You’d be hard-pressed to find a traditional southern meal that doesn’t come with a side of cornbread. It’s a versatile dish that pairs well with just about any food under the sun. But did know you only need a single cast iron skillet to create cornbread that’s bound to be a backyard party showstopper? You can watch chef and restaurateur, David Bancroft, and his friend John Cassiumus as they as they show you how to make this homemade cornbread recipe in a miniature cast iron skillet during our recent Prime Cuts: Cast Iron Edition video.
History of Cornbread
While it has become a mealtime staple for southern recipes, cornbread’s origins actually predate the existence of the American colonies by a few hundred years—if not longer. Corn was a staple crop for Native Americans, and they used it to make a wide variety of dishes—cornbread among them. They would often add chestnuts, sunflower seeds, apples, or berries (and sometimes even beans or potatoes) to enhance the flavor of the simple batter.
Once the American colonies started to be developed, cornbread became a meal of necessity for the southern settlers, who struggled to grow European wheat and rye in the hot and humid summers. But it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the cornbread we all know and love came into existence, when farmers started adding buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, and pork products to get the most flavor out of this simple dish.
How Bancroft Makes this Recipe His Own
To really perfect this dish, David likes to let his cast iron get as hot as possible, which creates a nice, crispy sear for the crust. That ups the subtle crunch factor when it’s time to dig in. But it’s not just extreme heat alone that makes his homemade cornbread recipe so great. He likes to use his “secret ingredient” at every opportunity he can: melted salted butter.
And, to push the flavor to the next level, Bancroft tops his cornbread with a sprinkling of benne seeds. Benne seeds are heirloom sesame seeds that have become popular in the South Carolina Lowcountry. They add a perfect toasty and nutty flavor that pairs great with the savory cornbread, spicy honey hot sauce, and crispy crust.
Once this cook is all said and done, Bancroft says to cut it into smaller portions and share with friends and family right away. Oh, and don’t forget to pair it with some delicious brisket Brunswick stew, too!