The smell of warm, buttery cornbread is enough to make anyone's mouth water. But a recent incarnation--studded with pickled jalapeños and diced bacon and still blistering hot in the skillet and emitting a vaguely piquant, porky scent--had us running to the table. Joaquin Baca, the chef and owner of Brooklyn's newly relaunched, Southern-inflected Brooklyn Star, knows his cornbread. Born in south Texas, Baca bakes the Southern staple to order in seasoned cast iron, enrobing the sweet, soft interior in crisp, caramelized edges and sending spicy, bacon-inflicted shivers down our spines.
Bacon-Jalapeño CornbreadRecipe adapted from Joaquin Baca, The Brooklyn Star, Brooklyn, New York
Yield: one 9-inch cast iron skillet
Cook Time: 45 minutes
¾ pound bacon (about 8 slices), cut into one-inch squares
2½ tablespoons light brown sugar
1½ cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups buttermilk
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
½ cup pickled jalapeños, diced
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until it begins to crisp. Drain the bacon and set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, sift the brown sugar to remove any clumps. Stir in the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, honey and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until a smooth batter forms.
3. Place a 9-inch cast-iron skillet over a low flame until the pan is heated through. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of melted butter, the cooked bacon and the jalapeños. Carefully pour the batter straight into the pan, filling it about two-thirds full. Alternately, the cornbread can be made in a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan or individual molds. Place the cornbread in the oven and bake until it's set, the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Serve warm.