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What to do with Corn Meal

Corn Pudding
Laura Weiss for NPR

One very common use of corn meal is to make corn bread. Here is a recipe Jerry swears by.

Corn Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lard melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk with 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar added to it
  • ½ lb. of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
  • Heat the oven to 450°F. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside.

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Combine 4 tablespoons of the lard, the egg and the buttermilk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.

Move the skillet from the oven to the stove top, over high heat. Add the remaining lard to the pan and swirl to coat. Pour in the batter; it should sizzle vigorously. Shake the skillet to distribute it evenly. Cook 15 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Corn bread hales from the South as does another regional classic, fried green tomatoes. Here is Jerry's recipe.

Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 3 medium-sized, firm green tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup fine white cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup peanut, canola, or olive oil for frying

    Slice and salt green tomatoes:

Cut unpeeled tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt. Let tomato slices stand for 5 minutes.

Set out shallow bowls with coating ingredients:

While the salted green tomato slices are resting, place in three separate, shallow bowls: 1) the flour and Cajun seasoning (if using), 2) buttermilk and egg, and 3) breadcrumbs and cornmeal.

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk.

Bread the tomato slices:

Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip the green tomato slices in the flour-seasoning, then the buttermilk-egg mixture, then the cornmeal-breadcrumb mix.

Fry the breaded tomatoes:

In the skillet, fry half of the coated tomato slices at a time, for 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until brown.

Set the cooked tomatoes on paper towels to drain.

Polenta, or cooked corn meal is a staple in many cuisines. The process is very simple: boil a cupful of corn meal in water; season it; serve it. Sounds easy, but

the trick is avoiding what seem to be inevitable clumps, Jerry's suggestion is to sift the corn meal into cold water, then heat the whole thing. Give it try.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.