CORNBREAD WITH BACON AND MONTEREY JACK
Steak with Friends
by Rick Tramonto with Mary Goodbody
Every time I bake this cornbread I think of my friend Chef Emeril Lagasse and the great meals I have had at Emeril's New Orleans, where the cornbread is out of this world. Every time I serve it, my guests are just happy I did! It's an easy recipe that works best if served hot, right from the oven, which is how they have been doing it in the South for generations. I like to use Anson Mills cornmeal, which is processed in South Carolina the old-fashioned way, but this would be good with any brand of cornmeal.
• 6 slices bacon
• 1¼ cups coarse-ground yellow cornmeal
• 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 large eggs
• 1½ cups buttermilk
• 1 cup grated Monterey Jack or Colby Jack cheese
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Lay the bacon slices in a shallow baking pan and bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until they begin to crisp. Do not turn during cooking. Drain the bacon on paper towels. Reserve the rendered bacon fat: you should have about 1/4 cup. When the bacon is cool, break or chop into small pieces.
Increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Pour the bacon fat into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and put the skillet in the oven while it preheats.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir well until mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
Fold the grated cheese and chopped bacon into the cornbread batter.
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour in the batter; it should sizzle. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cut into wedges and serve garnished with chives.