Cornbread is a side dish that’s part of our New Year’s Day dinner table every year. That’s because it goes so well with black-eyed peas, which I have been eating almost every New Year’s Day since I was old enough to hold a spoon. Hoppin’ John, the iconic dish that is supposed to bring you good luck throughout the year if you eat it on New Year’s Day, is a family tradition with my family. I can’t speak to how much good luck it brings – on the few occasions I have not had black-yes on New Year’s Day, I have not noticed that much difference. However, black-eyed peas cooked with a lot of pork are pretty tasty.
It’s no secret among my friends and family that I love trying out new recipes. We finally settled on a black-eyed pea recipe several years ago – 1 pound of black-eyed peas, an onion or two, and two pork knuckles cooked together in water until falling apart. This year, however, I decided to mix things up and made something called Hoppin’ Juan from the Local Palate magazine instead. Once in awhile I make a dish that, although it might turn out really good, you’ll never see on this blog. That’s because they take ALL DAY or even longer to prepare. If I don’t have time to do that I know you don’t. The Local Palate is a beautiful magazine that I subscribed to until I realized that almost all of the recipes are the “cheffy” type (and this coming from someone who went to culinary school – life happens) that take too long or that require scores of meticulously prepped ingredients you probably don’t have in your kitchen and will never use again. Well, Hoppin’ Juan was all of that and more. It was composed of Sea Island Red peas (ordered from Anson Mills), cooked with chorizo and Carolina gold rice, and served with a home-made salsa verde. It was delicious. Would I make it again? Probably not, because it was so labor intensive. We’ll be back to our usual next year.
I’m still working on finding the perfect cornbread recipe. My husband jokes about the 10-year rotation we have on recipes. Okay, everyone needs a hobby. One of mine happens to be trying new recipes. This cornbread is pretty close to becoming “the one.” It’s made in a smoking hot cast iron pan greased up with plenty of lard or bacon grease before adding the cornbread batter. The result is a crispy shell with delicious corny cornbread taste. (That sentence would never get past our editors at work, but one of the things I love about blogging is that I can write what I’m thinking, even if it’s not perfectly, grammatically correct.)
I make this this recipe with lard because I always have it on hand. However, you can also use bacon grease, butter, or even shortening. You could also bake it in an 8-inch square pyrex dish if you don’t have a cast iron skillet with good results, but you will not get the crunchy crust on the outside
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons fat of choice (lard, bacon grease, butter, or shortening)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to mix.
Place the egg and buttermilk in a separate small bowl and beat to combine. Add to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. If the mixture looks a little dry add up to 1/4 cup of more buttermilk.
Heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet on high heat. Add the lard to the pan and melt. Add the batter to the pan, spread evenly and immediately place the pan in the hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.