I had a hankering to make some cornbread. So tonight, I finally did.
Tensions ran high, let me tell you. I like making things in my cast-iron skillet, but I’ve had some memorable disasters. The time I tried to make apricot cake and the cake stuck to the skillet and the berries burst all over the oven, for example. That was a little traumatic.
Luckily, everything went well this time around. The secret to making this cornbread is buttering the skillet before you pour in the batter. You let two tablespoons of butter melt in the skillet over medium heat, and then you turn it off let the pan sit on the burner. By the time you add the other ingredients, the butter has cooled and created the perfect non-stick coating. Genius.
As for the okra…that was an impulse decision. The okra looked so good at the farmers’ market last weekend, I decided to buy it and figure out what to make with it later.
The stewed okra is kind of like bhindi masala (one of my favorite Indian foods), so I kept the same principles in mind while cooking it. My Indian friend in grad school taught me to never over stir the okra because it will start becoming slimy. So words to the wise: Treat your okra with care.
When I put the okra and cornbread together and ate my first bite, I felt like saying, yeehaw! But then I wasn’t sure if that was culturally appropriate so I didn’t say anything.
Here’s a good skillet cornbread, okra-making song. When it came up on my playlist I had no idea how it got there, because I don’t usually listen to much country music. But I still liked it.
Skillet Cornbread and Stewed Okra (cornbread from Mark Bittman, Stewed Okra slightly adapted from here)
for the cornbread:
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, milk, or yogurt (or 11/4 cups milk plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar; see Step 2), plus more as needed
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
11/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
11/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar, plus more if you like sweet corn bread
for the okra:
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups sliced okra
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
for the cornbread:
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
If you’re using buttermilk, milk, or yogurt, ignore this step. If not, make the soured milk:
Warm the milk gently—1 minute in the microwave is sufficient, just enough to take the chill off—and add the vinegar. Let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients.
Put the butter in a medium ovenproof skillet or an 8-inch square baking pan over medium heat; heat until good and hot, about 2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the egg into the buttermilk. Stir the liquid into the dry ingredients (just enough to combine); if it seems too dry, add another tablespoon or two of buttermilk. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet or pan, smooth out the top if necessary, and put in the oven.
Bake about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the sides have pulled away from the pan; a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. Serve hot or warm.
for the okra:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant.
Add the okra and tomatoes, making sure to add the reserved juice from the tomatoes to the saute pan. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.