Sage Brown Butter Cornbread with Caramelized Onions

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving prep is well underway here, but I thought I'd share a late addition to our menu this year. I made this cornbread to go with our Sunday dinner last weekend and it was so good that I was inspired to do a cornbread dressing this year. I've never wanted cornbread dressing, so that says a lot. It's been ages since I posted my jalapeno bacon cornbread recipe, which was shortly after receiving my first cast iron skillet. I'm still an avid fan of cooking cornbread in cast iron. Nothing else gives you the same crispy crust, and that's really what good cornbread is all about. What has changed is that I use buttermilk now, often along with sour cream like I did for this recipe. I also use White Lily flour, although a 50/50 blend of regular all-purpose and cake flour is still a great substitute. I honestly thought I had my basic cornbread recipe down, which has been fairly easy to modify with additions like bacon, cheese or herbs. But last weekend, I came across a Chowhound thread discussing cornbread and left with an unexpected tip that I feel has solidified my technique. Turns out that you don't need to add any oil or butter to the batter, instead you can add it all to the hot skillet. The result is an insanely crisp crust and an interior that is airy, flavorful and not at all greasy. I was skeptical reading this as I'd never come across any cornbread recipe written this way, but I'll never go back!

With that background info out of the way, let me just tell you.... these flavors? Listen. You'll never, ever go wrong with browned butter or caramelized onions. Add some sage in there and you've got yourself a Thanksgiving flavor bomb. This is the perfect fall or winter cornbread. It's savory and nutty, balanced with the natural sweetness of honey and onions. It smells like the best dressing you've ever had, and you didn't even make the dressing yet. I am obsessed with brown butter right now. I'm sure I'll be back telling you guys more about that in another post. Browning the butter is built into this recipe, but seriously, another time - grab a good stick of butter and brown it. Use it to slather on this cornbread, or biscuits, or pancakes, or bake with it, or baste a roasted chicken, or toss some pasta in it... ok you get the point. Brown butter is everything and you're going to be hooked.

Sage Brown Butter Cornbread with Caramelized Onions

1/4 cup butter
1 cup stone ground cornmeal
1 cup White Lily Flour, not self-rising*
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
Several grinds cracked black pepper
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup buttermilk, more if needed
8 sage leaves
1/2 cup caramelized onions*
Additional butter for serving

  • White Lily is made from a soft winter wheat and has a finer texture than other all-purpose flour brands. If you prefer, 1/2 cup regular all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup cake flour can be substituted.
  • The caramelized onions should be made ahead of time and cooled. You can follow the process in this recipe if you need help (make a big batch and store them in the freezer to use in your recipes.) If you're cooking the onions in the same skillet that you plan to cook the cornbread in, make sure to wipe it out first. 
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 loaf
Special Equipment: 8" seasoned cast iron skillet

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a cast iron skillet, melt butter over low heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, honey, sour cream and buttermilk.

Whisk the wet ingredients until smooth.

Once the butter has melted, increase heat to medium. Add sage and cook until the butter has stopped foaming, a few minutes longer. Meanwhile you can finish the cornbread batter, keeping an eye on the skillet.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, being careful not to overmix. You can add more milk if it's too thick, like I realized I needed to do here.

I added about another 1/4 cup of buttermilk. It will vary from batch to batch depending on how accurately you measured the flour or the type of cornmeal used.

Your batter should be about the consistency of pancake batter - lumpy and pourable.

Fold in the caramelized onions.

Back to the skillet. Once the butter has stopped foaming and the sage is crispy you should notice that it's starting to darken in color... If it's too difficult to see the color of the butter in your skillet, just splash a small spoonful onto a white dish. You're looking for a deep golden brown.

You can remove the sage or just leave it in the skillet. Carefully swirl the browned butter around the skillet to coat all of the sides.

Pour in the cornbread batter. It should sizzle slightly and the butter will seep around the edges. That's what you want!

Immediately transfer the skillet to the preheated oven. Bake at 400°F for 25 min or until a knife inserted in the cornbread center comes out clean.

Let rest for 15 minutes after removing from oven.

With the skillet in one hand, use your other hand to hold a large plate or cutting board over the top of the cornbread. Carefully flip them over so the cornbread can fall out.

Now that beautiful crust is revealed! Also - this is a much better way to serve the cornbread so you're not scratching up your skillets.

Slice and serve.

Because of the buttermilk and onions, it's best to store leftovers in the fridge. It can be reheated in the microwave, or to recrisp the crust, in the oven.

I had to control myself and only ate one small piece from this batch. But I'm sure the wait will be worth it when I turn two loaves of this special cornbread into our Thanksgiving dressing!

If I don't make it back to the blog before the holiday, Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget you can still pick up my ebook if you're looking for some last minute help to pull off the feast!

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