I have always been a lover of cornbread, but frequently am dissatisfied because the texture ends up too dry and very crumbly. To remedy that, I recently sought out a recipe from one of the food blogs that I read. A quick search resulted in a wonderful recipe from the Sweet Savant, for this Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cornbread.
The first time that I made this recipe we were hosting friends for dinner and I wanted to make cornbread to go along with a smoked tri-tip roast. As I read the list of ingredients, I noticed two things that stood out. 8 ounces of frozen broccoli-thawed and 16 ounces of 2% cottage cheese. I have never been a fan of frozen broccoli, so I determined that I would break not just one, but two of the cardinal sins of hosting someone for a meal at your home (1. Never try a new recipe for the first time; and 2. Never alter a recipe the first time you make it). I decided that fresh corn, cut off the cob, and some chopped peppers (bell, jalapeno, or whatever I had on hand) would be good substitutes for the unwanted ingredient.
I prepared the corn to be added to the batter by cooking it on the smoker briefly, just long enough to get a bit of char on the kernels from them touching the grate. From there I cut the kernels off the cobs and mixed them in with the rest of the wet ingredients. I also added the chopped peppers (poblanos in this case) to the chopped bacon as I browned it in a separate skillet.
I think my favorite part of this cornbread is the golden Vidalia onion slices that provide a stunning display on the top once the loaf is inverted and removed from the frying pan. In addition to the stunning visual they provide, they keep the bread moist and contribute some subtle sweetness.
My second favorite part about this cornbread is that I get to bake it a cast iron skillet. One lesson that I learned the first time that I made it was that I needed to bake it in a skillet with taller sides, as the butter that the Vidalia onions saute in will flow over side and make a big smoky mess of the oven if the sides are not tall enough. The second time I made it, I used the cast iron Dutch oven that I got from my Mother. Any time I get to use one of the kitchen tools I got from her is a good day. The tall sides of the Dutch oven successfully contained the butter, and that made everyone in my house much happier.
The bottom line is that this cornbread is moist and packs a lot of flavor in each bite. I think the cottage cheese is responsible for the moisture and some of the subtle dairy taste. Because it has sugar in it, my Dad would have called it Johnny Cake, but I am more interested in eating it than debating what it should be called. What I do know is that I have never had any leftovers when I have made it. That is always a good sign.
Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cornbread
Derived from the original recipe of Demetra Overton – http://sweetsavant.com
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 40 mins Total time: 55 mins
Requires a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, but I used an 11 inch Dutch oven that has 3 3/4″ tall sides and that worked very well.
- 2 Vidalia Onions
- 4 Tablespoons of butter
- 1 1/2 Cups of cornmeal
- 1 Cup of AP flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1/3 Cup white sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 Cup diced poblano pepper
- 3/4 Cup fresh corn kernels, cooked and cut from the cob
- 1/2 Cup bacon, chopped and cooked
- 4 eggs
- 16 ounces of cottage cheese
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook the corn (still on the cob) for about 3-4 minutes (over an open flame will char some of the kernels and will provide great flavor and color inside the finished loaf).
- Saute the bacon in a separate pan and add the diced pepper for the last minute or two so it softens.
- Slice the Vidalia Onions into rings, leaving the rings together if possible.
- Melt the butter in the cast iron skillet (the one to be used for baking).
- Place the onion slices close together in the the butter, filling in any spaces with smaller bits of onion.
- Finely chop any remaining Vidalia onion and reserve it.
- Let the onions cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- While the onions are cooking, mix the batter.
- Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl and stir to combine.
- In a large bowl beat 4 eggs and mix in the cottage cheese.
- Add the reserved chopped onions.
- Add the bacon and diced peppers.
- Add the cornmeal mix and stir to combine.
- Pour batter over the onions.
- Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes or until done.
- Let the cornbread cool for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan.
- Place a plate or breadboard over the pan and, using oven mitts, carefully flip the pan over and remove cornbread from the pan.