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La Belle Cuisine
Encore! Encore! For Corn Bread,
a Star of Summer
The New York Times
By Regina Schrambling
"Connoisseurs know corn bread has a
shelf life just slightly longer than a soufflé. Hot out of the oven, it
reaches perfection in those few heartbeats between the moment you get the
butter slathered on and the second it starts to fall apart as
you take the
Once corn bread goes cold on you, it's no longer fit to be bread. It never
well; it just dries out and turns to crumbs. And then it starts to
Leftover corn bread is one of the great secret ingredients in summer, when
seems there's always corn bread left over, along with the excess coleslaw
barbecued chicken. Even at its most forlorn, hours or a day old, it
strong corn flavor and crunchy texture. You just can't eat it by
the wedge. You
have to crush it into crumbs and make it into a topping for
baked fish, break
it up and treat it like couscous in a salad or cube it and
use it in savory pud-
dings or as a stuffing for
baked tomatoes or zucchini.
I started recycling stale corn bread instead of tossing it out many summers
after interviewing a Texas barbecue impresario who called himself Crazy
Sam Higgins. Along with educating me in the finer points of rubs as opposed
sauces and in smoking rather than grilling, he passed along a recipe for
corn-bread salad that he swore was so good, anyone who made it would be
tempted to eat the whole bowlful. An ingredient list that started with a
pint of mayonnaise made it easy to understand why.
But it's more than just unflinching richness that makes this salad
It's the contrast of color and crunch in natural complements
for corn: scallions,
celery, bell pepper, pimentos, toasted pecans and juicy
tomatoes. I bake corn
bread just to let it go cold so I can eat this dish.
I've since come across corn-bread salad recipes that call for bacon, eggs,
cheese, ranch dressing and other overkill ingredients. And I've experimented
adding Vidalia onions, fresh corn or pickled jalapeños. But this is
one of those
rare recipes you really can't improve.
I had better luck putting my imprint on another corn-bread makeover, a
pudding from 'Tom Douglas's Seattle Kitchen'
(William Morrow & Co., 2000)
that had been haunting me for months before I decided to try it for a dinner
a couple of weeks ago. It called for a
chef's extravagance of fresh herbs
cheese, but my menu had more of a Southwestern theme and two kinds
of cheese already. I left out the Monterey
parsley, rosemary and thyme,
and added sweet red pepper and chipotle
adobo sauce. And
I didn't know whether to be wounded or
of everything but that pudding.
Both dishes sound and taste very American but have antecedents in Europe.
Cornbread salad is just a Texas twist on Tuscan bread salad, also a
operation for stale bread. And the pudding is a savory take on pain perdu
(alias French toast), in which stale bread absorbs a new identity
eggs and dairy.
You could make either dish with store- bought corn bread or with the
sweetened kind from a mix, but that would be silly. It takes less time
corn bread from scratch than it does for it to go stale."
Time: 25 minutes
to 10 servings.
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup peanut
or corn oil
1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon oil to grease
or round pan.
2. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, whisk wet ingredients
in another. Combine and stir together just until batter is moistened but not
smooth. Spread into pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted
center comes out clean. Cool on rack.
Time: About 50 minutes
to 8 servings.
2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
Just under 3 cups stale corn bread
in large cubes
1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion,
peeled and thinly sliced
1 large red sweet pepper, cored,
seeded and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 to 4 chipotle chilies in adobo,
chopped, with sauce to taste
4 large eggs
1 pint half-and-half
1/4 cup heavy cream
TABASCO brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce. Slow smoked flavor.
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8-inch baking dish with
one-half tablespoon melted butter. Arrange corn bread cubes in pan.
2. Place remaining butter in large sauté pan. Add onion,
and salt and cook slowly until very soft and almost
20 minutes. Strew over corn bread. In bowl, whisk
eggs, half and half and cream. Pour over corn bread and
let stand 10
3. Bake 40 minutes, until set and golden. Serve hot.
"I'm Glad I Ate When I Did 'Cause
I'm Not Hungry Now"
(Caleb Pirtle, III, Crazy Sam Enterprises, 1984)
Out of Print, Used & Rare
minutes plus chilling
About 6 cups stale
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 to 2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
1 2-ounce jar pimentos, drained and chopped
1 pint mayonnaise
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Chill before serving.
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