Until this past weekend I had never made cornbread. Is this bad? I’m 40 years old and an owner of a restaurant? It seems like it might be bad and I shouldn’t be sharing this with my customers, but that has not stopped me in the past so what the heck.
I’m actually sitting in the restaurant right now, Wednesday night. Today was a killer day for us, in terms of sales and in physical energy spent, and it’s still going. I started the day behind schedule and stayed behind schedule right up until a few minutes before the caterings went out the door. Somehow, I don’t know how, they all went out, on time, correct without any shortcuts or sacrifices.
We are like cats when it comes to our catering business though, we always seem to land on our feet. I did have a feeling this morning though that I had used my nine lives and today would be the day that we might just miss something. I have this feeling periodically and each time things have worked out…hmmm, might be my inexperience and my general pessimistic (or what I call a realistic) attitude.
The difference between our catering business and many other catering companies is that we run a restaurant as well. What does this mean you might ask? We only have one kitchen and one staff to do both sides of the business.
We can almost completely control the catering side – we can turn down business for example if we are busy. We can’t control the traffic on the restaurant side. One day we will be slammed from the moment the doors open until we close…the next traffic will be normal and then the following day we could literally be bored and be sending people home early.
Today, for example, we had three lunch catering orders totalling about 80 people. Each of the caterings has multiple moving parts. Grilling chicken or tri tip, preparing the platters, making salads, bottling up salad dressing, baking fresh cookies or dessert bars, putting together the paper goods, drinks, chips, condiments, etc.
On a normal day we can do this without much problem, but today we had twice the amount of people than normal come in for breakfast, snacks and coffee drinks (the time when we are prepping for the day and creating the catering food).
It’s awesome and maddening at the same time. My regulars will know how busy we are with catering orders just by the way we look and how we act when they walk in the door. They will look at me, laugh and tell me that I work too hard. It’s mostly fun though, but I will tell you…don’t open a restaurant unless you truly love food, customer service, making people happy, cleaning and working hard, all for less than you can make working the counter at Starbucks. Haha, okay not that bad.
As a matter of fact, I’m very excited right now because shortly I’m going to be cooking grilled filet of beef with a wine and shallot reduction for an event at the restaurant in a few hours. There was a time, not long ago, that I wasn’t trusted with any of the food here. I started with the salads only, then I was able to do the tri tip, later I was trusted with other proteins and tonight I get to prepare the slamming tenderloin! It’s pretty exciting and scary knowing that in a few hours there will be 18 doctors eating dinner in our restaurant and I’m preparing the main entree. Fortunately tenderloin is fairly forgiving, but at $17.99 a pound and limited time I can’t screw it up…I won’t though!
Okay, so back to cornbread. I made a few versions this past weekend. All of them I made in a nine-inch cast iron skillet which seemed appropriate for cornbread. The first version I used medium coarse cornmeal and a very small amount of sugar. I was pleasantly surprised at the result. Nothing like the cornbread I’ve ever had. It was more rustic with more of a bite and was less sweet. It would be great topped with chili or to accompany a soup. I used yogurt in the first batch and buttermilk in the second.
The kids didn’t like the texture of either so I made another version Sunday night, adapted from Cooks Illustrated. I used fine cornmeal and I added more sugar and more liquid. This was the favorite and the whole skillets worth was devoured in short order.
This cornbread is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Northern Style Cornbread (serves six to eight)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more to grease the pan
- 1 cup fine, yellow cornmeal such as Quaker in the round canister
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup shaken buttermilk
- 2/3 cup milk
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet or a 9-inch square baking pan with butter.
Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a bowl. Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a spoon. Add the buttermilk and milk. Stir the wet and dry ingredients until almost combined. Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.
Pour the batter into the greased skillet or pan. Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the skillet or pan, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool five to ten minutes on a wire rack or on a burner atop your stove. Cut and devour.
You can wrap in foil and store at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.