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Cornbread and Wall Street

All the photos of anguished traders on Wall Street are starting to get to me. I've started pinching a few pennies, just in case. The first thing that got trimmed was my grocery bill. It's actually led to a lot more cooking. It's cheaper to use up my pantry stores than it is to pop a frozen dinner in the microwave.

One of my favorite cheap meals is red beans. A bag of beans, a bag of rice, an onion and some sausage costs next to nothing. And since I'm usually cooking for just myself, a pot of beans cooked on Monday can last an entire week. But, I'm not going to share my red beans recipe. For one, it changes every time I make it, and two, you've probably got your own red beans recipe anyway.

I am, however, going to share a couple recipes for cornbread, my favorite red beans accessory.

The first, of course, is Alton Brown's creamed corn cornbread. My cast iron skillet exists only for this recipe these days. In his show, Alton uses homemade creamed corn, but canned works just fine for me. Also, don't use just a cup. Put the whole can in. Makes it much more flavorful.

Creamed Corn Cornbread

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 cup creamed corn

2 tablespoons canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet into the oven.

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk together to combine well.

In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir to combine. If the batter will not pour, add more buttermilk to the batter.

Add 2 tablespoons canola oil to the cast iron skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes.

The second recipe is a not-quite recipe that comes from my mom, who got it from her mom. I love you Alton, but mom's cornbread always tastes better. Here's the directions, copied straight from an e-mail she sent: "You just mix corn meal, about a teaspoon of salt and water (or milk) until you get it to the consistency of pancake batter, fry in oil until light brown and crispy on the outside. Butter while still hot. That's it." Not nearly as precise as the Food Network recipe so there's probably a little voodoo involved in getting the mixture just right, but it's worth experimenting with.

There you are. Invest in a sack of corn meal, the returns are incredible.