Get a group of food folks together, put a drink in their hands and gather around a grill on the first cool night of the summer. You know the talk will end up about food, and as this is the South, about our grandmothers' food. You can't hotly dispute whose grandmother was the best cook — how can we compare what we never tasted? — but everyone proudly represents their own grandma.
In this discussion, my friend Leigh talked about her grandmother's corn pone. Soon it was clear that she wasn't talking about corn sticks, which is what I think of as corn pones, but about a skillet of cornbread.
Insanity. I've never heard cornbread called corn pone.
So we pulled other folks in. My friend Michael said we were both wrong, that corn pone is (he struggled to explain it, but this is what he meant) spoon bread.
Mel said the same thing I said — it's the shape that matters. Corn pones are cooked in the iron trays and shaped like an ear of corn.
Michael: Oh, that's just a corn stick.
Someone else, incredulous: Corn porn?
On and on it went, and there was no resolution despite much Googling.
I took the question to the office.
CA editor Mark Russell went right for corn pudding, saw the look on my face and said no, no — it's more like a hoe cake. When I said no, he told us the history of hoe cakes, though. Good save.
Jacinthia Jones surprised me by not agreeing with me. I was convinced her Southern upbringing would've resulted in the same word.
I asked my editor, David Williams.
"You mean like 'Hee-Haw'?"
So: What is corn pone? Is it the stick I say it is? Is it interchangeable with cornbread? Is it fried cornbread? A different recipe from cornbread, one that doesn't include eggs or milk and more like Indian maize bread? Unsophisticated humor? You can get Google images or references to support any of those.
But I want to know what it meant in your family, if you even used the term at all. Email me.
Big shout-out to Melissa Cookston, who was last week inducted into the 2017 class of the Barbecue Hall of Fame during the World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, Kansas.
Cookston, who lives in Hernando and this year won her fifth first place in the Whole Hog division at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, is billed as the "winningest woman in barbecue." She's also taken home the grand prize at Memphis in May twice.
This year she won first with a hybrid hog she bred specifically for the competition. She's also the author of two cookbooks, the owner of Steak by Melissa in Southaven, and three locations of Memphis BBQ Company, including one in Horn Lake.
CA Lunch Bunch
Sign up now to join us Sept. 22 at Brother Juniper's, 3519 Walker, for our Friday lunch group. The nice folks there are staying open late for us and big bonus — no waiting in line! Instead of meeting at noon, lunch will start at 12:15 p.m. and the whole menu will be available to us. Go to calunchbunch.commercialappeal.com and reserve your spot. Just go to the website and get a ticket; you don't pay for it, but it keeps the count for us. Space is limited, so reserve soon.
Yes, I said crayfish. That's what they call them in Sweden and on Friday, Ikea is celebrating its fall festival with a bunch of crayfish and all the nice Swedish sides like lox, cucumber salad plus cheeses, meatballs, desserts and so on. Tickets are $18.99 for adults and $4.99 for kids 12 and younger; Ikea Family members pay $14.99 and $2.99. The buffet is 5-8 p.m.
Recipe of the week
I wouldn't dare try to give you a recipe for corn pone, but here's a gussied-up spoonbread that sounds mighty tasty.
Contact Jennifer Biggs at 901-529-5223 or [email protected] Friend her on Facebook at facebook.com/jennifer.biggs.100 and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @jenniferbiggs1.
Sunny's Tex-Mex Spoonbread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces Mexican chorizo, removed from casing and crumbled
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia or sweet onion
1 clove garlic, grated on a rasp or finely minced
2 cups milk
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup cornmeal, such as Indian Head
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup shredded Cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup corn kernels (fresh, canned or frozen)
1/2 cup canned chopped tomatoes and green chiles, such as Ro*Tel
2 scallions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
For the chorizo: In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add the butter, chorizo, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring to keep the onions from browning, until the chorizo is cooked through and broken down to resemble ground meat, about 10 minutes.
For the cornmeal: Into the skillet with the chorizo, add the milk, buttermilk and cornmeal. Bring to a simmer while whisking, to keep the cornmeal from clumping or sticking in the corners. When the liquid begins to thicken, turn off the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is the texture of loose grits.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs while very slowly adding a bit of the cornmeal mixture. Whisk vigorously to combine and then feel the outside of the bowl. If it's not warm, add a bit more of the cornmeal mixture while continuously whisking; keep adding the cornmeal mixture until the eggs are just as warm as the cornmeal mixture. Then, reversing the order, slowly pour the egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture, whisking vigorously. Add the Cheddar, mozzarella, corn, chopped tomatoes and chiles and scallions to the skillet and stir to combine.
Bake until the edges are golden brown and the center is set, 35 to 40 minutes.
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