I'm learning how to season cast iron. I have a new appreciation for my kitchen at home, with its beautifully warped baking sheets and drawerfuls of aged skillets. Turns out, there is no substitute for years of use, and I'll have to spend a decade cooking hash browns and cornbread before my skillets acquire the proper patina of use. One of my newest pans from the American Skillet Co. and is shaped like New York state -- a cute feature that makes me think about cities and geography while I chew: "Am I eating Rochester right now? Perhaps biting into a gorge in Ithaca?"
I think I'd fill my entire house with maps if I could. I had a friend in lower school whose family had a set of United States map placemats. I'd idly trace the state borders while eating dinner. In college I covered my walls in USGS nautical maps of the places I'd lived on the water: Block Island, the coast of Maine, a lake in New Hampshire. Geographically shaped baked goods feels like the logical next step in my obsession.
Cornbread - like barbecue or clam chowder - is a hotly contested dish, with different regions laying claim to their version. Southern cornbread is savory and made with buttermilk and no flour. Northern cornbread is sweet and cake-like.
Cornbread soaked in butter with a crunchy crust is my favorite. I like it savory and Southern-style, but it's bread so I'm basically not going to say to any version you throw at me. Jalapeño and cheddar is a classic combination, so I played around with those flavors and came up with this cheesy cornbread. It gets its spice from shichimi togarashi, a Japanese blend of black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, poppy seeds, chile flakes, orange zest, Szechuan pepper, and nori.
Spicy Cheddar & Shichimi Togarashi Cornbread
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet (8 or 9-inch) and place the skillet in the oven to warm while you make the cornbread.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. In a small bowl, beat the egg and add in the milk and buttermilk.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Pour in the egg and milk mixture and melted butter and stir to combine. Add in your cheese and mix gently.
Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven -- move it around so that the melted butter coats the sides and bottom. Pour your batter into the skillet and return it to the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes.