CRESCENT DRAGONWAGON / COOKBOOK AUTHOR
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 cup milk
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
1⁄4 cup mild vegetable oil
Butter, for serving (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a 10-by-16-inch baking dish ("Memaw always used glass") with oil.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisking or stirring well to mix. In a small bowl, beat together the milk, buttermilk, egg, and oil. Add the wet mixture to the dry, using the absolute minimum number of strokes needed to moisten dry with wet.
3. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish and bake it until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and springs back when touched, about 20 minutes. If it's not nicely brown after 20 minutes, transfer it to the top rack of the oven and give it 5 more minutes.
4. Serve, hot from the pan if possible, with butter.
SAUTE OF WINTER FRUITS
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup apple cider
unflavored oil spray, such as canola
1/4 cup butter
3 pears, ripe but not overripe, d'anjou or bosk, sliced, skin left on
3 tart, flavorful cooking apples, preferably different varieties (such as Empires, Gravensteins, and Rhode Island Greenings), sliced, skin left on
1 mild apple, such as a Golden Delicious, sliced, skin left on
About 1/2 cup turbinado or raw sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup bourbon, brandy, Calvados, or cognac
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably, Saigon, Ceylon, or Mexican (called canela cinnamon)
black pepper in a peppermill
1. Place the cranberries in or cherries in a glass measuring cup. Pour the cider over them, and let soak overnight.
2. The next day, spray a large, non-reactive skillet with oil spray. Place it on medium heat, and add the butter. When the butter has melted, sizzled, and then quieted down, add the apples and pears, and saute, stirring often, about five minutes, or until fruit begins softening.
3. Stirring the whole while, sprinkle the fruit with sugar. Soon the sugar will start to melt into the juice released from the apples and pears, making a shiny glaze. Pour the liquor of choice over the fruit and let it warm for a few seconds.
4. Then tip the skillet towards the flame and set the fruit alight, stirring until flames die down.
5. Add the dried fruit and its soaking liquid, raising heat to evaporate the liquid down to a thick, syrupy glaze. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and give it a grind or two of black pepper.
6. Stir well, and remove from heat. Let cool just slightly, and use to fill the cornbread shortcake.
MASCARPONE WHIPPED CREAM
1 cup mascarpone (Vermont Butter & Cheese Co makes an excellent one)
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
a few grains of salt
1 cup heavy, or whipping cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized, deeply chilled
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1. In a small bowl, whisk together mascarpone, honey, vanilla and salt. Set aside.
2. Chill a medium-sized metal bowl and beaters in the freezer for at least ten minutes. Then assemble beater and, in the chilled bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold in the sugar, then the mascarpone-honey mixture into the whipped cream, and chill, covered tightly, until ready to use.
1 southern-style cornbread, either skillet-baked or baked as muffins, preferably still slightly warm
1 recipe Saute of Winter Fruits, above
1 recipe of mascarpone whipped cream, above
powdered sugar, for garnish
slices of apple and pear, raw, optional, for garnish
1. Using a long, thin-bladed knife, slice the whole cornbread crosswise. Alternatively, slice each muffin around and through its equator.
2. Set bottom layer of cornbread on a serving platter. Alternatively, set the bottom half of each muffin on an individual serving plate, or group the bottoms, a bit apart from each other, on one large serving plate.
3. Spoon the warm (even hot) saute over the bottom layer of the cornbread.
4. Top with the mascarpone whipped cream. (Be generous with both the whipped cream and the sauteed filling).
5. Gently place the top or tops on the shortcake(s). Sift a little powdered sugar, on the top. If desired, you may also garnish with a slice or two of nice crisp fresh apple or smooth pear --- skin on, naturally.