Side Orders: Time for cornbread cooks to ready their recipes

Anne Braly
Anne Braly

The contest is still a few months off, but it's time to hone your favorite cornbread recipes, turn them into an entree and enter the National Cornbread Cook-Off. It's a great event with the promise of being the grand-prize winner and taking home $5,000 and a new stove from Brown Stove Works valued at $3,250 at the National Cornbread Festival.

photo Anne Braly

There are just a few stipulations to consider, however. The recipes must be an entree and must be original. Also, the recipe needs to include at least one cup of Martha White cornmeal as an ingredient and be cooked in a piece of Lodge cast-iron cookware. Entries will be accepted through the end of January, and competitors cannot be professional cooks or be enrolled in a culinary school. Bloggers, though, are welcome.

All finalists will receive a $500 travel voucher to travel to South Pittsburg, Tennessee, to compete on the town square on Saturday, April 27. For more information or to enter, log onto

Lodge President Mike Otterman says he continues to be amazed at the creativity shown by the finalists each year.

"The recipes created by cook-off contestants display a wide variety of uses for Martha White cornbread and Lodge cast-iron," he says.

For inspiration, here's the winning recipe from last year's Cornbread Cook-Off. Pamela Gelsomini came all the way from her home in Wrentham, Massachusetts, to wear the coveted cast-iron crown.

Too Gouda To Be True Cornbread Cakes Topped With Pancetta-Laced Seafood Cream Sauce

For the cornbread cakes:

1 (7-ounce) package Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread & Muffin Mix

1 egg

1/4 cup milk

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 1/2 cups smoked gouda cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons butter

For seafood cream sauce:

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons butter

3/4 pound scallops

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 pound shrimp, shelled & deveined

1 medium onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves

6 ounces white button mushrooms, diced

6 ounces pancetta, diced

1 jalapeno, chopped fine (including seeds)

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 cup smoked gouda cheese, shredded

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

In a large bowl, combine the cornbread mix, egg, milk, corn and cheese to form a batter. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Working in 2 batches of 3, make 6-inch pancakes (an ice cream scoop works well to get consistent size). Let cook until you can see the bottoms starting to brown, 1-2 minutes, and flip to brown the other side. Cakes should be fluffy and golden brown. Place on a cookie sheet, covered with foil, and place in a 200-degree oven to keep warm.

Heat skillet over medium-high heat; add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle scallops with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, the garlic powder and paprika. Lightly massage the scallops so the seasonings are evenly distributed. Place each scallop in the very hot skillet, careful not to crowd, and sear for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, and set aside.

Add another tablespoon each of olive oil and butter to the pan, and sear shrimp until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan, and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium, and add remaining olive oil and butter to the pan. Sauté onions and garlic until soft and fragrant. Add mushrooms and pancetta, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes until pancetta renders fat and mushrooms begin to brown. Add jalapeno, green bell and red bell peppers to the skillet, and sauté until just soft, about 3 more minutes.

Add corn, cream and mustard to the skillet; bring to a boil, and let reduce until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in shredded gouda and lemon juice.

To serve: Top each gouda corn cake topped with seafood sauce and garnish with parsley. Makes 6-8 servings.

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