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Hot-water cornbread from South.
South by Sean Brock.
Our cookbook of the week is South by Sean Brock, founder of Husk restaurants and chef-owner of two upcoming restaurants in Nashville, Tenn. Over the next two days, we’ll feature another recipe from the book and an interview with its author.
To try another recipe from the book, check out: Traditional shrimp and grits .
One of five cornbread recipes in South — joining basic, cracklin’, rice and sour variations — Sean Brock first encountered this hot-water version in Nashville, Tenn. It predates the arrival of chemical leavening agents in the South, he explains, and any rise that may occur in the fritters is due to the steam trapped inside as they fry.
A sure sign of a hot-water cornbread deserving of respect is when they bear the fingerprints of their maker: “I remember the first time I saw it on a plate and I could see someone’s fingerprints. Wow. That’s powerful. You can’t deny that that’s handmade,” Brock laughs.
3 oz (85 g) country ham, preferably Bob Woods’s (
3 to 4 tbsp (45 to 60 mL) Rendered Fresh Lard (recipe follows)
2 cups (500 mL) water
2 cups (500 mL) fine yellow cornmeal, preferably Anson Mills
1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Run the ham through the large die of a meat grinder, or very finely mince it. Combine the ham and 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the lard in a small skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the ham is crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bits of ham with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel to drain. Strain the fat through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof container. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. (Tightly covered, the ham fat will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.)
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, slowly add the cornmeal and cook, stirring, until the cornmeal is very thick, all the water has been absorbed and no grittiness remains, about 2 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper and ham. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes, then stir in the egg until completely combined.
Preheat the oven to 200°F (90°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.
When the dough is cool enough to handle, divide it into 15 pieces and shape them into disks about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter and 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the lard in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the fritters and fry until golden and crispy on the first side, about 2 minutes. Turn them over and fry until golden and crispy on the second side, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer the fritters to the prepared baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels if the lard has scorched and add another tablespoon (15 mL) of lard, then cook the remaining fritters. Place the second batch on the baking sheet to drain for just a minute. Serve the cornbread fritters immediately.
Makes: 15 2-inch (5-cm) pieces; serves 4 to 6
RENDERED FRESH LARD
1 lb (450 g) fresh pork fat, cut into 1/2-inch (1.25-cm) pieces
1/2 cup (125 mL) water
Combine the pork fat and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the fat has rendered and the water has completely evaporated, about 1 1/2 hours.
Strain the fat through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof container. Discard the browned bits in the sieve. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Tightly covered, the lard will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes: About 1 1/2 cups (375 mL)
Excerpted from South by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards. Used with permission from the publisher.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019