One of my New Year’s resolutions was to plan my meals for the entire week ahead of time. I thought this would help me manage my grocery budget and reduce the number of Craig’s visits per week. I now only pop by the grocery store 5 days a week, instead of 7. What a victory!
Although I often consult Budget Bytes for recipe ideas, I generally find the internet to be too vast – I prefer to use good old fashioned cookbooks. I typically pick a cookbook at random from the library, cook from it for a couple of weeks, and then return it when it comes due. I’m pleased to say that we’re more than halfway through the year and I’ve stuck to my resolution – and cooked a lot of new things in the process.
When planning this week’s meals, I decided to try a recipe for a veggie chili. I know mid-summer isn’t usually chili weather, but the recipe looked good (no canned tomatoes – only fresh!), so it made the cut. I usually serve chili with bread, but I thought I’d take this chili to the next level: cornbread.
I can only remember making cornbread once before, back in my Vancouver bachelorette days. For whatever reason, I had a craving for cornbread, so I made a batch. I had a piece – and it was great – but then I was left with an entire tray of bread (minus one piece). I popped the pan on top of the fridge to keep it out of the way. I then proceeded to forget about it until some time after.
It was green, fuzzy, and enough to steer me away from cornbread for a good decade.
The “Southern-Style” in the Bread Illustrated recipe for cornbread refers to the fact that this cornbread is not “sweet and light – more cake than bread”, as is often found in “Yankee territory” (so says the book). It’s true; I’ve had cornbread at restaurants that tastes more like cupcake than bread. I happen to like cupcakes – just not with my chili.
The recipe is straightforward and the only weird-ish ingredient is sour cream, something I don’t usually have on hand. I also don’t own a skillet, so I used my dutch oven. The best part is that the recipe takes only just over an hour to cook – I am NOT used to that.
Everything went according to plan except for one little hiccup. I didn’t quite catch when I was supposed to make the jump from stove top to oven. Here’s how it goes:
- Toast the cornmeal – stove top.
- Remove toasted cornmeal, add oil to skillet – put in oven. D’oh – I put it on the stove because my mind associates heating oil with stoves, not ovens.
- Add butter, pour melty butter/oil into batter, than pour the batter into the skillet/dutch oven and put it in the oven.
I left my bread in the oven for 17 minutes – two minutes longer than the suggest 12 to 15 – but it never quite reached the cue of “until the top begins to crack and sides are golden brown”. My sides were golden but my top was in tact. I tried the toothpick test and it came out dry, so I pulled it out of the oven.
There are three troubleshooting tips for this recipe: crunchy cornbread (not a problem for me); soggy crust (not a problem for me); and difficulty releasing the cornbread from the skillet (er…). The troubleshooting says that a 15 minute cool down is imperative before releasing the bread. I did this… but…
Yeah. Luckily, this one was just for Cedric and me to eat at dinner – aesthetics could be forgiven.
The verdict? I liked it. It was a little bland, but isn’t that often the case with cornbread? If I were to do it again, I would try the spicy variation, which includes jalapeno and lime zest, to add a bit of a kick. It’s very filling and sits a bit heavy in the stomach, but I’m determined to work our way through it – and not store it on top of the fridge.