Growing up with a mother who was born and raised in the Midwest, I learned very early that corn was our family’s number one food group. At our dinner table corn was the vegetable of choice, normally heated up from a can and poured on top of a big pile of freshly whipped mashed potatoes with salt and pepper (potatoes being our family’s second major food group.) Summer time thrived with grilled corn on the cob greased in our family’s signature way of putting your hand through a plastic sandwich baggie like a glove, grabbing a wad of butter in its slippery folds and then rolling the hot cob through the palm until it was fully coated. Christmas Day was typically spent waiting for dinner at which I would dig a large spoon into my mother’s famous scalloped corn made with the creamed version and topped with Saltine crackers that had been obliterated into crumbs by the barrel of a fat, wooden rolling pin. I would live on this savory casserole for days after because left over and topped with lots of cracked pepper, it was even better. Because I overdosed on corn throughout my childhood, it was typically the last thing on my plate once I left home and embarked out on my own.
In my twenties, I did fall head over heels for cornbread though. It was something I could eat that reminded me of home yet was also new to my palate. It became the dish I could order instead of a blasé entrée when forced to endure long business lunch hours at places I didn’t normally frequent like Marie Callender’s where the corn bread came top hat high, smoking hot and dolloped with sweet cream whipped butter or those odd soup and salad restaurants where I could get a square of it and pour the honey on heavily. As I got older, I discovered the joys of studding my own home-cooked batches with real fresh kernels, curry powder or diced jalapenos.
Recently I embarked on a new cornbread undertaking with a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet version that incorporated creamy chunks of avocado into its hearty, crusty and granular belly. From Food52, this version went perfectly sliced like a pie, hand held and dipped into a bowl of homemade corned beef vegetable soup – both the bread and the soup containing a tiny little bite of heat from the beef and some cayenne pepper. I may be a corny girl but when it comes to my mouth, it’s all about the spice. And I am very proud that my end result looked exactly like the photo on the page I took the recipe from — a true foodie score!
Serves one 9-inch round cornbread
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup buttermilk
1 ear corn cut from the cob (about 1 1/2 cup)
1 large ripe avocado in 1/2″ cubes (about 1 1/2 cup)
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)
Heat the oven to 400. Put 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon cumin in a 9-inch iron skillet or a cake pan and stick it in the oven.
Whisk the remaining dry ingredients together. Melt the remaining butter and honey together (honey measuring tip – give your measuring spoon a spritz of no-stick before pouring in the honey – it will slide right out). Mix the corn and avocado – squeeze the lime over and toss gently to coat. In a large bowl – whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Yes, you have now dirtied up 4 bowls. But you can wash them while the cornbread bakes.
Slowly whisk the melted butter and honey into the buttermilk and egg. Next stir in the dry ingredients and then gently fold in the avocado and corn. Get the hot pan out of the oven and pour in the batter.
Put the cornbread back in the oven and reduce the heat to 375. Bake 30-40 minutes until it is golden brown and a tester comes out clean (unless you hit avocado!)
Allow to cool some before you serve.