Experimental Corn Bread

IMG_4220You might well ask: exactly what is experimental about corn bread?

Looks pretty standard Right?

Well in this time of food aversion that we live in, where everyone has something they aren’t eating, even a simple classic like corn bread can be rife with conflict.  It has both dairy (milk often buttermilk) and bacon fat!  Yes, yes I know you had a vegan corn bread that changed your life (you did?) and are now running to the kitchen to grab your recipe for the best ever vegan corn bread recipe.  Blah. Yuck. For me, personally, Mark, the best corn bread ever is made from bacon drippings.  All others pale in comparison.

And please don’t confuse me with these people who think bacon should be in everything from chocolate bars to ice cream. I’m totally on the bacon love has gone to far train. This just happens to be a classic use of an otherwise wasted product (rendered fat) that has been around since the great depression (or before).

It’s unclear to me when I started rendering bacon fat. I think it was on Gloucester Street in Toronto when I lived with my friend Martha. She was a very good cook who came from a family of good cooks.  She taught me a lot about cooking and she loved bacon. She also loved maple syrup, I caught her gulping it once from a bottle, fridge door open, lighting the otherwise dark kitchen. Gulping maple syrup straight from the bottle demonstrates a certain gusto for life which I really appreciate.

We always kept our bacon fat and then once day I read a recipe in The Fanny Farmer Cookbook (I think) for corn bread that called for 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat. It was the easiest recipe and always made incredibly moist, smoky sweet corn bread that we devoured slathered in salted butter.

Then I moved to New York and fell in love with a nice Jewish doctor who keeps kosher.

So much for the bacon fat corn bread.

That was 27 years ago. Apparently I have been holding on to my corn bread grudge all these years and didn’t even know it.

Sure I tried the corn bread with cheddar cheese and with sour cream and with fresh seasonal corn kernels. None of it ever tasted as good as the bacon fat version. At some point I just gave up on corn bread.

Then, last night, I was making a vaguely north african version of chili con carne with ground lamb.  I use tons of cumin seed, powdered cumin and a good dollop of harissa . chili is one of those things, I think, you should just make with what ever you have on hand. Anyway while the chili was simmering to had a hankering for corn bread.  There were some not so fresh any more corn on the cobs in the fridge and I had some left over New Balance fake lard in the fridge that I bought ages ago to experiment with.

Mmmmmmmm, I thought, maybe I could try corn bread again with this healthy fake lard and unsweetened almond milk? This would make it dairy and pork fat-free and most importantly to would make it kosher: parve to be exact.

It also would make it, probably, I thought, flavorless and disgusting.

Nonetheless I got out the recipe.IMG_4223All the time my mind was thinking about maple cured bacon. Then I remembered I had liquid smoke in the cupboard, which I had never opened.  And like every good Canadian I had a quart of grade B maple syrup in the fridge.  An idea was starting to form…

Corn Bread

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

In a 10″ cast iron skillet melt 2 tablespoons of non-hydrogenated vegetable lard (like New Balance) or bacon fat.  These could also be made in muffin tins.

 In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients: 3/4 cups stone ground organic Corn Meal (non GMO), 1 cup All Purpose Flour, 1/3 Sugar, 3 teaspoons Baking Powder and 1/2 teaspoon Salt.

In a bowl whisk: 1 scant cup of unsweetened Almond Milk (or whole Milk) 1 Tablespoon of Grade B Maple Syrup, 3-5 drops of Liquid Smoke, 1 Large Egg and the melted fat (be sure to swirl the melted fat around the sides of the pan so the bread doesn’t stick).

All at once add to the dry ingredients.  Optionally add the corn from one cob of corn (about 2/3 cup), a grind of freshly grated black pepper and if you have chives or scallions feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of them finely chopped.

Spoon into the pan and bake in the middle of a pre-heat oven for about 20 minutes.

Yes, I have to admit it, this is some might tasty corn bread.  What is that cliché necessity is the mother of invention?  So if you are stuck or somewhere bacon fat is frowned upon, and need some corn bread to go with your chili, remember this recipe.  Or just open a bag of corn chips.IMG_4221

About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note: urbanfoodguy@gmail.com
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