|Southern-Style Jalapeno, Crystallized Aged Cheddar, Bacon Cornbread with Cilantro, Buttermilk, + Scallions, Fried in Bacon Fat Filled Skillet|
For the Cornbread:
1lb Thick-Cut Applewood Smoked Bacon
3 ½C AP Flour
1C Yellow Cornmeal (preferably coarse ground, we like Anson Mills)
2T Baking Powder
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper + Fleur de Sel, To Taste
2 Spoonfuls of Mayonnaise (for added extra moisture)
2C Buttermilk, Freshly Shaken
4 Medium Eggs, Lightly Beaten
2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter, Melted & Cooled (you can brown it to if you like, but we didn’t)
1 Lime, Zested
8oz Crystallized Aged White Cheddar, Shredded (but any high-quality aged cheddar will do)
½C Sliced Scallions
2-3 Jalapenos, Minced (depending on your heat preference)
2-4T Fresh Cilantro, Minced (depending on your preference)
High-Quality Butter or Compound Butter, For Serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out your cast iron skillet.
2. For the Bacon: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and fry the bacon slices until they are all quite crispy. You do not want them to be chewy because when they are baked into the cornbread, they bacon bits tend to get soggy and you want crispy nuggets of gold. After you have fried all of the bacon, strain the fat through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet, in order to remove any black, burnt bits from the bottom of the pan (because that won’t taste to good at the end). Pour the strained bacon fat back into the rubbed-down skillet and let it sit there while you make the cornbread.
3. Beginning the Cornbread: In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, fresh cracked pepper, and fleur de sel until a cohesive mixture is formed. In another small bowl, plop in the two spoonfuls of mayo and whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the honey, buttermilk, beaten eggs, the melted (and cooled) butter, and the zest of one lime. We don’t want no scrambled eggs in our cornbread, y’all (so be careful with hot butter).
4. Prepping the Mix-Ins: Grate the crystallized, aged cheddar into large shreds. Add it into another small mixing bowl. Slice the scallions and add them to the cheddar bowl. Dice the fresh jalapenos and add them to the same bowl as well. Finely chop of the super crispy bacon until they resemble (slightly-larger) bacon bits and toss them into the bowl. Lastly, mince up as much fresh cilantro as you like and lastly add that to the mix-in component bowl. Add in a couple tablespoons of AP Flour into the mix-in bowl and toss all of the ingredients around, so that they are all lightly coated in the flour. This will help the mix-ins to remain evenly dispersed throughout the cornbread, instead of sinking to the bottom.
5. Finishing the Cornbread: Using the large mixing bowl of dry ingredients as the starting point, pour in the small mixing bowl of the wet ingredients. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't please DO NOT over-mix or it could become quite dry + crumbly. Lastly, add in the flour-tossed mix-ins by gently folding them into the batter, just until everything is combined and mixed throughout. Set this aside and get that bacon fat skillet ready.
6. For the Bacon Fat Fried Cornbread: Reheat the bacon fat in the cast iron skillet to medium-high heat until it is almost to its smoking point. Once it has reached that point, slowly pour or spoon in the loaded cornbread batter into the hot bacon fat. It should begin to sizzle and pop… this a good thing and what develops the most delicious crisp crust. Just make a concerted effort to spread out the cornbread, so that the whole pan is filled. Fry the bread just until the edges begin to bubble and cook, about 3-5 minutes, depending the size of your skillet. Place the hot skillet onto a baking sheet (this will help keep any drippings of bacon fat that might spill over while cooking) and place the whole thing into the preheated oven. Cooke the cornbread for 45 minutes to an hour, making sure to check the cornbread at the 30 + 40 minute mark with a toothpick for doneness (so it doesn’t get overcooked).
7. Serving the Cornbread: Once the cornbread it cooked thoroughly through, remove it from the oven and use a knife to run along the edges of the skillet to loosen up any stuck sides. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan, just so it can chill a bit. After settling, invert the cornbread out of the skillet and onto a cutting board. Cut the bread into cake-style slices (we hade about 12 generous slices of cornbread at the end). Serve the cornbread with softened, high-quality butter (or even a cilantro compound butter or candied bacon butter, um yum) for even more flavor! Enjoy while it’s still hot and the butter begins to melt on each slice!