My cooking style has really evolved over the years. Early on in our marriage, our dinners consisted mostly of boneless, skinless chicken breasts served with canned green beans and ::gasp:: Rice-a-Roni. Rubbery, soggy, and ::shiver::, respectively. This excerpt from an earlier post says it all:
When my husband and I were putting together our wedding registry back in 2005, I had no desire for fancy cookware or kitchen gadgets. A rolling pin? An omelet pan? But why? Cooking wasn’t exactly my forte- I couldn’t scramble eggs to please a five-year-old and my sauces usually came from a jar. We both worked long hours in a restaurant, so most of our meals came from there, scarfed hastily before and after shifts. At home, seeing as we weren’t there very often, we stocked things like Hot Pockets and Top Ramen, or just ordered salami and cheese subs from Balducci’s down the road. We simply didn’t cook. I finally gave in, though, due to the gentle but persistent nudging of wiser friends and family. Gratitude isn’t a strong enough sentiment here, as I believe it was the presence of those basic kitchen accessories that fueled my passion for food over the next few years. A nice sharp chef’s knife, a pretty bamboo cutting board, a quality stainless steel skillet- suddenly the prep work to a fine meal was fun and relaxing, instead of a dreaded chore.
I’m not sure what the turning point was, but soon I began leaning towards more gourmet fair. Belgian leek tart with aged goat cheese, citrus risotto with curried walnuts, chocolate cake with ganache and praline topping (ooh, may have to revisit that one). I subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine and eagerly awaited its arrival each month, when I would rip out page after page of recipes and ideas. It was wonderful, yes, but it didn’t do much good for my grocery bill.
We are now quite passionate about whole foods and sustainable living, and my cooking style reflects that. We eat a lot of what you might call ‘hearty’ meals, using whole chickens, stocks, whole grain breads, fresh eggs, etc. We embrace good fats like those found in butter and whole milk, and find balance by including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. A typical meal might be roast chicken, baked sweet potato with butter, and sautéed green beans (Fresh now, no more canned). It’s cheap, healthy, and delicious, but not exactly five-star cuisine.
This recipe for custard-filled cornbread bridges the gap between the old and the new. It’s just as comfortable beside a plate piled high with smoky, messy BBQ short ribs as it is a bowl of fruit salad. I love things like that because it satisfies all of my cooking needs: interesting but requiring no fancy ingredients, healthy but filling, cheap but not obviously so. It is versatile and deceptively simple; it is a must-have in every cook’s repertoire.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoons salt
2 cups whole milk
1½ tablespoons distilled vinegar
1 cup cream, light or heavy
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda.
In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and eggs, then mix in the sugar, salt, milk, and vinegar.
Pour the flour mixture from the small bowl into the large bowl, whisking constantly until thoroughly combined. You want the batter to be very smooth.
Pour the batter into your buttered pan. Slowly pour the cream into the very center of the pan. Do not stir! Carefully place the pan into the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step, as it will allow the custard time to set-up properly.
This post shared over at What I Am Eating