Cornbread, in my opinion, is something you can't really have outside of the United States. It's a little like Pop-Tarts or a perfect chocolate shake: you can attempt to enjoy them in Italy, China, or Peru, but chances are they just won't taste the same.
Although I've never partaken in the North meets South debate of sweet vs. spicy, I've always loved cornbread. It has chew, but deep inside its attraction lies in an unforgettable buttery tenderness. My kind of cornbread has a light crumb--it gives me an excuse to "somehow" have leftover crumbs, that "somehow" disappear quickly.
With what do you enjoy your cornbread? I go with the classic answers: a warm bowl of chili, tortilla soup, or simply on its own: that's how I last enjoyed it in a seafood restaurant on City Island--not the Ile de la Cité, but the Bronx version. As I said, cornbread was strictly an American territory kind of dish to me. That is, until I decided to cook a stew of okra, green bananas, and chicken.
When my thoughts turned to what I would soak up all that delicious sauce with, I knew it had to be cornbread, geography be damned. The thing is, you know I'm not a girl from the South: I don't have a skillet and recipe passed down from the 19th century to make decisions any easier. I really had to sit down this time around, grab a pen, and ask myself what exactly I wanted in my cornbread. Well, I wanted corn, for starters (good start, Lucie). A mix of kernels and polenta sounded good. Next up was sweetness. Yes, I wanted sweet...but not overwhelming sweetness and an overload of sugar. A kick of heat wouldn't hurt either.
A thousand books and web pages later, I had something that looked like a recipe in front of my eyes. Let me tell you this: I'm no Scarlett O'Hara, but I'm pretty sure that my cornbread was nice and that you would enjoy it, too.
Those stringy, mushy okra sure seemed to like it. It just might prompt me to say "I'll never be hungry again!"
serves eight to ten
2 TB butter
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. polenta (or cornmeal)
1/4 c. raw cane sugar
1 TB baking powder
2 TS salt
1 c. buttermilk
2 c. corn kernels, thawed if frozen
1/4 c. pickled jalapeno slices
Preheat oven to 350°F / 185°C.
Melt butter in an oven-proof skillet and swirl to coat. Place skillet in oven while it preheats.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, polenta, baking powder and salt.
In a larger bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk, peppers and corn kernels together. Delicately stir in dry ingredients.
Carefully remove skillet from oven and pour in corn mixture. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until the edges are golden and the center is firm. Serve directly from skillet or flip over onto a plate to show the nice browning.