Side dish or main course? The only correct answer is, “Both.” When my parents were kids during the Great Depression, cornbread was usually the main event – breakfast, lunch, or supper. Momma said she took cornbread to school for lunch pretty regularly. When it wasn’t cornbread, it was most likely Bouillie au Lait, another Depression staple in Cajun Louisiana.
I made this cornbread recipe as a side dish for supper but it became breakfast (with a side of eggs) the next day. For you uninitiated, Coonass is an endearment among south Louisiana people, meaning something akin to “genuine Cajun,” while “Kandinsky” in the title is inspired from the artist’s famous circle paintings. To mimic (or honor) him even more than I have, use a mixture of onions and colorful pepper circles. You could use red, yellow and green bell peppers, which would not only be colorful and cool but, I imagine, pretty dang tasty. Now go do it – and you have my full, Coonass permission to play with your cornbread!
2 cups of medium-ground cornmeal
1 cup of all purpose flour
½ teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup of water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) of melted, unsalted butter
1 baseball-sized yellow onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch thick rings
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Variations: substitute bell pepper for onion rings; substitute 16 ounce can of creamed corn for tablespoon of sugar; substitute buttermilk for whole milk.
1 – Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2 – In a large bowl, using a fork, combine the first seven ingredients
3 – In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and half of the melted butter, then pour that into the first bowl.
4 – By hand, mix all of the wet and dry ingredients until the batter is smooth. About 100 strokes of a whisk or fork.
5 – Coat the bottom of a cast-iron skillet or other deep frying pan with the remaining half of melted butter.
6 – Arrange the sliced, un-separated onion (or bell pepper) rings at the bottom of the pan.
7 – On medium high heat, sauté the rings on both sides, about five minutes total.
8 – Pour the batter over the rings while the pan is still hot, make cross-hatches on the top with the olive oil and transfer it to the hot oven.
9 – Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the cornbread reaches the color you like.
10 – Remove from the oven when done, allow to cool for 10 minutes.
11 – Using a knife or frosting spatula, loosen the cornbread from the sides and bottom of the pan, and flip it over onto a platter. Serve with honey and butter, or as an accompaniment to red beans and rice, stew, or other hearty dish.
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