Saturday, March 5, 2016

Corn Bread and Beans

Why do we eat corn bread with beans?  Besides being really good?  There are several reasons:

Native Americans used the corn stalks as a support for climbing bean plants.  They may also have realized (this was prior to nutritional research centers) they felt better when they ate corn and beans together.  

We now know if you combine corn and beans we have what is called "complete proteins" and it's an important nutritional addition to the diet. It's especially necessary to get complete proteins if you are a practicing vegetarian or don't eat animal products.

The culinary world went through one of their snooty patooty phases where anything that hinted "poor folk" food wasn't included in their recipes.  Fortunately, our old family recipe books refused to give up their ham, beans and cornbread - red beans and rice - macaroni, cheese and green beans - and all the other simple recipes our grandparents considered wonderful.  

We can thank not only common sense everyday cooks but a few gutsy chefs who elevated country cooking even though many are still vilified by those that still want to appear much too cultured to dip their little pinky into a pot of beans.  

If you plan on planting a garden this spring, consider combining some plants used by your grandparents or simply hit the farmers' markets for less work but still good eating.

Here's my cornbread recipe I've developed over the years.  It's considered "northern" because it's sweet and I've stuffed it with lots of other things.  

I will mention, I had one of the best cornbread muffins ever tasted in a restaurant at our own (yes, our own from Galva IL) Phil Dickinson's Landmark Restaurant in Galesburg IL.  It's wonderfully light and packed with mildly hot peppers.  It was the perfect accompaniment to their mushroom soup.  But enough about Phil and more about me, me and me:  

Diane's Cornbread     
Preheat oven to 400 degrees - serves 8-10

1 Cup - All purpose flour
3/4 Cup - Cornmeal
1 Cup - sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons - Baking powder
3/4 teaspoon - Salt
2 - Slices fatty bacon 
2 - Eggs 
1 Cup - Buttermilk 
 Optional for you - necessary for me:  
1 Cup - Chopped sweet green and red peppers, hot peppers, onions, corn  (This is one cup total - not of each.)

  • Combine dry ingredients; set aside.
  • Fry bacon in an 8 inch cast iron skillet until crisp.  Remove, drain and crumble.  Do not drain the fat from pan.
  • Combine eggs and milk; whisk until combined. 
  • In the bacon grease, sauté any fresh vegetables until just barely soft.  Remove and add to bacon.  Do not drain grease from pan. 
  • Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture, stir to moisten.  Stir in bacon bits and vegetables.  Should not be beaten, can still have small lumps.
  • Slowly pour mixture into middle of skillet, letting bacon grease move up the sides of the skillet.  Do not mix or stir.
  • Bake 40 minutes (depends on the oven and how much moisture is in the vegetables) or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  
  • Good served warm.  Baggie and refrigerate leftovers.  

Because I'm married to a southerner, we have this with most anything including all holidays.  Good with chili, eggs, beans and as a snack.  And yes I know the bacon grease will cause some negative feedback from those avoiding fat but it makes the cornbread taste extra good and we each have our passions.   This is a heavy corn bread.    

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