I wasn't looking for gluten-free bread. Really, I wasn't. I simply had a hankering for moist, dense, crumbly cornbread, something to serve alongside grilled chicken or a salad on these hot summer days.
At first, I thought I'd simply bake our Guaranteed Cornbread, which is far and away the best-tasting Northern-style (read: slightly sweet) cornbread I've ever enjoyed. But when I searched "cornbread" at kingarthurflour.com, lo and behold, what did I see right underneath our guaranteed recipe?
The cornbread of my dreams. Exactly what I was looking for.
Sopa Paraguaya. Paraguayan Cornbread.
It was the picture that sold me. While pictures don't always speak a thousand words, this one had plenty to say. Dense? Yup. Moist? Definitely. Stuffed with... what IS that cornbread stuffed with?
The recipe revealed all: Milk, eggs, cornmeal, cottage cheese, and baking powder mixed into batter. Fried onions, red and green peppers, jack cheese, and corn kernels—fresh off the cob—stirred in. A touch of sugar, and a hint of salt and pepper to enhance the flavors. BINGO—cornbread to write home about.
The original recipe called for a 9” x 9” pan or casserole dish. Lately, though, I've become enamored of my cast iron skillet, and wondered if it would translate well to this recipe.
Let's see... the area of a circle = π r2. (If that mathematical notation is wrong, give me a break - geometry was 42 years ago!) Turns out the capacity of a 10” round skillet is basically the same as a 9”x 9” square pan, given that both are the same depth. Awwright....
Once I'd fried the veggies, the batter went together quickly. And it baked just as quickly; in fact, it baked so fast in the skillet I nearly let it burn, pulling it out of the oven as the edges just started to darken to an unacceptable level. Caveat baker.
I let it cool but briefly, then cut a piece and lifted it out of the pan. Make that tried to lift it out; I had to scrape it off the bottom. Let that be a lesson to me (and you): just because you fried vegetables in your cast iron skillet, it doesn't mean you don't have to grease it when baking cornbread.
As I noted earlier, this is not your normal light-and-fluffy cornbread. This flourless version is moist and crumbly enough that you almost need to eat it with a fork. Which I did, enjoying every last satisfying bite, alongside a mug of homemade gazpacho.
Thus did my quest for simple cornbread turned into an unexpected—and pleasurable—adventure. My thanks to fellow blogger Susan Reid and our print newsletter, "The Baking Sheet,"—where the recipe first appeared—for this enticing Sopa Paraguaya.
Fresh corn: ah, summer's sweet pleasure... I'm using a "corn zipper" here to peel off the kernels, quick as a wink and totally undamaged.
Nice, eh? This is a gadget that really works.
Next, peppers and onions, chopped. Does wielding a knife around an onion send tears coursing down your cheeks? Try our onion goggles—another gadget that really works.
Butter and oil, heated together in my cast iron skillet.
Add the onions...
...and fry till they soften and begin to brown.
Add the peppers...
...and fry till they've softened, but aren't mushy.
Remove the veggies from the skillet. Yeah, it LOOKS greased. But trust me—grease it again, using non-stick vegetable oil pan spray.
Next, choose your cheese. I happen to love Cabot chipotle; it gives whatever you're baking nice, smoky kick.
Grate the cheese. Since it'll be soft, you'll want to grate it fairly coarse.
Like this. The Microplane box grater I used is, yes, ANOTHER gadget that works grate great.
OK, we're finally ready to make the batter. First, we'll stir together cornmeal and milk.
ICK. Don't worry, it gets better.
Once we add the sugar, cottage cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and baking powder...
...it becomes a somewhat grainy batter.
Fried veggies and corn...
...thicken it up.
The cheese goes in last.
Now isn't that a soupy mess? Don't worry; it's supposed to look like this. You haven't done anything wrong.
Spoon the batter into the greased pan of your choice: a 9" x 9" cake pan; similar-sized casserole dish, or a 10" cast iron skillet that's at least, oh, 1 3/4" deep.
...and remove from the oven before it burns. See those brown edges? Caught it just in time.
Cut in wedges, using a knife or a baker's bench knife. (Did I mention that this is a gadget that REALLY works?!)
Cut in quarters...
...then cut each quarter into as many wedges as you like.
The bread is fairly bursting with "extras."
And here it is, in all its corny glory. Enjoy!
Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Sopa Paraguaya.
Buy vs. Bake
Buy: Casey Jones Village, Jackson, TN: Famous BaBa's Cracklin' Cornbread, $1.49/serving
Bake at home: Sopa Paraguaya, 34¢/serving