Tim Shirley is a Memphis-born barbecue judge, bar-b-q enthusiast and bbq dad. Lets join in on his journey as he eats his way through Memphis barbecue and beyond.
Links and resources mentioned in today’s show:
Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread (And Pinto Beans)
Since we were poor, ribs weren’t common in my house growing up. But man, cornbread sure was! I fiddled with this recipe for a year or so before I got it just the way I like it. I’ve made it so many times now, in a pinch I can whip it together by dumping approximate ingredients into a bowl by hand (no measuring cup). Since I can’t really recommend the “dump” method, here are the ingredients.
2 cups of locally harvested and ground corn meal (we have Delta Grind)
1 cup of corn meal plus 1 cup of AP flour and a little sugar
1-2 Tbsp of sugar IF using the combination of corn meal and flour
1 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking powder
1/8 tsp of baking soda
1 cup of buttermilk (alternatively, 2 or 3 cups will give tangier buttermilk flavor, but increase cook time by about 5-8 minutes per additional cup.
1 stick of unsalted butter melted and divided (unsalted butter allows me to better control and gauge the total salt content).
Preheat oven to 450 degress F
Place the stick of butter in the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat to melt the butter and to get the skillet hot, which will help to create a nice bottom crust. The skillet could be placed in the oven for this step, but I like to keep an eye on it while I’m mixing.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Then combine the two without overmixing. Pour half of the melted butter into the batter and mix until incorporated. If you like, now’s the time for add-ins, such as corn, bacon, jalapeños, etc. Pour batter into hot cast iron skillet. The butter that was left in the skillet will pool around the sides, which will help to create tasty crispy edges. Bake for about 10 minutes, then give the skillet a slight jiggle to look for movement. If the batter is visibly wet and jiggly, continue to bake, checking every five minutes until the corn bread has firmed up. Once firm, check by inserting a toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, it’s done. Placing under the broiler for about one minute will also give a slightly blistered top. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Slice into wedges and serve with a big ole’ bowl of pinto beans slow-cooked cooked, seasoned with salt, pepper, onions, bay leaf and smoked ham hocks!
Why Flour and Sugar if Not Using Freshly Ground Corn Meal?
Some cornbread purists don’t add flour or sugar. Just understand that today’s corn meal is not as fresh as what was used in the old days. If you can find a local source for fresh corn meal, you’ll see the difference. Making corn bread with regular store-bought corn meal but without flour or sugar, might sound more authentic, but it’s really not like the old stuff. Without fresh corn meal, you’ll have to replicate it with corn meal plus flour and sugar to emulate the natural sweetness and slightly gritty yet buttery texture of real southern corn bread from the early days. The amount of sugar suggested here is not enough to make a sweet cornbread. It’s just enough to round off the flavors and to bring out the natural sweetness that was once in the corn meal. Delta Grind is a local grinder here in the Delta, where the corn is planted, harvested and ground for us. Since it doesn’t sit in a warehouse for months like most grocery store meals, it maintains its natural sweetness and texture. When using this stuff, no flour or sugar is needed. Try it and you’ll most definitely see the difference. Tim Shirley memphisbbqguide.com
Thanks for listening
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