Corn­bread you’ll remember

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FOOD - By El­iz­a­beth Karmel ED­I­TOR’S NOTE: El­iz­a­beth Karmel is a bar­be­cue and South­ern foods ex­pert. She is the chef and pit mas­ter at on­line re­tailer Caroli­naCueToGo.com and the au­thor of three books, in­clud­ing “Tam­ing the Flame.”

Over the sum­mer, I trav­eled to Wooster, Ohio, for a bar­be­cue sum­mit at the head­quar­ters of Cer­ti­fied An­gus Beef.

It was a trip filled with learn­ing, ca­ma­raderie — and lots of smoked beef.

My fel­low bar­be­cue pit masters and I vis­ited a black an­gus ranch, talked bar­be­cue non-stop, cut a side of beef to­gether — or rather watched as the “meat doc­tor” Phil Bass cut and ex­plained.

I was in­tro­duced to sev­eral new cuts in­clud­ing beef belly — also known as beef ba­con — which I im­me­di­ately made when I got back home. But, the stand­out of the trip wasn’t bar­be­cue at all. In­stead, it was a Vi­dalia onion corn­bread made by Ash­ley Pado, chef of the ed­u­ca­tion and culi­nary cen­ter at Cer­ti­fied An­gus Beef head­quar­ters.

Pado headed up a team of chefs pre­par­ing that day’s feast that in­cluded a ta­ble of smoked beef, nu­mer­ous side dishes, home­baked breads, pick­led veg­eta­bles and that mem­o­rable corn­bread that sparkled with a pave of caramelized Vi­dalia onion rings set in the bot­tom of the corn­bread. When Pado served the corn­bread, she in­verted it in the cast-iron pan so you could see the con­cen­tric cir­cles of onion baked into the bot­tom. Even be­fore we took a bite, the group mar­veled at the pre­sen­ta­tion and won­dered why more peo­ple don’t em­bel­lish corn­bread.

The corn­bread it­self is light and cakey with a lit­tle tang and a lit­tle sweet­ness but the salty savory al­most-fried onions take it over the top. Pado sauteed the onions in beef ba­con since she had it in her pantry. When I made the recipe, I adapted it us­ing pork ba­con but you could use but­ter or any kind of ba­con that you can get your hands on.

Ash­ley’s Vi­dalia onion cast-iron corn­bread

Start to fin­ish: One hour Servings: 8 11⁄2 cups all-pur­pose flour 2⁄3 cup gran­u­lated white sugar 1⁄2 cup yel­low corn meal 1 ta­ble­spoon bak­ing pow­der 1⁄2 tea­spoon kosher salt 1⁄2 cup heavy cream 1⁄2 cup but­ter­milk 3 whole eggs, beaten 1⁄3 cup veg­etable oil 3 ta­ble­spoons melted but­ter 1 large Vi­dalia onion, sliced thin and kept to­gether as one piece in rounds 4 slices ba­con, diced

Equip­ment: 9 or 10-inch cast-iron skil­let Heat oven to 375 F Saute ba­con over low heat in skil­let un­til crisp. Mean­while slice thin rounds of onions, mak­ing sure you keep them in­tact and in one piece.

Re­move ba­con from pan but leave the ba­con grease for the onions to cook in. Care­fully place the onion rounds in the bot­tom of the pan to cover the sur­face. Let onions cook un­til the edges be­gin to brown. Be care­ful to keep onions in place — the bot­tom of the skil­let will have a “polka-dot” pat­tern. Sea­son onions with a dust­ing of fresh ground black pep­per. Turn off the heat and set aside un­til ready to bake the corn­bread. If the pan cools down, warm the pan on low heat be­fore pour­ing the corn­bread bat­ter in pan.

In a large bowl, whisk to­gether flour, sugar, corn meal, bak­ing pow­der and salt. Set aside.

In a sep­a­rate bowl, mix to­gether the cream, but­ter­milk, oil, eggs and melted but­ter un­til com­bined — the mix­ture will emul­sify. Set aside.

Add wet to dry ingredients and mix un­til com­bined. Don’t over mix. Bat­ter should look slightly lumpy.

Just be­fore bak­ing, add the cooked ba­con back to the pan and place in the ar­eas around the onions, not on top of the onions or it will in­ter­fere with the onion pat­tern. Pour corn­bread bat­ter di­rectly into hot pan. Place in the cen­ter rack of the oven and bake for 30 min­utes or un­til a tooth­pick in­serted in the mid­dle comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 20 min­utes, run a blunt knife around the edges of the cast-iron skil­let to make sure that it isn’t stick­ing on the sides. Care­fully turn the skil­let up­side down and flip corn­bread out of pan to ex­pose onion rounds — you can in­vert the corn­bread and place it up­side down back into the skil­let for serv­ing.

Serve at room tem­per­a­ture or warm.

Nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion per serv­ing: 419 calo­ries; 211 calo­ries from fat; 24 g fat (9 g sat­u­rated; 1 g trans fats); 117 mg choles­terol; 407 mg sodium; 46 g car­bo­hy­drate; 2 g fiber; 20 g sugar; 7 g pro­tein.

RICHARD DREW — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

This photo shows Vi­dalia onion corn­bread baked in a cast iron skil­let, styled by Sarah Abrams, at the In­sti­tute of Culi­nary Ed­u­ca­tion in New York. This dish is from a recipe by El­iz­a­beth Karmel.

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