Seasonal Flavors: Cornbread

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Linda grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and now lives on the Northern Neck of Virginia, thus always close to the water and the seafood abundant there.

When we visit, she always makes the most amazing crab cakes and always accompanies them with an equally amazing cornbread. Linda says the secret of this unusually dense but also moist cornbread is the lack of wheat flour—it’s all cornmeal.

Years ago, after a wonderful dinner, we found ourselves with leftover crab cakes (how is that possible?) and so the next morning, we cut a slice of cornbread, topped it with a crab cake, added a fried egg, and then whipped up some hollandaise sauce. We were convinced that we had invented Crab Benedict. And, truly, it wasn’t until years later that I began seeing it and other renditions of the bread/protein/egg/hollandaise breakfast treat on restaurant menus.

I recently found myself needing to host breakfast for the extended family (that day, there were 14 of us) and decided to save a little money but provide a similar treat. The day before the breakfast, I made a double batch of Linda’s cornbread and instead of baking it in the usual cast iron frying pan, I used a large sheet pan so that I’d have a ½ inch layer of bread.  After it cooled, I cut it into rounds with a biscuit cutter, and stored them in an airtight container at room temperature. I then took a pound of crab meat and seasoned it with Old Bay, refrigerating overnight.

The morning of the breakfast, I arranged the cornbread circles on two, large platters and sprinkled a quarter cup of seasoned crabmeat atop each one. Then I solicited a volunteer to stand beside me and fry eggs, while I made the hollandaise. A second volunteer had the hard job: get the other twelve people to the table and make sure they had whatever it is they wanted to drink.

As my assistant made the eggs, she put them onto a dish in the warm oven.

When the sauce was perfect, we put an egg on each cornbread/crab round, and topped it with sauce.

Applause followed as we carried two platters of these delicious treats to the table. I served it with homemade applesauce. Here’s the cornbread:

Linda’s Cornbread

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Pre-heat the baking dish, either a cast iron fry pan or a sheet pan.  Add 3 T butter to the pan while preheating.

Cook in saucepan over medium heat, until thick:

  • 1 ¼ cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups of water

Add:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking powder

Pour batter into preheated pan and bake for 10-15 minutes at 425°F, then reduce heat to 400°F and bake for 15 more minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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