Maple Bacon Cornbread

Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and I know we are all dying to tear into those once-a-year favorites: turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes….. mmmm….. I know that many household traditions include cornbread, often in the form of cornbread stuffing. Well it just so happens that I have a killer cornbread recipe with a New England twist that will go perfectly with your Thanksgiving feast. That’s the right, the title says it all: Maple Bacon Cornbread. It’s a winner, and the best part is you get to see how to make it!

The secret ingredient for any cornbread (in my opinion) is cast iron: you need that rocket-hot heavy metal pan to make the golden crust that makes cornbread cornbread. Mmm. And the good news is if you’re not a fan of maple and bacon, or you want to keep it plain so you can stuff your bird with it, then just simply leave out the maple and the bacon. If you want to use this bread for stuffing, you’ll want to make it a day in advance and leave it out on the counter so it gets a bit stale. Stale bread means flavorful stuffing! Yum!

Be sure to watch and share the video with all your friends!!

 Maple Bacon Cornbread – Recipe PDF

A Weekend of Potluck

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending not one, but TWO potluck dinner. One on Friday with my fellow gay choristers, and a fall feast on Saturday at my friend Morgan’s house way up in the mountains – a lovely retreat about 90 minutes north of the city. For some this would be way too much, but for the starving artist it is thrilling. And let’s be honest, there is nothing more starving artist than a potluck. Everyone chipping in, gorging themselves, then taking food home for the next day. First, game plan. Being that the first potluck was at 7pm and the second one was the next day at 1pm, the logical move was to make a large batch of one thing that I could bring to both parties. I mean, let’s be easy on myself.  Being that we’re smack in the middle of fall, I thought pumpkin chili would make the most sense. It’s a one-pot dish that can easily be doubled. You remember my post on pumpkin chili, right?   So I made that, then I decided I would also make cornbread to go with it. I can whip that together in no time, so I made a fresh one for each party. Not a big deal. Finally I also decided I should bring my famous apple crisp. So I made one on Friday and brought it to both parties.

Now the trick to cooking for potlucks is to understand that you don’t need to make enough for every single person at the potluck. Think about it. If there are 15 people going and every person brings a dish big enough to feed 15 people, you’re feeding 15 people 15 times over – way too much. And let’s face it, people aren’t taking full portions at potlucks because they want to sample everything. My rule is I find out how many people are coming, divide it in half, and THAT’s how many people I cook for. When I leave a potluck without having to bring any food home, I know I did it just right. I’m happy to say that on Saturday I left Morgan’s only with empty containers. Nice.

Another good tip for being a courteous potluck attender: bring the necessary equipment to both heat and serve your food in/with. This weekend I brought sturdy paper bowls and plastic spoons. It turns out that neither party needed the spoons, but both gladly made use of the disposable bowls. Perfect. I, however, brought it in a Rubbermaid plastic container, which one could not just simply throw in the oven and heat up. Classy. An easy trick is to borrow a large pot, dump it in, heat it on the stove, then pour it back into the Rubbermaid. Or, if you have a friend like Morgan, she had that lovely pumpkin-shaped vessel perfect for serving.

Finally, whenever possible I try not to cook anything at the host’s house. If I do bring something to cook, I make sure it is oven-ready, that is, all I have to do is get there and throw it in the over. I did that with the apple crisp on Friday since smelling it baking and serving it warm is half the fun. But, I brought it completely assembled and literally just put it in the oven. God I love fall.

Maple Bacon Cornbread

I definitely have an unhealthy obsession with cornbread. There’s something about the sweet, crumbly, yellow bread, warm and covered in melting butter that just hits all the right buttons. But not all cornbread is created equal, oh no. I’ve had many a disappointing pieces of cornbread: dry, not sweet enough, grainy texture, too dense, etc, etc.  Not long ago I went on a mission to create a cornbread recipe that makes cornbread just the way I like it: sweet, buttery, a bit of crunch on the outside, and a little crumbly. After numerous tests, variations, and overeating, I’m proud to say that not only did I get the recipe perfect, I took it one step further: to breakfast. I love cornbread with fried eggs – dipped in runny yolk, it is heaven. Since I already sweeten it with cornbread, I thought, why not put bacon in it as well. Friends, I’m not gonna lie – it’s a home run. The salty chew of the bacon mixed with the buttery sweet of the cornbread is nothing short of miraculous… but I really had to make sure. When I want to seriously test a recipe, I give it to my roommate. More than once I have made a dish that my roommate normally doesn’t like eating, but when she tastes my version, she freaks out about it. I call it the roommate test. Clever, I know. This cornbread passed the test with flying colors – she is a believer, and I promise you will be too.

As a heads up, you should know that the only way to make cornbread is in a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, I can’t recommend getting one more highly. I get such use out of mine – it fries and browns like nothing else. Honestly, even if you only use it to make cornbread, it’s still worth it – nothing else will give you that light crisp on the exterior. The recipe may seem a little involved, but once you get into it, you’ll see it’s really a cinch to put together. Decadent? Yes. Starving artist? Absolutely.

Maple Bacon Cornbread (Recipe PDF)