In the bounty of a Thanksgiving feast, cornbread is always a welcome addition. Here I adapted my favorite skillet cornbread, from Cook's Illustrated, to a combination of Lonesome Whistle Farm's gorgeous multicolored polenta and freshly ground corn flour. The polenta gives it texture and crunch, while the corn flour keeps it light, and both provide an intense corn flavor.
As your cast iron skillet warms in the oven, mix up a polenta mush and whisk it into a buttermilk slurry. Then melt the butter (or bacon lard) in the skillet, quickly incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter, stir in the melted fat, and pour the batter back into the hot skillet. The batter will sizzle as it hits the cast iron, releasing the fragrant smell of toasted corn.
This recipe calls for an 8 inch cast iron skillet, which I don't own. I found that doubling the recipe works well for my 10 inch pan (with an extra 5 minutes for baking). About half the recipe will fill my cast iron corn mold, and the other half makes a cute 6 inch skillet bread. In any shape or size, this cornbread is delicious with a slab of cheddar cheese or slathered with homemade jam, like my husband's quince, hardy kiwi, and raspberry concoction here. A bite of this bread will make you thankful for the bounty of our fertile valley.
Skillet Polenta Cornbread
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Southern Style Cornbread (publish May, 1998)
Makes one 8 inch skillet bread (double recipe for a 10 inch skillet)
2/3 cup corn flour
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup polenta
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp butter (or 4 Tbsp bacon lard)
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place an 8 inch cast iron skillet (or two cast iron corn muffin molds on baking sheets) in the oven.
2. Mix together the dry ingredients of corn flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a large glass or ceramic bowl, our the boiling water over the polenta and whisk to make a stiff mush. Slowly whisk in the buttermilk, making sure there are no lumps, and then whisk in the egg.
4. When the oven is hot, take the skillet out of the oven and place it over medium low heat on the stove. Melt the butter or bacon lard. If using muffin molds, take them from the oven and brush them generously with melted fat. Working quickly, stir the dry ingredients into the polenta mixture just until they are incorporated. Then pour the melted butter into the batter, stir quickly, pour the batter into the skillet or molds, and put them back in the oven.
5. Bake until the corn bread is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean, about 20 minutes for a skillet bread and 15 minute for muffins. Turn the bread or muffins onto a wire rack, cool for five minutes, and serve warm.