Skillet cornbread or muffins...
There's nothing quite as good as very good, fresh cornbread for a breakfast treat, served alongside homemade soup or, better yet, with chili. The problem, in so far as The Motley Monk is concerned, is identifying what constitutes very good, fresh cornbread and turning that into a reliable recipe.
For years, The Motley Monk has been "on the hunt" for the perfect cornbread recipe. The Motley Monk really likes the cornbread muffins that can be purchased at Wal-Mart or Costco. They have a very good corn flavor and are slightly moist, but also happen to be a tad bit too sweet for The Motley Monk's taste. Debbie Smith's recipe is just about perfect, but The Motley Monk has had difficulty replicating her recipe. Plus, The Motley Monk believes that corn kernels make for a very good cornbread. Debbie's recipe doesn't use corn kernels. Many recipes which call for using creamed corn just don't seem to be dependable and oftentimes don't have the correct texture.
What follows, "Skillet Cornbread," The Motley Monk believes may be the Holy Grail of cornbreads. It was inspired by Patrick and Gina Neely. But, what sets The Motley Monk's cornbread apart from the pack is the combination of flavors: bacon (from rendered bacon fat), granulated sugar, and one tablespoon of finely diced jalapeños.
The only real "work" involved in this recipe is having rendered bacon fat on hand. To simplify this, The Motley Monk always has homemade, frozen bacon bits on hand. Whenever the supply runs down and the local grocery store has a "2-fer" for bacon, The Motley Monk slices, dices, and browns the two pounds of bacon. He then dries the bacon bits in a bowl lined with paper toweling and strains the rendered bacon fat into a container. The bacon bits are placed in a Ziploc bag and the rendered bacon fat into a sealed glass container. Both are placed into the freezer for use as needed.
So, with rendered bacon fat readily available, making the skillet cornbread (or cornbread muffins) is a relatively straightforward matter.
Preheat the oven to 400° and heat the skillet (or muffin tins) in the oven. While that is happening, mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in a second bowl. Then, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well.
Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the ingredients from the center and, turning the bowl, working toward the outside of the bowl. Don't over mix the ingredients, but do mix them well so that everything is incorporated together.
Remove the skillet (or muffin tins) from the oven and, using a kitchen brush, slather the skillet (or muffin tins) with some of the rendered bacon fat.
Then pour the batter into the skillet. (If using muffin tins—and this is the Neely's important contribution—use an ice cream scoop to measure a uniform amount. The “thing-a-roo” inside the ice cream scoop makes getting the batter out and into muffin tins easy.) Return the skillet (tins) to the oven and bake at 400° until the cornbread is thoroughly cooked and the crust is nicely browned, about 25 minutes (20 minutes for muffins). (The cornbread is finished when a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.)
Et voila! Here, The Motley Monk has brushed some melted butter mixed with granulated sugar on top to add to the already very good flavor.
Like the idea? Here's the recipe:
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