Story and Images by Divian Conner
This article first appeared in the October/November 2023 issue of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI
The fall décor is out and our porches are starting to match the hues that are shrouding the trees outside. Rich oranges and browns have rushed in the fall as we ready for the grays of winter. Cooler months mean heartier and more filling foods are to be had and we seem to huddle indoors away from the chilly breezes that Mother Nature is gently whispering at us. Fall in the South is a perfect balance of just the right vibe and temperatures, and it is when I bring out those dishes that will leave you nestled on the couch watching your favorite movie or reading your most recent book purchase.
Fall is also the time when we start our family and friend game nights. The cooling air has made everyone more comfortable and relaxed, and we can whip up warming ciders and cocoas. We shop around for new games; we play the tried-and-true ones and we have a night full of good snacks and good laughs. I guess the summer heat tires us out so by the end of a summer night you just want to relax and cool off. Come fall, all bets are off and we ramp up the indoor activities and the food flows in form of small appetizers, dips, and drinks.
Speaking of food, the Brunswick stews, the hearty chicken and dumplings, all the dinners that summer banished into time out, make a hasty breakout and are now front and center again. I am big on one pot meals like soups, stews and casseroles. It seems that fall and winter are perfect casserole months. You can’t have a good stew or casserole without a nice bread to go with it, and cornbread is my go-to for any southern stew. It is the diversity of cornbread that amazes me. Not only can it act as an accompaniment for your dinners, but it can also easily transform into a dessert.
I recently traveled to Taos, New Mexico and picked up a ton of blue cornmeal. I have never had any dish using it and was curious about the taste. Since I have been back in Mississippi, I can’t stop using it. It tastes very similar to yellow cornmeal but there is a slightly sweeter taste with a strong “fresh corn” flavor. I have been making so many things using it and my family has decided that blue cornmeal cake is their favorite. This recipe is not overly sweet and can even be used to scoop up thick stews full to the brim with nice roasted vegetables and meats.
Of course, substitute regular white or yellow cornmeal for the blue if you can’t find it (but it’s available online). I urge you to try it; it does change the taste and is amazing!
Blue Cornmeal Cake
1-¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup blue cornmeal (or regular cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-¼ cups milk
Maple Chili Glaze
½ cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (more chili powder for more of a kick)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well -- but gently -- in medium bowl. (Overmixing will make the cake tough.) Pour batter in greased cast iron skillet or baking dish of your choice. Bake for 20-30 minutes until cakes have puffed and are slightly brown around the edges and in middle.
Allow to cool and top with maple chili glaze or your favorite jam or cream.