Tuesday, May 17, 2011


A few weeks ago I helped judge the cornbread cook-off at the National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
I love having the opportunity to help with contests because they’re educational and inspiring to me. The panel of judges usually includes a collection of people with varied backgrounds – from just great eaters to those with more formal food knowledge (like Linda Carman, a baking expert with Martha White, and Donna Florio of Southern Living). I like discussing the reasons certain dishes resonate -- to totally geek out over food, basically.

Since I grew up eating “soup beans and cornbread” at my grandfather’s house, I also appreciate the creative nod the winning recipe gives to Appalachian cuisine. In her Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin, Jennifer B of Virginia combines white beans, bacon, greens and cornbread. But rather than turnip greens, she uses a milder Swiss chard. Also the hunks of Jack cheese folded into the cornbread -- which bakes atop the soup -- help recreate the melty, stretchy cheese thing that happens with a crock of French onion soup. Her dish helps preserve Southern culture -- but in a modern way.

I also love that this contestant was wearing headphones while she cooked:
That’s focus.

Apparently it worked because she took home third place (out of 10 finalists) for her Sausage and Spinach Calzone Cornbread.

And I couldn't help but ask. She was listening to some of this:


First place:

Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin
by Jennifer B. of Falls Church, Virginia

Makes 6 to 8 servings

8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound Swiss chard, stems removed, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cornbread Topping
1 (6.5 oz.) package Martha White® Yellow Cornbread Mix
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Heat Lodge® 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add onions and sugar to bacon drippings. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add chard, white beans, bacon, vinegar and red pepper. Add beef stock and water. Bring to a low simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

2. Heat oven to 400° F. Mix together cornbread mix, egg, butter and milk until blended. Fold in cheese cubes. Spoon over simmering soup. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with metal spoon, breaking through cheese crust and scooping soup and cornbread into deep bowls.


Second place:

Caramelized Maple Apple Bacon Brunch Bake
by Margee B. of White Salmon, Washington

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Crisco® Original No-Stick Cooking Spray

5 applewood smoked thick bacon slices
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (raw sugar)
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 (6 oz.) pkg. Martha White® Cotton Country® or Buttermilk Cornbread Mix
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Apple Topping
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped Granny Smith apples
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 tablespoons Smucker’s® Sweet Orange Marmalade
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

1. Heat oven to 375° F. Coat10-inch Lodge® cast iron skillet with no-stick cooking spray. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange bacon slices on paper in single layer. Whisk together 2 tablespoons maple syrup and cinnamon in small bowl. Brush on top side of bacon. Bake 8 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 10 to 13 minutes or until bacon is very brown. Place bacon on paper towel, glazed side up, to drain and cool. Chop into small pieces.

2. Whisk together egg, milk and 3 tablespoons melted butter in large bowl. Stir in cornbread mix and cheese until blended. Set aside 3 tablespoons bacon. Stir remaining bacon into cornbread mixture. Pour into prepared skillet. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

3. Place pecans in another 10-inch skillet. Toast over medium heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes, shaking skillet often. Remove from skillet. Set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in same skillet. Add apple. Cook 5 minutes on medium heat. Slowly add orange juice, 1/2 cup maple syrup, orange zest, marmalade and raisins. Bring to a slight boil.

4. Cut cornbread into wedges. Top with warm apple mixture, pecans, reserved bacon and nutmeg. Dust with powdered sugar.


Third place:

Sausage and Spinach Calzone Cornbread
by Andria G. of Matthews, North Carolina

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon Crisco® Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
2 cups fresh spinach, lightly packed
1/3 cup chopped roasted red pepper
Crisco Original No-Stick Cooking Spray
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (6.5 oz.) package Martha White® Yellow Cornbread Mix
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 425° F. Heat oil in 10-inch Lodge® cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and
roasted red peppers, cooking until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Spoon meat mixture into medium bowl with slotted spoon. Discard any liquid left in skillet. Wipe out skillet with paper towel. Coat with no-stick cooking spray.

2. Whisk ricotta, egg, cheese blend, Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper until combined. Stir in cornbread mix until well blended. Stir in sausage mixture. Spoon into prepared skillet and spread evenly.

3. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and spread with 3/4 cup marinara sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges and cheese is melted. Cool 5 to 10 minutes. Heat remaining marinara sauce in small saucepan on medium heat. Slice cornbread into 6 wedges. Serve with warm sauce.


Nashveggie said...

I noticed how each recipe specifies Lodge(r) skillets. South Pittsburg being the home of Lodge(r)why expect less? Notice my (r)s. Being proper on the Lodge(r).

Then there are the cornbread recipes that call for a common square metal pan to bake. Cornbread requires cast iron. It doesn't require eggs and milk but cast iron can't be skimped on.

CrumbGuy said...

a cornbread cook-off?? How cool! The recipes sound delish!

pakistani lawn collection said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pakistani lawn collection said...

I’m seriously happy to discover this great site the future of this blog is getting good and more useful for me thanks and god bless you.

Pakistani Lawn Collection