I turned around to find myself face-t0-face with a smiling Jackie Onassis, who it turned out lived exactly one block away from me. She lived on the fifteenth floor of 1040 Fifth Avenue; I lived on the fifteenth floor of 35 East 85th Street.
But I digress.
My friend Stephanie, who now lives in the north Georgia mountains, was born and bred in Atlanta. A gen-u -ine Cherokee Country Club deb-u-tante.
She was a golden girl, and the most beautiful bride I ever saw. When she stepped into the aisle of St. Philip's Cathedral on her daddy's arm, she took everyone's breath away.
She is on the short list of funniest people I know, and if for some reason I had to go fishing, she is the person I would choose to go with. We share a love of Pat Conroy's books, which for me started on that day in the bookstore on Madison Avenue, and when she told me how much she loved his newest book, South of Broad, I put it next in my queue of books to read.
I loved it too.
Conroy is an immensely gifted stylist, and there are passages in the novel that are lush and beautiful and precise. No one can describe a tide or a sunset with his lyricism and exactitude. My sense is that the millions of readers who cherish Conroy's work won't be at all disappointed -- and nor will anyone who owns stock in Kleenex.
The Washington Post
August 11, 2009
So in my search for side dishes that go well with Thomas Keller's fabulous fried chicken for a project I am working on, my thoughts naturally went to biscuits and cornbread. Southern cornbread.
In my book, Rule Number 1 is Don't Be a "Jerk" (with jerk being a different word). But it turns out, if you're from The South, Rule Number 1 is
Don't Put Sugar in the Cornbread
Southerners might drink their tea sweet, but they take their cornbread straight. So since this left out my (delicious) Tiny Corn Muffins, I decided to check out what Hoppin' John has to say about the subject.
Hoppin' John Martin Taylor is from Charleston, where he used to own a cookbook store. He has written a number of special cookbooks himself, is well-known in the food community, and has a website that is worth checking out for interesting articles and great recipes. If you happen to live in New York City, keep your eyes peeled; he is planning to open a restaurant here.
His cornbread recipe calls for stone-ground grits made into a batter, and cooked in an unwashed black iron skillet coated with bacon fat. My can of bacon fat is in the country where I can usually be found on Sunday mornings cooking bacon and eggs. Since I'm in the city this weekend nursing myself through the flu thank you very much, I didn't have bacon fat handy and wasn't up to cooking any, so I made the cornbread in a 9-inch springform pan coated with olive oil. Don't arrest me; I observed Rule Number 1 - no sugar.
Adapted from Hoppin' John Martin Taylor
Because you want to serve this hot, time it so it's done just before you want to serve it. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven.
Small amount of fat to grease the pan
1 large egg, at room temperature or heated in a bowl of warm (not hot) water for 2 minutes
2 cups buttermilk, either at room temperature or the chill taken off in the microwave
1-3/4 cups stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
1 scant teaspoon baking soda
Grease the pan; I used a 9-inch springform pan. Hoppin' John recommends an unwashed 9 or 10- inch cast iron skillet. Put pan into a cold oven and heat to 450 degrees.
Put the buttermilk in a bowl large enough to hold all the batter. Beat in the egg. Then add the cornmeal and blend. When the oven has reached the 450 degrees, stir the salt, baking powder, and baking soda into the batter. Remove the hot pan from the oven, and pour the batter in right away. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top starts to brown. Serve hot with butter.
Turns out, Hoppin' John's recipe is the real deal. It was delicious with dinner,
and maybe even better heated in the toaster oven and slathered with butter this morning. With Thanksgiving so close, I'm starting to think about cornbread stuffing. If you're looking for an authentic recipe for cornbread, this is it.
Next time I'll make it in the black iron skillet. (Stephanie agrees it's the only way to go.)
Oh, by the way, any suggestions you have for side dishes with fried chicken, will be appreciated.