I'm heading home again, this time for my first Christmas home in four years. I've been home a lot lately, visiting Grandma, who dropped out of the nursing home to pursue the next life at her leisure. She's beautifully ensconced in a nook in my aunt and uncle's gracious old Lancaster farmhouse. There are cornfields and horses to see, and dry beef gravy, sauerkraut and pork, and molasses-tinted desserts on the tray by her bed.
That's what I think about as I nibble on my airplane food. Airplane food for me consists of last night's cornbread, several ounces of cheese, and chocolate. The cornbread was luxurious, moist, sweet, and toothsomely crusty, and I even baked it with air travel in mind. It's halfway to being baked polenta. No crumbs. And W. Crawford, who was under the weather and came reluctantly to the table, ate four slices last night, and three this morning.
It is imperative that the cornmeal be very fresh--very. Fresh cornmeal tastes of corn and sweetness, and will more than triple the goodness of any bread you bake with it.
Halfway-to-Polenta CornbreadMix three cups freshly ground, fine cornmeal with a teaspoon of salt. Bring three cups of water to a boil and pour it over the cornmeal. Stir it well and cover.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and thoroughly butter a well-seasoned #8 or 9 cast iron skillet.
In a small bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour and half a teaspoon of baking soda.
In another small bowl, whisk together a cup of buttermilk, sour milk, or sour half-and-half and two tablespoons of honey.
Check the cornmeal. I can't remember exactly how much water I used, so splash in some more if it looks more chunky than porridge-like. Add four tablespoons of butter and stir it until it's melted. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture and pour into the skillet. Bake until the top starts to brown.