Soul Food is a term used to describe the style of cooking in African American communities throughout the southern United States and other black communities during the 1960s. Soul Food traces its heritage to the cooking practiced in Western Africa, in which sorghum, cornmeal, rice and okra were among the most popular ingredients.
Visit any restaurant advertising Soul Food specialties today and you're likely to find a menu rich with such delicious dishes as fried frog legs, spicy catfish, greens with smoked ham hocks, turnip greens with cornmeal dumplings, barbecued ribs and chicken fried steak. And of course, no Soul Food menu is complete without corn bread, the name given to the category of quick breads made using corn meal.
Forget that packaged mix from the grocery store. Nothing beats an order of freshly prepared corn bread that's hot from the oven to accompany a big bowl of spicy chili, some Southern Fried Chicken or seafood gumbo.
The most authentic baking dish for Soul Food style Corn Bread is actually a cast iron skillet that has been greased with a small amount of vegetable oil. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place your greased skillet inside to preheat while you mix the batter. If you don't have a cast-oven skillet it's okay to use a regular aluminum baking pan or muffin tin, but the batter will cook more evenly in cast iron.
Have two mixing bowls at the ready, one for the dry ingredients and the other for the liquids.
- In the first bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups corn meal, 1 1/2 cups white all purpose flour, 4 tablespoons baking powder, 1 tablespoon salt and 2 tablespoons sugar.
- In the second bowl, beat together two fresh eggs, 1 1/2 cups whole milk and 2 tablespoons melted butter (put the butter into a custard cup in the microwave for about 30 seconds for fast melting).
Gradually blend the dry ingredient mixture into the bowl containing the liquid and stir together until well mixed. Remove your pre-heated skillet from the oven using a hot pad or oven mitt. Pour your corn bread batter into the skillet.
Return the skillet to the oven to bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the corn bread comes out clean. Your corn bread should be a nice golden brown. Serve hot from the oven with honey butter or softened butter.
When you're ready, you can learn how to vary the basic corn bread recipe by including roasted corn kernels for additional moisture or cracklings (crispy bits of fat) for added texture.