Wake and Bake: Southern-Style Brown Butter Cornbread

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Carrie Vasios

This past summer, I took a two week road trip through the deep South. One thing I learned was that my Yankee thinking had been all wrong about cornbread. I'd been classifying it as a table bread, as something that I'd put in a small communal basket next to the salt and pepper shakers as I would say, slices of baguette or ciabatta. Now it's not that cornbread is never served in this way, but in most places it's considered a side like collard greens or baked beans.

The difference in thinking is an important one, as it elevates cornbread from something that I'd nibble on the side of my meal to a more focused part of my plate. This new thinking also makes me more likely to make cornbread, which otherwise felt rather heavy as something that was simply a carb garnish to my meal.

Since that trip, I've been playing around with cornbread in its many incarnations. The best version yet came about the other day when, in one of those beautiful "I don't know what my subconscious was thinking but I love it" moments, the phrase brown butter cornbread popped into my head out of the blue. And so I followed my heart and made this recipe, which is a particularly nice version to serve at brunch.

The brown butter gives this cornbread a warm, nutty flavor. I use the coarsest cornmeal I can find so that I still get that great, sandy texture. In fact, the coarse texture plus nutty flavor has led people to ask me if there are nuts in this bread (there are not.) On the wide ranging cornbread spectrum, this is on the sweeter side, which is how I like to eat it at breakfast. Still, the brown butter gives this bread an extra, almost savory characteristic, making it a good cornbread for sweet and savory fans alike.