M. Andrew Gordon

Sunday Dining, Part One: Breakfast

In Baked Goods, Main Dish, Sauces on May 17, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Corn Cake with Egg and Cheddar

As I wrote recently, there are some times that I cook something new and interesting and rush to get it on the table and don’t properly pay attention to all of the ingredients or amounts used which makes it difficult to write about with any certainty.  There are also those times when I don’t photograph my meal or dish and then don’t feel good about writing about it without any corresponding photo.  This past Sunday, however, I got lucky, because I got three meals in the day which yielded the time and the results to be worthy of blogging.  So, without further ado, here is the breakfast installment.

Cornmeal and cornbread figure prominently in many dishes I create.  I make no apologies for my unabashed love of cornbread and my use of it in different ways.  Why I love it so much is difficult to figure, but I think it lies somewhere in the simplicity of the ingredients of cornbread, the ease in which it is made, and the varying textures that a well made cornbread exhibit. That cornbread also figures into many rustic, traditional North American cuisines also gives it some allure.  And I prize cornbread for its ability to adapt to the situation; it can be made to be drier or fluffier, more moist and more or less sweet as the situation calls for; it can be made into a biscuit, a muffin, a bread, a fritter, a waffle, or a pancake.  And as Lena pointed out on Sunday, it is probably the easiest and quickest way to make a fresh bread.

It was the cornbread as pancake idea that we wanted to work with this past weekend – the humble corncake.  Not

Batter in Griddle

content to just have a stack of pancakes, we devised two different servings of the same corncake, one using the cake as the base layer for cheese and eggs, the other a more traditional pancake with a rhubarb-honey syrup.  The former is pretty simple to assemble; when the batter is cooking on a griddle or skillet, you cook up some eggs over-easy or sunny-side-up as you wish.  Top a hot corncake with a slice of cheddar or whatever cheese you have on hand and then slide a piping hot egg on top of that.  Give it a good shot of freshly cracked black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt and you suddenly have a much more luxurious breakfast than just pancakes.  And it can almost be done in the time it takes to pour a bowl of Krispy Flakes.*

*It is more accurate to say it can be done in the same time it takes you to open the Krispy Flakes, pour a bowl of cereal, realize that you have no milk, walk or drive down to the corner store, wait in line behind someone trying to find the exact change in their pocket, return to your home with milk, and pour the milk over your Krispy Flakes.  But, the corncakes do not take long to prepare.

Cooked Corn Cakes

Somewhat less simple to make but yielding fantastic results is the rhubarb honey.  I had some extra rhubarb in the refrigerator and thought it would make a delightful accompaniment to the corncakes.  Rhubarb is one of my favorite fruits*, probably for many of the same reasons as cornbread: the tartness of rhubarb pie and other dishes just seems sort of antiquated and even a little rustic.  The tart rhubarb needs some sweetness to really draw out the flavor, so pairing it with honey seemed obvious.  By simmering in the rhubarb in honey, you wind up flavoring the honey with the rhubarb, which is good, but you also let some water from the rhubarb dilute the honey, which is sort of bad.  This is really no problem as you simply put the liquid back on the stove and reduce it slightly.  The resulting syrup is a vivid red and pairs wonderfully with the nutty flavor of the corncake.  If you wanted to be really fancy, you could then mix the rhubarb-honey into a butter for the corn cakes.  The honey would also be delicious over ice cream.

*Is rhubarb a fruit?  It actually seems more like a vegetable since the edible portion of the plant is the stem.  As it turns out, as I thought, rhubarb is really a vegetable (sort of like tomatoes are really a fruit).  For some interesting reading into the history of the classification of rhubarb as a fruit, check out http://www.specialtyproduce.com/index.php?item=862.  Seems that in 1947 a US Customs Court ruled rhubarb should be classified as a fruit.

Corn Cakes

Corn Cakes with Rhubarb Honey

Makes 10-12 cakes

  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. Combine corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.  In separate bowl, mix oil, milk, and egg until combined.
  2. Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat with one tablespoon butter.  Mix liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and let stand.
  3. Ladle batter into skillet, cooking 3 or 4 at a time.  When bubbles just begin to form on the top, flip corn cakes and cook another minute.  Repeat, adding additional butter when needed.  Serve immediately or let stand on rack in low oven.

Rhubarb HoneyRhubarb Honey, first step

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 cups rhubarb, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  1. Combine honey, rhubarb, and butter in small saucepan over medium heat.  As rhubarb releases liquid, bring to a simmer and let stand for about five minutes or until the rhubarb has completely softened.
  2. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain liquid into measuring cup.*  Pour strained liquid back into saucepan and bring to a boil.  Let liquid reduce by about half and then let cool.

*When you strain the rhubarb, you will wind up with a ruddy looking mash of rhubarb in your strainer.  It’s nothing to look at but it actually has a nice flavor to it.  Being the frugal Yankee that I am, I saved the pulp and put some in Greek yogurt which was fantastic.

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