Ultimate Corn Bread

(8 servings)

When corn bread is cooked in a cast-iron skillet, a crisp, golden brown crust forms wherever the batter meets skillet.

This moist, somewhat untraditional corn bread puffs up in the pan beneath a flavorful topping of cheddar cheese and sauteed onions. From a recipe by Virginia Loyd, as found in "A Skillet Full of Traditional Lodge Cast Iron Recipes & Memories," compiled by the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc. (Lodge Manufacturing Company, 2003).

1/4 cup vegetable oil

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups finely chopped yellow onion

8 ounces sour cream

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

11/2 cups white self-rising cornmeal or substitute (recipe follows on Page F5)

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

8-ounce can cream-style corn

1/4 cup milk

Dash hot red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Place the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven while preheating to 375 degrees.

For the topping: In another skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the foam subsides, add the onions and heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside to cool.

When the onions are cool, add the sour cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese and stir to combine. Set aside.

For the corn bread: In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, sugar, eggs, corn, milk and pepper sauce. Using hot pads, remove the skillet from the oven, carefully pour the hot oil into the batter and stir to combine. Spoon the batter into the hot skillet and smooth the top.

Spoon the sour cream mixture evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake the corn bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool slightly prior to cutting into wedges.

Per serving: 388 calories, 9 gm protein, 31 gm carbohydrates, 26 gm fat, 98 mg cholesterol, 12 gm saturated fat, 474 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Self-Rising Cornmeal Substitute

(Makes about 2 cups)

Many corn bread recipes originating south of the Mason-Dixon use self-rising cornmeal. But it's hard to find locally. So we turned to Cook's Thesaurus (www.switcheroo.com) for an alternative recipe and then adapted it to suit the preceding corn bread recipe. Keep in mind that this substitute recipe makes about 2 cups though you need only 11/2 cups to make the corn bread in the preceding recipe (see Page F4).

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Any mixture that remains may be refrigerated for up to several weeks.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 30 calories, 1 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 119 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Pan-Fried Catfish

(4 servings)

Once you try cornmeal-crusted fried fish there's no going back to flour-dusted fillets. The cast-iron skillet is the perfect utensil because it maintains an even temperature during the frying process. Serve with coleslaw and corn bread or hush puppies.

From a recipe by Frances Porter, as found in "A Skillet Full of Traditional Lodge Cast Iron Recipes & Memories," compiled by the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc. (Lodge Manufacturing Company, 2003).

Canola oil for frying

4 catfish fillets (may substitute other thin white fish, such as cod or flounder)

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1 cup buttermilk

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cajun seasoning or lemon pepper to taste

Pour enough oil into a cast-iron skillet to reach a depth of 1/4 inch. Place over medium heat. Have ready a plate lined with paper towels or a brown paper sack.

Pat the fish dry and cut into strips about 1 inch thick.

In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal and flour.

Pour the buttermilk into a shallow bowl.

Place the fish on wax paper and season both sides with salt, pepper and seasoning of choice. Working with 1 piece of fish at a time, dip it first into the buttermilk, allowing any excess to drip off, then dredge it in the cornmeal-flour mixture, turning to coat both sides. Repeat with the remaining fish. Carefully add several pieces of fish to the oil, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Arrange the fish in the skillet and cook until golden brown on the bottom; turn and cook on the other side. Transfer to the plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining fish. Serve hot.

Per serving: 314 calories, 19 gm protein, 28 gm carbohydrates, 14 gm fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 158 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Fried Green Tomatoes

(8 servings)

Tuck this recipe away for a summer day when green tomatoes are plentiful. The crunchy coating fries up crisp and peppery and the mild tomato turns slightly jammy. Adapted from a recipe by Ann and Wayne Gray, as found in "A Skillet Full of Traditional Lodge Cast Iron Recipes & Memories," compiled by the South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc. (Lodge Manufacturing Company, 2003).

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 cup flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup bread crumbs (may substitute cornmeal)

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil for frying

4 large green tomatoes, cored and sliced 1/2-inch thick

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.

Place the flour on a plate.

In a shallow bowl, combine the cornmeal, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

Pour enough oil in a cast-iron skillet to reach a depth of 1/2 inch. Place over medium heat. Have ready a plate lined with paper towels or a brown paper sack.

Dredge the tomato slices in flour, turning to coat both sides, then in the milk and egg mixture (the flour may clump slightly; this is okay), allowing any excess to drip off, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture, turning to coat both sides and pressing to make the meal adhere.

Carefully add several slices of tomato to the skillet, being careful not to crowd the slices. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, 11/2 to 2 minutes. Turn and repeat on the other side. Transfer to the plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Serve hot.

Per serving: 103 calories, 3 gm protein, 13 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 311 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Cook corn bread in a simple skillet or in a specialty pan in the shape of ears of corn.Footed kettle from Lodge.