Chef John’s Broccoli Cornbread

There was a restaurant east of Florence, Alabama that we used to eat at when I preached at Center Hill.  It was on Highway 72 and was called (I think) “The Trading Post.”  They served broccoli cornbread.  I had never heard of it before.  I have no idea how they made it, but here’s how I make it.

What you’ll need:

2 cups Sunflower self-rising cornmeal

1 cup White Lilly self-rising flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 cup chopped broccoli

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

2 tablespoons canola oil

~3/4 cup fat free cultured buttermilk

~3/4 cup fat free sweet milk

What you might want:

1 tablespoon (or more) sliced pickled jalapeno peppers

¼ cup shredded cheese (I would use a yellow cheese)

Here’s the procedure.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Put a tablespoon of canola oil (not counted above) in a cast iron skillet and put it in the oven for 5-10 minutes.  You want it hot, but not smoking.  I put mine in when the oven is about half preheated.

I use frozen chopped broccoli.  I spread a cup, or so, on my wood-topped work table and let it thaw for 10-15 minutes.  It will chop easier that way.  Then, I use my big chef’s knife and chop it up into fairly small pieces.  You can define “fairly small” for yourself.  Put that in a large mixing bowl.  Add the cornmeal, flour, onion, and sugar.  Stir to mix the dry ingredients.  I like to use a slotted spoon for mixing instead of a solid one.  It seems to stir easier, thus decreasing the size of the mess I will make from ingredients leaving the mixing bowl prematurely.

Hollow out a “well” in the middle of your mixed dry material and add the two milks and the oil.  Mix (slowly) until well blended.  If the viscosity of your batter is too great, just add a little more liquid.  I like mine to pour easily but not be “runny.”  Your dry material should not have a tendency to settle to the bottom of the bowl.  If you’re getting that, just add a little more meal.  You can let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes, if you like, and it will rise.  Frankly, I rarely take the time to do that.  I don’t know if it will make any difference in the finished product or not.

Remove your hot skillet from the oven and set it on a vacant stove eye.  I tilt the skillet to get the hot oil to cover the entire skillet bottom and a little way up the sides before I set it down.  You can sprinkle a little meal on the center of the skillet bottom if you wish.  I generally don’t do that either.  When I’ve tried it, I couldn’t tell that it helped with the cornbread sticking.  You shouldn’t have sticking issues if you let the skillet cool sufficiently before attempting to remove the cornbread.  You may need to use a long, thin (thus flexible) knife to help get it loose from the pan when it’s done, especially near the center.  Pour your batter into your hot skillet and stick it in the oven.

I cook regular cornbread about 25 minutes.  The broccoli cornbread seems to take a little longer.  I guess this is because the broccoli and onion add moisture to the cornbread as it cooks.  It will probably take about 30 minutes, but I would check it at 25.  I look to see that I have good separation between the cornbread and the skillet around the edges and observe the degree of browning on top.  If it is done (or almost so) and you want it browned more, just turn your broiler on.  But, watch it closely.  Broiler browning will probably take about 2 minutes.

When it’s done, remove from the oven and return to the vacant stove eye.  Let it cool till you can pick up the skillet without a pot holder, perhaps 20 minutes.  If you want it fresh hot, you’ll likely need to go at it with the flexible knife.  At least I do, but, that may be because I didn’t cure my new skillet properly years ago.  An improperly cured iron skillet is like an idle word: you can’t take it back.  My mother used to flip her cornbread over and serve it bottom side up.  Your presentation will be much browner that way.  However, I serve mine top side up.  You can leave it in the skillet and serve from there.  But, I have found that if it stays in the skillet more than about 24 hours, it seems to pick up some of the iron taste.  I generally move the cornbread to a plate on the second day and loosely cover it.  Interestingly, you can leave it uncovered for a couple of days and it will harden and approach something like really thick tortilla chips, “tortilla bread,” I guess. It is actually pretty good that way.

A note on measuring: I generally don’t do much of it, so the amounts given above are approximations. They are guides and not rules.  I look more at ratios, instead of amounts; 2:1, meal to flower; 1:1 buttermilk to sweet milk, etc.  I consider a kitchen to be a marriage between a chemistry lab and an art studio.

Well, there you are.  Enjoy!

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One Response to “Chef John’s Broccoli Cornbread”

  1. John Says:

    The restaurant near Florence was the “Out Post,” not the “Trading Post.”

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