Cornmeal is something I buy regularly and always keep in my pantry. I grew up on the Jiffy cornbread mix. I especially remember my mom making cornbread to go with our ham and beans, which I still make whenever we have a ham bone, but as I grew more curious and adventurous as a cook I wanted to do more than just make cornbread.
I remember the first time I bought cornmeal. My husband loves breaded and fried catfish and wanted to have it for dinner many years ago, so I went to the store and bought some yellow cornmeal (it also comes in white and self-rising). He then taught me how to make fried catfish.
Well, since I had all this cornmeal left over, I got out my cookbooks and learned how to make cornbread from scratch, which led to other ways to use up cornmeal.
Here is my recipe for cornbread, with some things you can add to make it even better!
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4-1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cornbread)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil or butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the oil or butter in a castiron skillet or 8- or 9-inch square pan. Place the skillet or pan in the oven while you prepare the other ingredients until the butter is melted.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk and egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry beating by hand just until smooth. Take the skillet or pan out of the oven and add the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Additions and variations: Fry 4 to 5 bacon slices until crips, drain on a paper towel and substitute the bacon drippings for the oil. Sprinkle the batter with crumbled bacon before baking.
Mexican cornbread: Prepare the batter using 2 eggs, slightly beaten. Stir in 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup chopped green chilies and 1/4 cup finely chopped onion. Bake 22 to 28 minutes.
I've used cornmeal for my Cracker Barrel Copycat Chicken Casserole, which is much like cornbread on top of a chicken casserole. I've also used cornmeal for breading chicken. Here's one of our favorite ways of using it on chicken:
Southwestern Baked Chicken
2/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 bonesless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cornmeal, bread crumbs, and all the spices in a large plastic bag and shake well. Combine the Worcestershire sauce, and egg whites in a small bowl. Dip the chicken breasts one at a time into the egg mixture. Allow the excess to drip off, then place in the bag and shake to coat. Spritz a shallow baking pan with spray then transfer the chicken to the pan. Spritz the chicken with the spray. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 mintues or until cooked through.
* Instead of the cooking spray, you could place a couple tablespoons of oil or butter in the baking dish and place in the oven to melt the butter or heat the oil a little. As you place the chicken in the dish, turn it over into the oil/butter to coat on both sides. Continue to bake as instructed.
Other uses for cornmeal are hushpuppies, spoon bread, and Red Pepper Corn Muffins. Cornmeal is also used for Polenta, which I've never made but is next on my learning how-to-make list.