The weather is not cooperating. I know, I live in Canada, I should be used to that by now. But it’s nearly the middle of May and we’re still talking about wind chill. If you live in a warmer climate, allow me to make this real for you. I wore a winter coat and took a walk in the snow yesterday. And contrary to popular belief, this is not normal for Toronto. We do not live in igloos and conduct business in ice castles. So yeah, I’m not impressed. But I’m also quick to remind myself that even when we have an uncooperative spring, it always gives way to summer. And it is with this happy thought in my head that I present to you this Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread because BBQ season has got to get here eventually.
Spring, Where Art Thou?
When I devised, shot, and made this cornbread, the season was following its normal trajectory. Blooms and buds were appearing on trees, we were hitting temps in the low teens (in Celcius) consistently. And, most importantly, we saw no snow in the month of April and that is certainly never a guarantee in this part of the world.
Everything, with the exception of the global pandemic, seemed to be going swimmingly. It actually seemed like we might get off easy this year, maybe even be treated to an early summer. And then we got a big ol’ raspberry. Something called a polar vortex bear down on us and now our magnolias are all frostbitten and confused.
So, here I am writing about cornbread, the very symbol of sunny BBQ weather while firing up a space heater in my home office. I thought the whole quarantine thing was bad enough but nope. A new level of hell has been achieved and it’s surprisingly cold. But enough about polar vortexes and wind chills, let’s talk about better things, buttery things like this Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread.
Cabbage is King
This dish is my Southern BBQ (I guess?) take on Pain de Méture. For the uninitiated, Pain de Méture is a sourdough cornbread from Gascony, France baked in a cabbage leaf-lined cast iron skillet coated with duck fat. I didn’t know it existed until this photo from Saveur magazine stopped me in my tracks. I’d fallen in love, I had to make the recipe. But I am sourdough starter-less.
Yes, that’s right! I am the only person left on the planet who doesn’t have a sourdough starter going. Oh, I’ve killed a few, to be sure. And maybe that’s why I’ve chosen not to pursue it further for now. I’m not anti-sourdough by any means, I’m just not super jazzed about taking care of one at the moment. I have two cats on which to unload my maternal instincts, so I’m good.
Anyway, I wasn’t into the idea of taking the “sourdough” out of sourdough cornbread by doubling down on the yeast. And to be honest, the whole reason I wanted to make the bread was because of the cool cabbage motif. And this innovation turned out to be a flourish devised by New York-based baker Kamel Saci. So, I decided to leave the Pain de Méture behind and bake my favorite southern-style cornbread in a cabbage leaf instead.
Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread
My favorite cornbread recipe is a modified version of the New York Times Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread. I made it on a whim about 3 years ago and I’ve been making it ever since. What I love about this recipe is the double use of the skillet. You use the skillet to brown your butter, greasing it to be used as your baking vessel as you go. And I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, cast-iron skillets are perfect baking vessels. I dare you to name a more versatile piece of cookware, I dare you.
Over the years, I’ve tweaked the cornbread recipe to my liking but I would be remiss to not mention the impact the New York Times recipe has had on every batch of cornbread that has come out of my kitchen since. If you don’t want to make this recipe, I strongly urge you to make theirs.
Google Hop of Destiny
So, that is the lengthy, potentially nerdy origin story behind this Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread. It reads like a hop around Google because that’s essentially what it was. I do a lot of my food dreaming this way. I love to see what people all over the world are doing with ingredients both familiar and unfamiliar to me. Creativity is a loop, we feed each other to keep ourselves fed. I mean “fed” metaphorically but I suppose in this instance it’s quite literal.
There are no real tricks to this Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread. It’s as simple as making a quick bread because that’s what it is. Just remember to steam the cabbage leaves before lining the skillet with them. They’re easier to maneuver when they’re good and flexible. Oh, and pat them dry too – the lack of moisture encourages crispiness.
So, that’s everything you need to know about this Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread. It’s a worthy companion to brisket, baked beans, and all your BBQ favorites. I promise it’ll make your summer…if it ever arrives.
Blistered Cabbage Skillet Cornbread
- 10-inch cast-iron skillet
- 1 ½ cups 2% or whole milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 large leaves of savoy cabbage
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 ½ cups medium ground cornmeal
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- ¼ cup + 1 tbsp honey
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a large spouted measuring cup, combine the milk and the lemon juice. Set aside to curdle.
- Bring a half-full pot of water up to a boil. Place a steaming basket over top and add the cabbage leaves. Cover the basket and steam until the leaves and flexible and turn a brighter shade of green. Pat the cabbage dry and set aside to cool.
- Place the butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Heat the butter until melted and gently cook until the butter turns amber and smells nutty. Rely on the smell more to be your guide. The dark bottom of a cast-iron skillet will make it difficult to determine the color. Pour the brown butter into a small bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk to combine the cornmeal, flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pour in the milk you set aside earlier. Add an egg and stir to combine before adding the next egg. Repeat with the remaining egg. Finally pour in the honey and the brown butter and stir.
- Line the still hot cast-iron skillet with the reserved cabbage leaves and pour the cornbread batter over top. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted in the center and removed cleanly.
- Leave the cornbread to cool in the skillet for 10 minutes before inverting it onto a large plate. Slice into squares and enjoy warm with beans, brisket, or both.