Ed's Note: Dragon Ranch has closed, but we remain smitten with this cornbread recipe. Give it a go! And be prepared to eat too much of it.
We never expected to fall for the cornbread at Dragon Ranch.
The barbecue-restaurant requisite is no dry, crumbly afterthought here. Chef Red Hauge set out to create the moistest, densest cornbread possible, one with a caramelized crust flanking an interior soft and rich enough to be considered a cousin of corn pudding.
He achieves this by packing the batter with corn purée (see the recipe). It's best baked in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, he says. His tip: For the optimal crust, heat the pan in the oven until scorching hot before adding the batter.
There's a butter garnish, too, whipped with bourbon and honey.
Hauge has an impressive résumé, having cooked in a variety of cities with some of the industry's top names. At Dragon Ranch, he sets flavors from Southeast Asia and Japan alongside classic Southern barbecue. Meats, smoked for six to 20 hours in manual Backwoods smokers, hold their own in the roster of Chicago barbecue.
We have plans to return soon for his ramen, one of the only bowls in the city that boasts house-made noodles. And more cornbread, of course.
Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ, 441 N. Clark St.; 312-955-1900 or dragonranch.com
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