Certainly, there is no more iconic Southern dish than cornbread. It is seldom eaten alone (although hot cornbread, sliced open and loaded with good butter is pretty hard to beat) and pairs wonderfully with peas and beans, greens, and even beef stew. But my favorite is a combination of cornbread, greens, and chow-chow (a condiment I have written about countless times).
Here are a few suggestions for making good cornbread:
Use freshly ground, high-quality cornmeal, like Grit Girl corn meal. Please do not ever use a packaged mix.
Cornbread is always better when it has a thick, crunchy crust. The best way to achieve a good crust is to heat bacon fat in a cast iron skillet until smoking, and then pour the batter in just a minute or two before putting in the oven.
As with every recipe you make, the quality of the ingredients will really make a difference. I’d rather be caught dead than use margarine. Good quality butter is so much better. If you want the very best butter and live on the Coast like I do, go to Lee’s International Market in Biloxi and buy the canned French butter they carry. Milk and cream are best when found at a farmer’s market. The cream is especially hard to find, so shop early.
Cornbread is so good when just out of the oven, but it keeps well too (seal it in a container or wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it on the countertop. Cornbread makes a great late-night snack, with nothing more than a tab of cold butter).
Every night of my grandfather’s adult life, his supper (being a small meal in the South), was a glass of butter milk with cornbread crumbled up in it. I tried it a few years ago and found it surprisingly good! Be adventurous and give it a try!