Floriole, Bryan’s Birthday, and Some Amazing Cornbread

I have been MIA, but with good reason! For starters, my friends at Floriole opened their bakery and café and I have had no reason to bake since freshly made croissants, tarts and cakes are a couple of blocks from my office. I’ll be writing more about Floriole soon, but if you are in Chicago you really need to drop what you are doing and go! It is the most exciting thing to open in Chicago in a long time and definitely my favorite bakery.

But really, my time has been spent planning Bryan’s birthday party which was this past Saturday. It was a great night with lots of good friends and good food. A few of the recipes from the Southern-style barbecue were real stand-outs and worth sharing with you. I’m starting with Bryan’s favorite, which is a recipe for skillet cornbread from the Lee brothers.

For those of you who are less obsessed with Southern cuisine than I am, Matt and Ted Lee are brothers from Charleston, South Carolina, who sell boiled peanuts and write about Southern cuisine. They have written a couple of excellent books that I turn to on a regular basis. Their cornbread is ridiculously delicious. It was especially good because I used white corn meal from Three Sisters Garden in Kankakee, Illinois. The Three Sisters Garden is one of the regular vendors at Chicago’s Green City Market and their cornmeal is available at the Chicago Farm Stand. It is an amazing local product and worth seeking out. The cornbread, which is cooked in a hot skillet until golden and crispy is intensely flavorful – really beautiful stuff. I served it with sorghum butter (I added a 1/4 cup of sorghum to a stick of softened butter) which gave a nice sweetness to the bread.

The Lee brothers also suggest making a parfait using the cornbread. Since I happened to have some buttermilk ice cream in the fridge, I couldn’t resist. I layered small pieces of the bread with scoops of ice cream and drizzled the whole mess with some sorghum syrup. It was delicious. I have also been fantasizing about making a grilled cheese with the cornbread. Might be over-the top, but I think it is worth a try.

Please use a high-quality cornmeal, ideally from a local farm. If not, at least look for a stone ground cornmeal. Don’t use the stuff in the cardboard tube at the supermarket! Trust me. The recipe below calls for the bread to be baked in a 12-inch skillet which will mean your bread is thinner and crispier than the one in the photos. I chose to do a 10-inch skillet which makes for a taller, softer bread. Either way it is wonderful.

Crispy Cornbread (recipe by Matt and Ted Lee)

  • 1 tablespoon lard or unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with the lard, leaving any excess in the pan and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat, and whisk the butter into the batter.

When the fat in the skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should sizzle. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven.

Cut the corn bread into wedges in the skillet and serve hot, with sorghum butter.

Next up: Just in case you needed one, another reason to make buttermilk ice cream: Pecan and Maple Pie with Bourbon and Kumquats! (Seriously!)

22 comments to “Floriole, Bryan’s Birthday, and Some Amazing Cornbread”

  1. what a lovely party table AND–hooray for the Lee Bros. & for cornbread. this TN girl can’t get enough of either.

  2. could I be drooling over that more? wow. maybe a recipe to include in our wedding menu next Autumn!



  3. Aha! I just made some buttermilk ice cream so I must make this too :)

  4. Corn Bread parfait?? Yes, Yes, YES! Always looking for a great cornbread recipe. This looks awesome. Thanks!

  5. I might be dating myself, but the first photo gave me “Pac Man Fever”. Seriously though, beautiful. The simply set table, the cornbread, the straws (I love the straws), the parfait in a jar…inspiring and lovely.

  6. The parfait is seriously crazypants. My brain is on overload. Wow. Will give this recipe a go! Thanks:)

  7. I do love me some southern style cookin’ (hence the blog name….). Cornbread is at the top of my list, and the parfait is an awesome idea!! Looks like a fun party; I had a birthday party myself this weekend, so happy belated to brian :).

  8. I love how you just say sorghum like it’s something that everybody knows. You’ve gotta translate for us yank/Canadians! Anyway, thanks for introducing me to it and for making 29 an extra special birthday!

  9. Oh, to be a guest at one of Tim and Bryan’s parties!!! Your parfiat is a perfect example of why I adore youso much, Tim!

    Happy birthday to Bryan.

  10. Adorable. Love those straws!

  11. I love the parfait! My dad used to crumble up cornbread into a glass of buttermilk and drink it! I can’t do that, but this looks goooood.

  12. Thanks for all of the great comments, folks!
    Julie- I like the cornbread in buttermilk thing too! I think buttermilk is one of my favorite things.
    Bryan- Sorghum is a sweet syrup made from sorghum plants (grasses) that is popular as a sweetener primarily in parts of the southern United States. It is delicious. I think it tastes like molasses and honey had a baby.
    The French- excellent use of the term “crazy pants”
    Pam- You are sweet! If only Oregon wasn’t so far from Chicago we would invite you over.
    For all of you interested in the parfait, you can certainly add a little extra sugar to the cornbread if you are making it to use in the parfait and want it so be sweeter. As is is, the bread is not sweet. I like it that way, but you might prefer a little extra sugar.

  13. Love this cookbook as well. Makes me want to make lots and lots of bird’s head biscuits.
    I’ve been known to take the simple route and top the crumbled corn bread with plain yogurt and honey.

  14. I adore cornbread. This looks amazing!!

  15. Sivan Harlap says:

    April 28th, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRYAN! (ps, I love corn bread, too!) (pss, my birthday is may 31st) (psss, I’ll be 30.) (just sayin…)

  16. This sounds divine, and I’ve never tried buttermilk ice cream before. I just saw your recipe for raspberry buttermilk ice cream – hoping to try it soon. Love the table setting – looks elegant and whimsical at the same time!

  17. My most favorite use for corn bread is French toast… nice, thick slices browned and crispy on the outside, served with rhubarb compote or fresh berries and topped with honeyed Greek yogurt. It is incredible – you’ll want to eat it every day!

  18. Happy Birthday, Bryan! Sounds like a delicious party. I’m in love with the Lee Brothers. Did you happen to see them on Tony Bourdain’s show a couple years back? Adorable.

  19. Hi, Tim. Thanks for the cornbread recipe – I’m always looking for a new one, though I like the one I’ve used for cornsticks (on my blog). Your table looks festive and fun! Yours, Dan

  20. Which cookbook includes this recipe?

  21. Hey Beth, it is linked at the top of the recipe.

  22. I gave this cornbread a try last night when routine chilli-making turned into an impromptu dinner for four–it was a great hit! I kept going back to the kitchen for more. Thanks for the recipe and the tip about local cornmeal. I’ll have to try to make it to the Chicago Farm Stand sometime. Chicago is just too big and spread out when you don’t have a car!

What do you think?