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Carla Hall Fondly Recalls Her Grandma’s Cornbread (And Shares the Recipe!)

Listen as the celebrity chef remembers a staple of her Southern Sunday suppers.

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Before Carla Hall was known as the co-host of “The Chew,” a “Top Chef” finalist, and the author of several cookbooks, the Nashville native was just a girl who was a deep fan of her grandmother’s cooking, especially her cornbread. When she got older and became interested in cooking, she tried to sleuth out how to make it for her family and catering clients.

Below, she shares her grandma’s famous cornbread recipe. And in the audio above, you’ll hear some of her favorite memories of the dish.

Carla’s Skillet Cornbread Recipe:

Photo Credit: Greg Powers
Photo Credit: Greg Powers

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups white or yellow cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup “Creamed” Corn (recipe below) or store-bought canned cream-style corn
    • In a food processor, pulse together ¾ cup fresh or thawed frozen corn + ½ cup heavy cream until coarsely blended.
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • Special Equipment: 12-inch cast iron skillet

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet in the oven until very hot.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, creamed corn, and 1/2 cup oil.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour the remaining 2 tablespoons oil into the hot skillet, and then pour the batter into the skillet. The batter will begin sizzling right away.
  •  Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

On eating the dish as a child

Carla Hall: I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and my grandmother lived in Lebanon, Tennessee. And so it was 30 miles from where we went to church to Granny’s house. I always asked my mom, “Can we stop to call Granny so that she can start making the cornbread?” So that when we get there, it would be ready. But Granny would never make the cornbread until she saw the whites of our eyes and we were on the inside of the door. And then, as soon as we got in the door, I’m like, “Granny are you gonna make the cornbread? We’re here!” And my grandmother would have the pan in the oven with a little bit of oil just waiting for us.

On the difference between Northern and Southern cornbread

Up North cornbread is a little cakier, and it’s sweeter, it’s almost like a corn muffin. Whereas in the South, the cornbread serves as a means of sopping up the thing’s that are on your plate. It’s a very savory dish.

On what made her grandmother’s cornbread special

My grandmother would call cornbread that she would make “egg bread.” She didn’t use flour, it was all cornmeal and it tasted like corn. So, her cornbread was really light, honestly because of all the fat and the eggs and the milk. But I think that’s what made Granny’s cornbread really special, that coffee can that would be on her stove that would hold all the fat, the bacon fat, the ham fat.

 

  • Carol Henry

    have to try this

  • Rebecca C

    This is the cornbread recipe that I’ve been looking for.

    • Jeanne Mills

      YES!! THAT would be MY grandma’s cornbread. She didn’t use sour cream, but iron skillet, butter, eggs, bacon fat… yes!
      Delicious for dinner, and then the next morning sliced in half, fried with a little butter and served with honey. Ohmygod!

      • Rebecca C

        Thanks. I love the savory cornbread. I loved this story ! Great memories.

        (My grandmother was a vegetarian, so she would never use bacon fat–it was never in the house–but I like putting a dollop in the bottom of the pan to bake the bread.)

  • Quyen Vu

    I listed to the episode last night on the way to my boyfriend’s place and was salivating; tonight we are having cornbread and chili! I can’t wait to taste it.

  • My nickles worth

    Doesn’t seem like that amount of ingredients would fill the 12″ pan? We’ll see..

  • My nickles worth

    OK, I made it. My iron skillet only 10″ which worked fine. A little gritty, I think next time I’ll mix up and let sit 15 or 20 minutes for corn meal to absorb moisture b4 baking. (or perhaps use a less coarse corn meal) But all in all very good. Will make again.

  • Jen Neumann

    I made it for Thanksgiving- and had been looking forward to it ever since I heard the episode. It absolutely lives up to the podcast and may become an annual tradition at our house! (Ps: I took Carla Hall at her word and used a baking pan – worked just fine!)

  • Brenda Cave-Hofer

    Thank you for sharing your Grandmother’s recipes!! You are awesomesauce to the bone Ms.Carla!!! Yum!!