Sunday, August 30, 2009
I don't admit that summer is coming to an end. I have to admit that the vegetables at the farmers' market are end-of-the-season vegetables, however, and I wanted to bake something with the lovely corn that's available now. I also had a pound of great-tasting Nueske's bacon. When I ran across this recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice--a cornbread made with fresh corn and bacon, I thought I'd found nirvana. Then I read the recipe--always a good idea--and saw that I was supposed to do Step 1, soaking polenta in buttermilk, the day before baking. Well, this was Sunday, my baking day, and I didn't want to bake on Monday. So I pouted for a while. Then I realized that the only reason to soak the polenta was because it was coarse-grained, so if I just used a fine-grain corn meal, which I had, there would be no reason to soak it. Admittedly, there was the chance that I'd be missing out on something spectacular that the coarse grain would add, but I was willing to take that chance.
Since I didn't have to do Step 1, I could start out with Step 2, baking the bacon.
I wish my mother had told me that if you just lay strips of bacon in a sheet pan and bake them for 20 minutes or thereabouts, you avoid the dreaded attack of the bacon grease and you don't have to turn the pieces and it's just generally a lot easier. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've told my daughters, neither of whom cooks a lot of bacon.
Step 3 is cutting the corn off the cob.
My mother did tell me that white corn is sweeter and more tender than yellow corn, but usually I can only find this bicolor. Corn in general--whether white or yellow--seems to be sweeter than the corn I remember from childhood, but that may just be my imagination.
The batter is thick and creamy--it's supposed to look and feel like thick pancake batter, and it does. And then, just add the fresh corn, and it's done. I found a 16-ounce bottle of buttermilk, and the recipe takes exactly 16 ounces, so this is a no-guilt, no-waste buttermilk recipe.
Just to make sure it's not too healthy and boring, you grease the pan with leftover bacon fat which you quickly heat up in the oven.
Then bake until it's nice and brown. Serve as soon as possible. Jim says this is the best corn bread he's ever eaten, and I wouldn't disagree. It's possible that it's better if you make it with the more coarse-ground polenta, but I like it so much this way that I don't feel a need to mess with it. People are picky about their cornbread, so be forewarned that this is a pretty sweet cornbread with a finer texture than many.
It also makes a big pan, and it's not as good the second day as the first, so it's a good thing to make when you're serving a lot of people, who may all tell you that it's the best corn bread they've ever eaten.
Have a great Labor Day weekend, and enjoy the last weeks of corn and tomatoes!
This cornbread is on many food blogs, so, rather than typing up the recipe myself, I'm just going to give you a link to one of the blogs that includes the recipe.