brown butter cornbread
Although there are still a few days left before the Autumnal Equinox officially ushers in fall — with its crisp days and crunchy leaves, summer has been quietly fading for weeks now. The days have grown increasingly shorter, the sunlight itself seems softer, and the smell of wood smoke from neighbors’ fireplaces has replaced the quintessentially summertime scent of sunscreen. All of which leaves me feeling restless and wistful.
I begin to realize that afternoons squandered in tidying up the house or running errands might have been better spent lounging on the beach, and to regret those nights I succumbed to the siren song of takeout pizza rather than avail myself of summer’s abundant and delicious fresh produce. I’m disappointed to discover that I did not pack enough summer into my summer.
So when my favorite corn farmer warned me last weekend that we could expect only three more weeks of corn, I might have been just a teensy bit overzealous in my purchasing. (sensing a theme here?) Not to worry. Corn freezes beautifully and easily, plus I’d recently run across a piece by a corn-obsessed columnist in The New York Times and was itching to try her cornbread.
Now, one might argue that a Southern girl has little to learn about cornbread from a New Yorker, but I’m the sort of Southern girl whose mama is from Brooklyn (which is to say, not a particularly authentic one), and the New Yorker in question mentioned browned butter, cheese, and buttermilk in her recipe. Far be it from me to question her credentials.
And thanks to the buttermilk and the browned butter, this is the richest, most moist and crumbly cornbread I’ve ever eaten. It’s the sort of cornbread that causes you to lick the tip of your finger and dab it around on your plate until you’ve collected and savored every last crumb. It’s the sort of cornbread you sneak a pinch of whenever you walk past the kitchen, and that your boyfriend looks forward to having for breakfast almost as soon as he’s finished it with dinner.
It’s the sort of cornbread I’ll be making again and again. Which, given the fifteen pints of recently frozen corn in my freezer, shouldn’t present a problem.
1 c. flour
1 c. stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 T. baking powder
½ t. kosher salt
1¼ c. sour cream or buttermilk
¼ c. vegetable oil
3 T. sugar
¼ t. baking soda
1 cob cooked corn, kernels removed (about ¾ c.)
4 ounces (¾ c.) farmer cheese, crumbled
1 T. chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ c. unsalted butter (½ stick)
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, oil, egg, sugar and baking soda. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry ones until just combined. Fold in corn, cheese and thyme.
2) Melt butter in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, tilting pan to coat bottom and sides completely. Cook butter 2 to 3 minutes, until it starts to color and smell nutty. Scrape batter into skillet; smooth surface with a rubber spatula.
3) Bake until bread is golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.