I have spoken here before about one of my oldest and dearest friends, S. We’ve known each other since the second grade and while we’ve traveled far and wide from each other, we have remained close. Naturally, we’ve been cooking together since the second grade. Back then, I was the more “experienced” cook. These days we’re about equal (this is a lie, she is far more advanced than I, especially when it comes to healthy food. Hey, she made me like both kale and quinoa- that’s no small feat!) and I often turn to her when I need a good, hardy, healthy recipe.
But when we were kids we got into more than one snafu with food. There was the time we made scallops for my mother. Should have been easy, right? Yeh, well, we didn’t know how long to cook them and we didn’t want to undercook them so… rubber. Yick. My mom was nice about it- had a few bites and said they were great but didn’t finish. To be fair, these days, my darling friend makes a really delicious scallop dish that’s usually eaten around Christmas, a dish that’s so good, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night craving it. And the scallops are never overdone.
Then there was the time we were going to make cookies and S. was reading the recipe as I gathered the ingredients. “Oh no,” she cried, “We can’t make this!”
“Why not?” I asked, running through the ingredient list, thinking we had everything we needed- butter, sugar, flour, eggs, vanilla…
“It says, ‘cream the butter and sugar’ and we don’t have any cream!”
I burst out laughing, rather unkindly, and explained to her that the recipe meant for us to mix the butter and sugar well, not to actually add cream.
The joke’s on me these days because she can make some kick-ass cookies (she’s not always healthy).
The other wonderful thing about my friendship with S. is that we’re always in sync. We’ll often email/call/text the other when she’s thinking of us- it’s that weird ESP-telepathy thing that women develop between themselves when they’re close. Often when one of us is struggling with a particular situation, the other one is going through something similar. And sometimes it’s just funny. S. taught me how to make this cornbread once when I was visiting. It was delicious and I make it often. Last year I made it for the first time in a while and after I got it in the oven, I sat down to check my email. One came in while I was checking, from S, asking me if I could send her the recipe since she was at her cousin’s house and wanted to make it. See? Telepathy!
Old Friend Cornbread
I’ve never, ever been able to make cornbread. Which has always made me feel a bit dumb—I can make Beef Wellington, cook for 200 with ease and improvise with the best of them but something as simple as cornbread eluded me. Luckily, S saved me. The following recipe is delicious and I’ve been able to emulate it many times. Of course, the first few times I made it, it was awful because I was using baking soda instead of powder. See? The cornbread gods hate me. Luckily, S corrected me and once again saved my cornbread from disaster.
This recipe makes an extremely large pan of cornbread- lasagna sized pan. I tend to halve it and make an 8 inch square size since that’s a more reasonable amount of cornbread for us. If you’re serving many (when the whole S family is together it’s something like 11 people, minimum), go ahead and make the full recipe I’m giving you here.
4 c. flour
2 c. yellow cornmeal
1 ½ c. white sugar (although we’ve used brown as well and it’s been delicious)
1 tsp. salt
2 tb baking powder
3 c. buttermilk
2 ½ tb vegetable oil
½ c. butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift your flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. You know me, lazy, so I whisk them together rather than sift.
Stir in the eggs, buttermilk and oil. I used a whisk but a spoon might actually work better- I switched halfway through.
As you stir, it will come together but be a bit rough and sort of sticky and dry-ish.
At this point, add the melted butter and mix to combine. It will smooth out and moisten the batter.
Pour into a greased pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes (for 8 inch pan), about an hour to an hour fifteen for a larger pan.
It’s done when the top is sort of crackly and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.