a best friend in the kitchen, and a brilliant problem solver. Her Mom 100 Cookbook was named one of the Five Best Weeknight Cookbooks of the past 25 years by Cooking Light and earned praise from chefs like Ina Garten (“I love the recipes!”) and Bobby Flay (“Perfect . . . to help moms everywhere get delicious meals on the table.”). Now Katie turns her attention to the biggest problem that every family cook faces: how to make everyone at the table happy without turning into a short-order cook.