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Author Notes: One of our volunteer sack lunch makers has a sister who has just entered hospice care after a long battle - and I do mean battle - with cancer. Our friend has been working very hard to feed everyone who’s come for last visits, and still shows up three mornings a week with her husband to prepare sandwiches for sack lunches which are distributed to homeless people. So my office mate decided to spend some time this weekend preparing some meals for them and their family. My small contribution is a pot of potato soup and this cornbread, into which I tried to pack as many warming flavors as possible. Both can tolerate reheating, and hopefully both with provide some measure of comfort. It’s certainly been therapeutic for me.
A note on the tomatoes. The other evening as I strolled through the produce section of my nearest store looking for inspiration for a batch of cornbread, I spied an entire bin of more green than -ish roma tomatoes. And here we all are. If you can’t find green tomatoes, substitute tomatillos, and probably double the quantity.
Makes 9-12 squares
2 ounces melted butter
8 strips bacon, fried or baked, fat retained
4 green or green-ish tomatoes, 1/2” dice
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal or polenta
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the inside of an 8” x 8” or 9”x 9” baking pan with melted butter.
- Spread the bacon strips out on a baking sheet. Bake them until very crisp, 10-15 minutes. When done, remove to a plate lined with paper towels. When cool, crumble with your fingers.
- Scrape the bacon fat and drippings into a skillet. Place skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add diced tomatoes or tomatillos along with a decent pinch of salt. Sauté until tomatoes release their juices and begin to caramelize. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you mix the cornbread.
- Into a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cornmeal or polenta (my favorite), sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Pour the milk into a measuring cup and add the sour cream; whisk gently to blend, then add to the dry ingredients. Add the eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold ingredients until just blended. Don’t overmix or whisk; you're going to want your cornbread to be very tender.
- Add the bacon pieces, the tomatoes and their juices and remaining bacon fat, and the shredded cheese.
- Scrape batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, well risen, and springy - not soft - to the touch in the very center. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with love to people you love.