Summer makes southerners of us all.
Sure, there’s a portion of our world that fries chicken all twelve months of the year and has never given store-bought pie crust a second glance, but for many of us, southern fare and the charm of sweet tea have short seasons and novel appeal.
There is just something about southern fare that screams of summer. I would like to say it’s seasonal appeal is inspired by fresh ingredients, but seeing as the first facets that come to mind are fried chicken, pimento cheese, pickled-everything and sweet tea, I have no argument to stand on.
Oh, and cornbread - did I mention cornbread?
Once upon a time I made cornbread constantly. I loved to bake even in my younger years and cornbread was a task my mother would assign to satisfy my baking urges and dodge another cake from sitting on the counter solely to tempt her.
It had been a few years since I revisited the crumbly, yellow cake that joined so many of our family dinners, but I knew I wanted to bring it back into my life, this time with my own spin.
Meet, sage and brown butter cornbread.
Sage leaves, fried in butter, are finely diced before being whisked into our ultra-moist and sweet cornbread, lending a subtle herbaceous flavor to this classic bread.
Brown butter adds richness, nuttiness, and depth of flavor, setting this cornbread apart without compromising classic charm.
It’s tender and crumbly, moist and sturdy - it’s everything great cornbread ought to be and more.
This cornbread is great all on its own, but a smear of honey butter doesn’t hurt…
Bring this to a picnic and even your most southern relatives won’t say a word about bad you are at cornhole.
Sage & Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread
FOR THE HONEY BUTTER
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup clover honey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
In a medium mixing bowl, combine butter, honey, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
FOR THE CORNBREAD
1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
10 fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place 1/2 cup of butter in a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Stir until the butter has fully melted.
Once melted, the butter will begin to simmer and pop. Do not stand too close to the pan as the hot butter may splatter. Swirl the pan gently every minute or so to ensure even browning. Small, browned bits will form at the bottom of the skillet and the fragrance will be nutty. Once the butter is amber in color, remove from heat and allow to cool until just lukewarm.
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and stir until melted.
Lay the sage leaves in the pan and fry for 2-3 minutes; until they are slightly browned and the edges have curled up slightly. Use a small spatula or slotted spoon to lift the sage leaves from the pan and lay them on a paper towel to dry. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside while you prepare the batter.
After the leaves have dried, slice them into fine strips.
In a medium measuring cup, whisk the eggs. Whisk in milk and honey and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; whisk thoroughly.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk well. Mix in the cooled, browned butter and sliced sage leaves and whisk until the batter is smooth and well-combined.
Pour the batter into the buttered skillet and bake for 35-40 minutes; until the edges are deep golden brown in color.
Allow the cornbread to cool until just warm before slicing and serving alongside honey butter.