Tag Archives: cornmeal

Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread Southern style

When I first tried giving James cornbread he was three years old and decidedly not a fan.  I included cheese in the recipe but he was not to be fooled.  All manner of changes were made to the recipe but to no avail.  Then one day I asked, “Jamesy, would you like some Johnny cake?”  Johnny cake is usually baked on a griddle, flat and thin.  I didn’t even have to do that.  I baked up the usual cornbread in my cast iron skillet and he scarfed it down.  He was sold.  My boy had heard the word “cake”.  That’s all it took.  Don’t you wish all eating problems could be solved so easily? James has since grown into a young man who is confident in the kitchen and more than happy to eat Mama’s spicier version of cornbread.  This recipe is roll-your-eyes delicious.  By baking it in a pre-heated iron skillet the bottom of the cornbread becomes crispy and the flavor of the cornmeal is heightened.  I’m fully aware the addition of sugar in cornbread is individual and also more common up North.  However, in the south it’s just not done by us old timers, at least not this one.  Corn is naturally sweet…there’s no need to add sugar.  But scallions and jalapenos are always welcome in cornbread.  It bakes up so beautifully and pairs well with so much.  Can’t have collards without cornbread.  Or chili.  Served with fish chowder or southern BBQ, cornbread is tradition .  Both black eyed peas and tortilla soup demand a healthy wedge.  Quite simply, there’s nothing like cornbread crumbled over a small bowl of cold buttermilk.  Now THAT’S southern!


Simple, fast and cheap, this recipe will become a family favorite.  Although 1/2 cup of chopped jalapenos seems like a lot, the peppers lose quite a bit of their heat during the baking process.  However, feel free to cut back on them if you’re not crazy about heat or you’re feeding little ones.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet I suggest you save this recipe until you do have one.  It just won’t crisp up and will be a huge disappointment.  Most importantly, don’t forget to be super careful about grasping the handle of the skillet while moving it in and out of the oven.  It’ll be screaming hot so make sure you have several dry kitchens towels available to make maneuvering easy.


Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread Southern style

  • Servings: 10-12 wedges
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup jarred jalapeno slices, roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch (approximately 7-8) scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk, not reduced fat
  • 2 cups medium ground cornmeal, I like white best but that’s just me
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425°.
  2. Place the oil in a 10″ cast iron skillet.  Spread the oil all over the pan so that it coats all of the bottom and up the sides.  You can use your fingers, a basting brush or simply swirl the oil all over.
  3. Immediately place the skillet in the pre-heating oven.
  4. In a small bowl combine the chopped jalapeno, scallions, egg and buttermilk.  Mix thoroughly.  Set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until combined.
  7. USING A HOT MITT OR DRY DISH TOWEL remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into it.
  8. CAREFULLY return the pan to the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool on a rack for 15-20 minutes prior to  slicing.




Fried and Green, Tomatoes that is

IMG_7420 The person who thought to slice up a rock hard green tomato, dust it with a seasoned coat of cornmeal and deep fry it in fat is nothing short of genius.  You don’t often see green tomatoes at the grocery store.  You have to go to a specialty or outdoor market.  But they’re out there.  And I found some a few weekends ago on a typical Saturday morning on one of my outings with Dad.  A beautiful pale jade color, these tomatoes sang out to me.  They were big.  And plentiful.  I must have grabbed at least eight or nine.  They were perfect!  Not even the faintest blush of pink on this fruit and all were solid as boulders.  Yes, I had some fryin’ on my mind.  With James home it’s easier to justify food that’s not, well…all that good for you.  Poor Jimmy.  When James was at school it was fish and salad just about every night.  But with James home?  Mama gets to rattlin’ around in the kitchen and all MANNER of dishes come out!  That last post I wrote on homemade  dulce de leche was transformed into a tall, gorgeous Banoffee pie that was completely eaten before I could take the first photograph of it.  Gone.  Just like that.  The only reason I had a photo of the Key Lime Pie from an earlier post is because I hid a huge slice in the refrigerator.  Girl’s gotta do… anyway, treasure trove in hand I had plans for these ‘maters.  For those of you who’ve never had a fried, green tomato you’re in for an addictive treat.  FGT’s are salty and crunchy on the outside, tart and barely firm on the inside.  I peel the skin off the bottom of the tomato so the cornmeal will adhere to the flesh.  Too much skin and the cornmeal floats off into the oil.  The tomatoes have to be completely green as even a half-ripe tomato will dissolve into a watery, sputtering mess in your frying pan.  You really want to serve these warm so if you’re planning on these being part of your meal make sure the rest of your dishes are pretty much finished.  Also, as with anything fried, you want your flour, egg and cornmeal all well seasoned.  I served this batch of Fried Green Tomatoes with a buttermilk dipping sauce that can easily be changed up to the flavor of your choice.  So feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of Sriracha, (SO good!), two tablespoons of plain, bottled BBQ sauce or a packet of Ranch dressing.  I’ve not tried the Ranch, I’m just not a Ranch-style girl, but I’ve been told it’s pretty good.  Go ahead and experiment.  And let me know how yours come out! IMG_7436

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • enough oil to go half way up your frying pan
  • 8-9 green tomatoes, cut in half inch slices and seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder, divided
  • 3 tablespoons seasonings, I use Tony Chacere’s, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 cups cornmeal, preferably white, and more on reserve

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha, BBQ sauce or Ranch dressing, all are optional
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 bunch of chives, chopped

Fried Green Tomatoes

  1. Place flour, eggs and cornmeal in a line in SEPARATE, shallow bowls on your counter.
  2. Season the flour with one tablespoon of garlic powder and one tablespoon your fave seasoning mix or Tony Chacere’s  and mix until well combined.
  3. Season the eggs and the cornmeal each the same way making sure the eggs and seasonings are well combined as is the cornmeal and seasonings.
  4. Dredge each tomato slice in the flour, then in the eggs and then through the cornmeal.  I use my left hand to dredge through the flour, right hand for the eggs and back to left for the cornmeal.  This avoids “fat hand” syndrome.
  5. Lay each slice over cooling racks, the ones you use for cookies or muffins, to air dry until you finish the dredging process.  This keeps the bottom from becoming soggy.
  6.  Heat oil to medium high, about 350°.
  7. Gently slip tomatoes into the oil being careful not to burn yourself or crowd the pan.
  8. After 2-3 minutes turn each slice over for even cooking.
  9. When light golden brown remove from pan with a slotted spoon or spider and drain on paper towels.
  10. Serve with Buttermilk Dipping Sauce.

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

  1. In a medium bowl combine buttermilk and mayonnaise and whisk until smooth.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, mix well, cover and chill until ready to serve.


Cornmeal Parmesan Fingers, Sorullitos

I was talking with my friend, Harriette Keen Jacobs, about a garden shed she had seen that looked like a faerie house.  Harriette is a phenomenal writer; she has a blog also called South of the Gnat Line.  Check it out.  She’s positively gorgeous, well, yeah, she IS a Southern girl and has a farm in Georgia with many little lambs and fuzzy chicks and all manner of cute and quirky critters running around.  Anyway, long after we stopped  dreaming of the miniature faerie-house garden shed I thought of someone who actually had a tiny magic house.  My cousin in Puerto Rico, Myrnita, had a Lilliputian play house that was every little girl’s dream.  She’s the oldest of five but only her younger brother had been born during the years we played house.  Her brother, Robertito, was all boy and nothing to do with us girls.  He hid behind palms and tropical vines wearing cowboy boots, guns and holsters and played cowboys and indians.  Myrnita’s a year or two younger than me and was the perfect summer playmate.  Sometimes we would go to their country club and spend the day swimming and driving the lifeguards crazy by running around the pool in order to execute the perfect cannonball.  Other times her handsome father, my uncle Tio Roberto, would pick me up in his big, old boat of a car and we would go to their house for a playdate.  After the customary exchange of kisses and hugs of everyone in the house Myrnita and I would ask her mama, my Titi Myrna, if we could have some supplies for the little house.  We had some cooking to do.  My aunt was stunningly beautiful, gentle and loving.  She never laughed at us or scolded us if we made a mess or spilled any of our ingredients as we tramped through the house.  We discussed our pretend menu with her and she gathered the necessary ingredients.  Well, most of them.  It was pretend cooking outside so we weren’t allowed things like eggs.  Or butter.  But we could take as much uncooked rice as we wanted and dried beans.  Bread was fine to play with and we always had snacks like Sorrullitos, little salty cornmeal fingers hot out of the fat that Titi Myrna had just made for us to take outside.  Sorrullitos made our pretend play more real.  When you bit into them you could hear the snap of the crackling outer crust.  Oh, and fruit.  We could take bananas, oranges, guavas, any fresh fruit still in its skin and then we’d take it all back in when we were finished “cooking”.  So, out we’d go to the playhouse arms laden with our real and play food.  The playhouse was made of wood and had a front porch.  That still slays me.  A front porch.  I want a porch!  At any rate, it was painted white with Carolina blue trim and a tile roof.  God, I loved that little house.  It had a real door that opened and closed and windows that were protected from the torrential rains and the searing rays of the sun by blue shutters which locked with a toggle from the inside.  We’d throw those shutters open and the pretend party would begin!  The playhouse was just one room but it had cabinets, counters and a pretend stove.  The cabinets were all stocked with a plethora of plastic bowls, spoons and spatulas.  There were two small chairs with cane seats and a small table up against a wall for our imaginary banquet.  And she had a play refrigerator.  The sun beat down upon that little house but the cool Caribbean breezes kept us happy and relaxed.  The hours just sped by as we stirred our simmering meals and played grownup.  It had always been planned that I would spend the night.   My clothes had already been put away in Myrnita’s bedroom by loving hands.  Tio Roberto would undoubtedly take us all out for ice cream after dinner.  Or a handmade guava pastry.  At around 6:00 in the evening the scorching sun would let up a little.  The breezes would truly start cooling us down.  I knew the routine back at my grandparent’s house.  I would have been given my bath and dinner by now.   Mama would be letting Cynthia and me play quietly, color or write letters home to Daddy.  It never failed.  That big, burning sun would start to turn all shades of pink, purple and blue and as it started its descent a wrenching homesickness would set in.  Waves of sadness would roll over my little eight year old self.  I knew I wasn’t going to stay.  Hell, no.  I wanted to go home and it was just a matter of telling my sweet, sweet uncle I needed to go home and no amount of tears from Myrnita will make me stay, okay?  I always felt awful breaking the news that their plans for the evening were not going to happen.  My aunt and uncle were very glamorous and social; they were always at black tie affairs, their pictures were always in the papers.  So I felt rotten and slightly guilty that I had ruined their family night.  But this girl was going home!  My understanding uncle would always get me back just as the sun had set, right before the tiny frogs of the island, the Coqui, began their song declaring night had truly fallen.  Back in my cotton nightgown, back to the adult’s hushed voices echoing off the high ceilings and back in Mama’s arms.  Another perfect childhood day in paradise.  Buenas noches!


Oh, Gentle Reader, these crispy little treats are positively addictive.  And dangerous.  Paired with a good sipping rum…all resolve just melts away  They are easy, inexpensive and quick to prepare.  They’re great when entertaining because they can be fried in advance and then kept warm and crunchy in the oven.  I like them also because they’re homemade but almost effortless.  You didn’t open an air-filled bag or a frost covered box to delight your friends.  No.  You, clever thing, made these by hand.  Furthermore, they marry well with mixed drinks, beer or wine.  Def a win-win in my kingdom.  A cheese called Queso de Bolla is used on the island but I really enjoy the sharpness of the Parm and I pretty much always have it on hand.  You can use a cheese other than Parmesan if you like but the nutmeg and parmesan combination strike a nutty flavored balance the like of which I know you’ll flip over.  In Puerto Rico often Sorullitos are served with a sauce that is a typically a mayo-ketchup mix.  That so grosses me out so I serve mine with a 50/50 mix of mayonnaise and Sriracha Chile Sauce.  That’s it.  Two ingredients for the dipping sauce.  We like food spicy in our house so hold back a little on the Sriracha if that ratio is too hot for your taste or if you are serving children.


Cornmeal Parmesan Fingers or Sorullitos

  • Servings: 25-30 thumb size batons
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 3/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good parmesan cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups fine cornmeal
  • canola or vegetable oil for frying
  1. In a medium saucepan bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add nutmeg, salt and butter and then, while stirring, pour in cornmeal.
  3. Continue stirring until a soft ball forms that separates from the sides of the pot.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
  5. Cover with a clean dish towel and set aside for 10 minutes or so until cool to the touch.
  6. Form the sorullito by taking a spoonful of cornmeal and with your hands form a baton or finger.
  7. Heat two inches of oil in a frying pan until you see tiny bubbles on the bottom of the pan or the top of the oil “shimmers”.
  8. Add the batons to the oil with your hands or tongs being careful not to drop into them oil.
  9. Fry until golden brown and drain on paper towels.
  10. Fritters may be kept warm in a 300° oven.
  11. Serve with Sriracha Mayo sauce.  Just combine the sauce ingredients to taste, mix and serve.


Fried Fish

The first dish I can remember wanting to prepare came about when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old.  I don’t recall what spurred on this desire to cook, but I do remember taking some of my meager savings out of my piggy bank and asking Mama if she would please take me to the grocery store.  Mama had one cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, and, while perusing it, I had found a recipe which caught my fancy.  We went to our grocery store, Food Fair, it was called.  It sat on the property next to where Stranahan House is today, on Las Olas Boulevard.  It was bright and open and oh, so cool with conditioned air.  I went to the seafood counter, Mama just seemed to melt away, while I pondered my wisest purchase.  I didn’t know seafood was so expensive.  I didn’t even LIKE seafood!  I stood in front of that case waiting for something to jump out and say “Take ME home.  Everyone loves ME.  Cook me and you’ll be Mama and Daddy’s favorite!”.  It didn’t happen.  Plus, I barely had any money.  Why, I don’t know, but I finally decided on oysters.  OYSTERS!  I had never eaten them but they were cheap and it looked as though you got quite a bit for your money.  (Hint: they’re AAAALLL shell.)  The fish monger must have known what a novice I was because he shucked them for me without my asking, I didn’t even know the word “shuck” nor did I know of the process.  I paid, thanked the man, grabbed my bag and ran off giddy with the excitement of knowing I was going to absolutely dazzle, astonish, wow my parents.  I think I may have felt rather unremarkable at that stage of my life.  Back in our kitchen, I pulled out Mama’s electric frying pan.  The same pan she used to make spaghetti.  Here’s her recipe, boil 1 pound of spaghetti noodles and put the drained noodles into the electric skillet.  Add one small can of the leading brand canned spaghetti, mix well, cover and simmer for and hour or so.  Spaghetti.  We LOVED it because it had salt in it and salt = flavor, of which we had none.  Well, that afternoon I unknowingly retaliated on a culinary level at my poor mother.  I must have bought some kind of oil at the store because that’s just NOT the kind of thing we would have had in our house.  The recipe in the Joy of Cooking called for an oyster bath of 1 part egg, 2 parts water.  I dismissed that as unnecessary and one more step keeping me from the glories of culinary fame.  The recipe also called for fine breadcrumbs, and, again, I dismissed that, flour would be just fine.  I filled the electric skillet with oil and turned the setting to high.  Into a bowl of all-purpose flour I dumped the oysters, all together, not drained.  Then I mixed them around with, probably, dirty hands.  I was something of a tom-boy at that age, I LOVED drippy, dangley jewelry but I wouldn’t walk away from a good neighborhood fight, either.  No need to wash hands, it was just another time waster and they looked fine.  I poured the bottle of oil into the skillet, and one by one, dumped the oysters into the barely warmed oil.  The oil eventually heated up and the oysters were fried to a dark, golden color, but I remember being unsure as to how they were supposed to look and ended up cooking them for at least half an hour.  Can you imagine?  On to a plate they went and straight I flew to my mother.  Unbeknownst to me, the week or so prior my paternal grandfather had just grossed my mother totally out by inviting her to sample raw, chopped clams suspended in lemon jello, a new recipe he had made up.  And Grandpa was one strong willed man who never accepted “No” for an answer.  So she wasn’t feeling too much love for bi-valves.  I remember literally holding my breath waiting for her to swoon in ecstasy over these morsels from the sea.  I watched her with the eyes of a chicken hawk anticipating her slightest reaction.  And just like every dream mother, she passed with flying colors.  She looked at me with such love and wonderment and told me she had NEVER had ANYTHING like that before in her entire life!  She told me with such kindness that those oysters were unlike anything in her imagination.  I was thrilled.  Looking back, they HAD to have been nuggets of greasy, hard rubber.  I don’t know how she did it… but she did.  As Pamela and I were talking about the other day, there is no one, NO ONE on this planet who will ever, EVER be of the opinion that you are splendid and special, better than all the other children in the world, than your mother.  She is the one who truly believes in you.  SHE is the one who looks at you and sees only perfection.  And I say, I’m wit’ cha, Mama!!

Today I have for you my recipe for fried fish, which most people really like even if they don’t particularly care for fish.  James and Jimmy love it, I always have plenty left over to take to Dad’s house and for breakfast, lunches or snacks the following day.  I absolutely adore fried fish for breakfast especially if it’s on my plate sitting next to soft, scrambled eggs. Typically I serve it with collards and biscuit or collards and cornbread and there is always, ALWAYS a big ol’ bottle of Crystal Lousiana Hot Sauce.  It is most definitely an “everybody’s home for dinner” dinner!


  • 2-3 pounds filleted fish, dolphin, snapper, catfish, pompano or any mild white fish
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, to be divided
  • 2 tablespoons your favorite house seasoning, I use Goya brand Adobo
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 egg or egg white equivalent plus 2 tablespoons water beaten in
  • canola or vegetable oil
  • Hot sauce, optional
  1. Cut fish into desired serving size pieces.  If using dolphin, also known as mahi,  cut out the bloodline running down the middle.
  2. Set three bowls on your counter, 2 medium one large.  To the first medium bowl add 1 cup all-purpose flour.  The second medium bowl is to hold the egg mixture.  And to the large bowl mix the remaining flour, cornmeal, seasoning and pepper.
  3. Cover a large cookie sheet with tin foil and place cooling racks on the cookie sheet.  Yes, the same cooling racks you would use for a hot dish or to cool baked goods.  That way air will circulate around your fish and keep the cornmeal from getting wet and soggy.
  4. Lightly dredge a piece of fish in the flour, dip into the egg mixture then roll in cornmeal mixture.  Place on cooling rack over foil lined cookie sheet to keep dry.  Continue to the next piece until all fish has been coated in cornmeal flour mixture.
  5. Into your largest skillet add 2 inches of oil and heat oil to 350°.  When temperature has been reached, and ONLY then, add 4 or 5 fish fillets to the pan but don’t overcrowd!!  Make sure there’s space between each fillet so they don’t steam.
  6. When bottom of fish is golden turn each fillet over.  The whole process takes only a few minutes.
  7. Drain on paper bags or paper towels.
  8. Serve with hot sauce on the side.