I've been reacquainting myself with childhood favorites lately, those foods I know well and that I've had so many times their presence alone represents a form of comfort. It's comfort food I seek when the snow's a-falling. Most everyone does. To that end, I bring you Johnny Cake the way my mother used to make it on an almost weekly basis (we weren't wealthy and cornmeal is relatively inexpensive). For us, it was breakfast for dinner, that ultimate luxury of syrup at the dinner table.
Keep in mind, of course, that Johnny Cake is not cornbread. I've been told (though I can't remember by who) that the difference between these two foods is that cornbread is made with sugar and Johnny Cake without and that Johnny Cake was the food of choice for the cash-strapped confederates during the civil war. Now I don't know about war, but I did sustain injuries while making this dish, as did my faithful wooden spoon. Fortunately, at the end of it all, I had a comforting food to help make it all better. It was almost like having mom there to apply the antibiotic ointment.
Mom's Johnny Cake
what you need:
2 c. milk
2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice
2 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour
1 t. soda
1/2 t. salt
small 1/2 c. crisco oil
1. You need to sour your milk. The best way to do this is to add 1 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice (I used vinegar) to each cup of milk used. In this case, it's two. Mix milk and vinegar/lemon juice in a bowl and leave to sit out for 10-15 minutes. You'll know it's sour when there's a coating of curdles floating pond-scum-like on at the top of the milk.
2. Preheat oven for 350 and grease 13 x 9 cake pan. Now, other sizes of casserole dish could be substituted, but it will significantly change the cook time, as well as the level of moisture left in the finished product. I speak from experience: if you can, use the cake pan.
3. When the milk is sour, add eggs and mix. Then add cornmeal and mix. Then add flour and mix. Then add soda and mix. Then salt and oil. And, you guessed it mix. When it's all mixy, pour it into the cake pan and plop it in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
4. Enjoy with a drizzle of maple syrup and perhaps a light dusting of powdered sugar if you're feeling frisky.
For a more healthy alternative, you could also make a side batch of kale cooked with one sliced up carrot and a can of black beans (undrained). Mash a slice of Johnny Cake up in a bowl with the veggies. It will look rather corn-dumpling-ish. Not quite as sugary delish, but quite comforting in its own way.
For the carnivorous out there, I've been told by the men in the house that it also pairs quite nicely with oven-baked leftover ham.