Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cheap Eats: Hot Water Cornbread

The Topic: Cheap Ingredients with Creative Potential

The Dish: Recently, I've become enthralled with corn meal. It might not seem like the first dry good to grab, but this versatile base has become my new go-to. I discovered my love for it thanks to a tip from Robin Robertson, suggesting postponing grocery shopping as long as possible, saving money and encouraging you to get creative in the kitchen. Guess what? I made it two weeks past my initial, "I need some freakin' food in these cabinets," declaration, and it yielded some tasty dishes.

There it was: a box of corn meal, all alone in the cabinet. It was early, I was exhausted, and I wanted food immediately. Lo and behold, I remembered a book I had read a few years past, mentioning hot water cornbread—literally hot water added to corn meal, all fried up in the skillet. Not only did it sound fast, but I saw the potential for spice-y add-ins and sweet and savory toppings. Room for customizing? You know I was all over that.

The first batch I made used about 1/2 cup corn meal with sea salt, dehydrated garlic (I scored a bunch for super cheap—hot water rehydrates it and saves me time chopping up fresh cloves), and a crazy mix of on-hand spices thrown in. Hot water from my electric kettle was added next, stirring in a little at a time until a nice thick paste formed. After frying up small, flattened cakes, I topped half with some cheap tomato sauce (50 cents a can! Forget the dressed-up spaghetti stuff, this is just as good), and the other half with a little maple syrup that was hiding in the fridge. The result? Crunchy on the outside, delicious on the inside, with the perfect balance of savory and sweet I need in the morning. That continued for about five days until the corn meal ran out, and now I can't wait to buy 20 pounds in bulk.

The Final Word: Like a lot of improv cooking, my version changes each time I make it, and this dish is really about "cooking by ear," as my mom says. But if that's not your style and you want a delicious hot water cornbread recipe, I'll share a little secret: There might just be an amazing one in our upcoming 10th anniversary issue. In the meantime, if you're brave enough to give this a go, tell me your favorite combinations!

16 comments:

  1. Yum! I love a good "there's no food in the kitchen" recipe. I think I *always* have cornmeal on hand, so this is perfect!

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  2. I do the same thing (I thot I'd invented it...LOL) except I throw in some greens...usually turnip or mustard...sometimes some grated carrot, parsley flakes, onion ... yum!

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  3. oh, and I forgot...chopped zuchinni!
    (anonymous again...see above!)

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  4. If you want to be fancy you can call it Polenta.

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  5. I can't wait to try this! I too like to make a game out of how long I can last without grocery shopping. This is fantastic.

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  6. Omigosh - I grew up on this stuff! Thanks for the memories. Guess what I'll be having this weekend?

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  7. i do this sort of thing with chickpea flour from time to time (for savory snack/small meal)

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  9. I made this tonight and it was delicious.

    I just mixed the cornmeal with a little Adobo seasoning then added some Daiya Mozzarella on top while the second side was cooking. It tasted like one of those Mozzarepa's that they sell at street fairs and carnivals!

    Thanks for posting this :)

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  10. I just made these and used chopped red onion and chopped fresh garlic with some sea salt - they were delicious! Next time I will use spices but I just moved and I don't have any right now. I think I will also try them for breakfast with agave nectar and cinnamon. Thanks for the idea! :)

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  11. Abby
    What a great idea and recipe. It came to my rescue as I prepped for a recent potluck. I made a big pot, or so I thought of yummy veggie stew. Only thing is that the veggies cooked down more than I wanted them to, so I was afraid I didn't have enough food to take to the potluck. So I whipped up a couple batches of your hot water corn bread and took them as well. The little cakes were topped with the veggies, and the day was saved.

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  12. You don't need hot water for this to work. You don't even need water. You can use milk/milk alternative.

    You don't even have to form them, you can spoon them directly into the hot oil.

    My mom made these for me all the time when I was little...they were my favorite.

    I like these as is, with just salt...add-ins are good but they taste so nice with just simple ingredients too.

    P.S. Chickpea flour is great also, you can even mix the two together!

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  13. See that your ideas are free style, only where are the measurements to try and get something close to what you made???????????????

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  14. I make mine with 1 1/4 cup self rising cornmeal and one cup boiling water. It's pretty close to the right consistency for me. You might have to do a little more or a little less. If it's too wet looking add a little more cornmeal. I did make some with diced Jalapenos. YUM!

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