John Martin Taylor (aka Hoppin' John) is a great Southern cook, cookbook author, and food raconteur. He wrote perhaps the definitive book on frying, Fearless Frying Cookbook, but today's Sunday Brunch recipe for cornbread is adapted from another terrific book he wrote, Hoppin' John's Charleston, Beaufort, & Savannah: Dining at Home in the Lowcountry. In the headnote in the book, Taylor calls this the best cornbread you'll ever eat. Coming from Hoppin' John, that's high praise, indeed.
Ingredient note: If you don't have a source for stone-ground, whole-grain cornmeal, you can order it off Hoppin' John's site.
- 2 teaspoons strained bacon grease
- 1 egg
- 2 cups buttermilk at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups cornmeal, preferably whole-grain, stone-ground
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- 1 scant teaspoon baking powder
- 1 scant teaspoon baking soda
Add enough bacon grease to the skillet to coat the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch cast-iron skillet, then put it in a cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees. In the meantime, mix the egg into the buttermilk, then add the cornmeal and mix well.
After about 10 minutes, when the oven has reached 450 degrees, the grease should be just to the smoking point. Quickly stir the salt, baking powder, and soda into the batter and add the batter all at once to the hot pan.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top just begins to brown. Turn the bread out onto a platter and serve hot with lots of butter.