Crave: Crowd-pleasing cornmeal

photo by: Mother Earth News

A pot of ham and beans simmers on the back burner of your stove. Salad fixin’s are in the fridge just waiting for dinnertime. You stand back and think, “Wait, something’s missing.”

That missing guest at your dinner feast is cornbread.

Many people take a hunk of cornbread, break it into crumbly goodness on a plate, and ladle the hot ham and beans over the top. I like the cornbread on the side, slathered with melting butter. Right this moment, the memory of that sweet taste has my taste buds on high alert.

Whatever bowl of stew or soup you have planned for tonight’s main attraction, cornbread, hot from the oven, is just the side dish your family will rave about tomorrow. And leftovers are great. Cold cornbread for breakfast, anyone?

Our archives yielded several tasty twists on the traditional cornbread; try your own variations for the best taste, and your family’s appreciation.

Spicy Vegetable Cornbread


2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup canned sweet corn kernels, drained, or frozen, thawed and drained

1 cup shredded Colby cheese

1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

1/2 cup grated onion

1/4 cup finely chopped, seeded fresh jalapeño peppers, optional


1. Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 10-inch cast-iron skillet; set aside.

2. In large bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar.

3. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and melted butter; stir into dry ingredients.

4. Stir in corn, cheese, carrots, onion and peppers until thoroughly combined.

5. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until center tests done. Cut into pieces and serve from skillet. Yields 8 large servings.

NOTE: This can be prepared in a muffin tin, if preferred. Bake at same temperature until muffins test done. Yields 12 muffins.

Savory Cornbread


8 ounces flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

5 ounces polenta (cornmeal)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons summer savory

8 ounces milk

3 ounces butter, melted

2 eggs

2 ounces sugar


1. Heat oven to 425°F. Butter 8-inch square pan; set aside.

2. In large bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; add polenta, salt and savory. In separate bowl, combine milk and butter; stir into flour mixture.

3. Beat together eggs and sugar in small bowl; add to flour mixture. Stir well, but don’t beat too much.

4. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bread is well-risen and golden brown. Allow to cool in pan for at least 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling. Yields approximately

6 servings. Freezes well.

Note: This bread is slightly sweet, but mainly savory. Its texture is not so much breadlike as cakelike. The polenta gives it a rather coarse texture and wonderful golden yellow color. The savory flavor comes through well, whether served warm or cold. For a real treat, top it with a sliver of mature cheddar cheese. Serve with a hearty soup for lunch, or as a starter course with an interesting salad and a glass of light red wine.

Cornmeal Sticks


2 cups cold water

11⁄2 cups yellow cornmeal

3⁄4 teaspoon salt

11⁄2 cups finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese



1. Combine water, cornmeal and salt in heavy saucepan; mix until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is very stiff, thick and pulls away from sides of pan, about 6 to 9 minutes.

2. Remove from heat; add cheese and stir until melted.

3. Pat mixture evenly into ungreased 13-by-9-by-2-inch utility dish and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cut into 3 lengthwise sections, then into 18 crosswise strips.

4. Heat shortening to 365°F in deep saucepan or deep fryer. Fry 3 cornmeal sticks together, adding one at a time, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown. (If dough runs together, cut apart after frying and draining.)

5. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve warm. Yields 4 1⁄2 dozen.


In some cultures, this dish is just called “grits.” The names and textures might differ slightly, but it’s all soul food.


2 3⁄4 cups water

3⁄4 cup yellow cornmeal

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1. Combine water, cornmeal and salt in 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Cover and microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once. Stir in mozzarella and let stand, covered, for 2 minutes.

2. Spread mixture into lightly oiled 9-inch round pan and cool slightly. Cover, then refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Cut into 6 wedges.

3. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once. Sprinkle Parmesan over warm polenta wedges.


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