people tend to assume that things at chez panisse must always have some sort of upper-crust lineage, but what i love about that restaurant more than almost anything else is the way it values quality, regardless of its source.
buttermilk fried chicken--or quail, or rabbit--is on regular rotation on the menu in the cafe, and often, it's served with skillet cornbread. i remember the first time i got to prepare the dish. i was instructed to get out the tattered, barely legible notebook kept in the end hutch with the knives left behind by stagieres and look up the recipe for cornbread. i thought perhaps i'd find something written in scott peacock's handwriting, or notes attributed to edna lewis. instead, i found the back of an alber's corn meal box.
yep. the cornbread recipe at cp is basically copied off the back of the box. it's the recipe i've used ever since, with the baking powder and sugar proportions slightly reduced, and the cornmeal proportion increased. and of course, at the restaurant they always use the most delicious cornmeal they can find, weather it's mais pignulet from piemonte or anson mills cornmeal, or red flint cornmeal from community grains.
i just made this the other day with blue cornmeal from full belly farm, and it couldn't have been any sweeter or corn-ier tasting. so. effing. delicious.
it's also really, really tasty slathered with salted honey butter. or, with some lightly sauteed fresh corn kernels folded into the batter.
2 1/2 cups corn meal
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt, or 4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk or buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
butter, bacon fat, or lard
preheat oven to 400°F.
combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. combine milk, oil and egg in a small bowl;, mix well. add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until just blended.
over a medium flame, heat a 10 or 12-inch cast iron pan. drop in a generous lump of butter, bacon fat, or lard and let it melt. pour in the prepared batter and let it sizzle for a few minutes over medium heat, until the edges just start to set. throw the whole pan into the oven and let it bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
immediately flip the cornbread out of the pan onto a cutting board. serve slices warm, slathered with butter or honey butter.
p.s. for you skillet phobes, check out my post on cast iron pans over at good eggs