Hoecakes—also known as corn pone, johnny cakes, or cornmeal pancakes—are a fairly common sight at brunch tables in the South, but are perhaps less known above the Mason-Dixon line. In its most basic form, a hoecake is simply a mixture of batter of cornmeal, water, and salt fried in lard or rendered bacon fat. (Other more modern recipes add flour, eggs, or whole corn to the batter.) The Holy Hoecakes in the True Blood cookbook fully embrace the simplicity of the original, adorning the cakes only with a (generous) drizzle of maple syrup. While as basic as you get, the crisp, porky outsides and soft, creamy insides make for hoecakes more than the sum of their parts.
Why I picked this recipe: Cornmeal pancakes are great, sure, but I'll take any excuse to cover a bacon-y breakfast with maple syrup.
What worked: Drizzled (or, honestly, doused) in maple syrup, these hoecakes taste like a country version of a maple-bacon donut.
What didn't: These cakes soak up bacon grease like a sponge, so unless your cast-iron is super well-seasoned, I'd stick (heh) with a non-stick skillet instead. In addition, be sure to let the cornmeal-water mixture sit for at least 5 minutes to avoid splattering when you spoon the mixture into the hot fat.
Suggested tweaks: Hoecakes are traditionally served at breakfast, but these are also great as an easy stand-in for cornbread or biscuits--and they're ready in a fraction of the time. I particularly enjoyed them with Gumbo Ya Ya (stick around until Friday for the recipe).
Reprinted with permission from True Blood by Gianna Sobol and Alan Ball with Karen Sommer Shalett. Recipes by Marcelle Bienvenu. Copyright 2012. Published by Chronicle. Available wherever books are sold. All rights reserved.
- 1 cup white cornmeal
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat (rendered from about 4 slices bacon), plus more as needed
- Maple syrup or cane syrup, for serving
Combine the cornmeal and salt in medium bowl. While stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, pour in the boiling water in a steady stream. Beat until smooth. Let stand a few minutes.
Heat the bacon fat in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When very hot (but not smoking), reduce the heat to medium-low.
For each hoecake, drop about 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal mixture into the skillet and pat gently into a flat circle, about 4 inches in diameter. Cook several hoecakes at a time until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side, turning with a wide spatula. Transfer to a plate. If needed, add more bacon fat to the skillet to make the remaining hoecakes.
Drizzle with maple syrup and serve.