Crisp mornings, replete with dew and a touch of frost, tree boughs heavy with apples....this is my time of year. I love autumn in the way I wish I could love spring. Alas, that's what happens when you live in the worst areas in the United States for allergies. Naturally, as the seasons go, one may start getting cravings for heartier fare. Being a good southern girl, I say bring on the cornbread. If you have been reading this for awhile, you know I've got a fancy for Lodge cast iron and the National Cornbread Festival. While I've not been to one yet, the recipes coming out of those prize-winnin' skillets make me feel like I was there. Recently, the first prize winner from 2004 graced our dinner table, the Crescent City Skillet from Valerie Watts Holt. Being a hectic weeknight, I didn't bother with the garnishes, but boy howdy, the regular dish was something else.
The Crescent City Skillet
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound hot bulk sausage
1 cup diced sweet onion
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
15 medium uncooked shrimp, shelled, deveined, and tails removed
1 (6.5 oz) package Martha White Buttermilk Cornbread Mix
2/3 cup milk
Possible garnishes - sour cream, chopped and seeded plum tomatoes, or fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet on medium heat and add the oil, sausage, and onion. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, breaking up the sausage as it browns. Drain the meat and onion mixture onto a paper towel, and return it to the skillet. But do not wipe the skillet clean - you need that residual fat. Add in the chicken stock, cream, garlic and both cheeses. Drop the heat to medium low, and make sure the mixture doesn't boil. Stir until the cheese has completely melted. Move the skillet to a cool stove eye and add shrimp all around the pan, nice and even.
Stir together the cornbread mix and milk in a small mixing bowl until smooth. Pour the cornbread mixture evenly over the goodness in the pan. Don't worry; when it bakes, the cornbread will rise and make a delicious topping. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cornbread is light golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with any garnishes, or just tuck in.
Note - I used 8 ounces of shrimp since the smaller ones were on sale. It worked out perfectly.