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Monday, November 29, 2010

And so goes another Thanksgiving weekend. And with extreme nonchalance I'll give you a recipe at the very end of the feast.
The thing is, in almost 10 years since I've moved to this foreign land, I've never dared to play around with the dishes of this tradition, also because my friend (the same one that years ago was spoiling us by pulling chocolate chip cookies out of the oven every other day), I was sayin', my friend, moved by compassion, always invites me to her T -Day, and I usually save myself bringing a crostata or a pumpkin pie, bought at the last minute at the French bakery close to my house (I know, these French know their stuff, we have to admit...).

This year, however, I've decided to be a much more polite guest, and with great pride I get down to work and try to contribute myself to the Mission Turkey. Virtually, and sensationally late, but the important thing is to participate, as someone once said... I almost want to commit myself, and promise that in the coming days weeks, when everyone will be thinking of heart-shaped cakes and pink ravioli for Valentine's Day, I will show up candid and innocent with some other dishes that usually never fail to appear on Thanksgiving table: sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, maybe even a pie (um... maybe...). And then, let's admit it, this way I can speed things up and in November 2011 I'll capitalize on it by linking wildly to the past :-)
But don't be fooled, you still won't see me struggling with the turkey (I mean THE Turkey, THE maximum weight, THE 20 Pounder, the perfect one, bloated, juicy, which, along with milkshakes, pompom girls and laundromats, has been in the settings of all our American dreams, from Happy Days to Fame), yes, THAT turkey... not yet. You must be joking, I can't do it. I may be a Girl In The Kitchen, but my name is not Martha Stewart. Preparing that turkey is like getting a green card, and I'm not ready, that's all.

But now no more talking, here is the first entry of my new category, Thanksgiving .
And to you all, thanks for being here.

for a cast-iron skillet of 8" diameter

cornmeal 140 gr.
all-purpose flour 125 gr.
butter 100 gr.
sugar 80 gr.
eggs 2
buttermilk 235 ml.
baking soda 1/2 teaspoon
salt 1 pinch

For the record, cornbread is popular all year round and not just during Thanksgiving, and it's very common all over the U.S., although it's more traditionally associated with the cuisine of the southern states. There it's usually made using only cornmeal flour, with no sugar nor baking powder, and it's cooked in a cast iron skillet, thoroughly greased with butter, oil or lard, and heated in the oven before the dough is poured in. The result is a very grainy "bread" that crumbles easily (so much so that it's often eaten with a spoon with the addition of milk or buttermilk), it's not too sweet and has a pretty crunchy brown crust.
In the northern states on the other hand, cornbread batter is more like that of muffins or other quick breads (such as pumpkin bread or banana bread), the bread is soft and sweet for the addition of wheat flour, baking soda and sugar, and it's baked in the oven like a regular cake.
What I'm offering you is the Yankee version, with the addition of wheat flour. I prefer it because crumbs that fall all over are not for me, but at the same time I like it just a little sweet and cooked in a cast iron pan. But nothing against increasing the sugar, varying the proportion of the two flours, and preparing it in a regular baking pan (if square, even better).

Preheat the oven to 350, thoroughly grease a cast iron skillet and keep it warm. In a bowl, mix cornmeal, all-purpose flour and salt, and set aside. Melt the butter in a pan and let cool slightly, then mix it with sugar. Add the eggs, stirring until they're blended, then mix in buttermilk and baking soda. At the end add the flour mix and stir just until you get a sufficiently homogeneous mixture. Pour the batter into the hot skillet (or in a regular baking pan previously greased) and bake at 350 for about 30 or 40 minutes.
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