It’s a funny thing about cornbread… if you’d asked me before I went gluten-free, I probably would have told you most recipes are made just with cornmeal and no flour. Now that I’m actually aware of that kind of thing, I know the typical recipe does have regular flour in it too. I’ve put baking on the back burner for a while as I adjust to the gluten-free lifestyle, but I had such a craving for cornbread recently, I started searching all of my cookbooks. I ended up, as I often do, finding a really interesting recipe in The Glory of Southern Cooking by James Villas.
This recipe for Hot-Water Cornbread is naturally gluten-free, no weird substitutions here. About the only thing I changed is using yellow cornmeal instead of white. And as you can see, this isn’t baked in a skillet or baking pan. You make a dough from cornmeal, salt, just a bit of sugar, and baking powder. Then you add milk and bacon grease (totally worth the effort) and stir in boiling water, hence the name of the recipe. Finally you fry the cakes in about 1/2 inch of oil.
At first the recipe seemed tricky to me. I wasn’t sure if my batter was too thick. Then it seemed like the cakes were sticking to the bottom of the pan as they cooked. Soon I realized you can just have fun with this recipe. Some may be thick, some thin. Some might be light, and some might get really dark and crispy on the edges (like that one in the photo above). Maybe you’ll like them better crispy — it’s really a personal preference.
If there is any real challenge, it’s not eating them while they’re still blazing hot from the skillet. Don’t worry, they hold up for a long time. And they’re just as good warm as they are at room temperature. I’m already thinking about what I might do differently next time, like maybe add some minced jalapeno or whole corn kernels? And if you haven’t heard me say it before, I’ll say it again — The Glory of Southern Cooking is an amazing book. If it seems a bit pricey, keep in mind it will be published in a more affordable paperback edition around August.