It’s almost time for the 2017 National Cornbread Festival! The lovely little town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee has opened its heart and streets to thousands of visitors for 21 years. There are plenty of things to do: music, crafts, a carnival, tours, plenty of good cornbread and more. One tour you will not want to miss is of the Lodge Manufacturing Company foundry where they’ve been making cast iron and cookware since 1896.
This year’s festival runs April 29-30, 2017. Celebrating the perfect marriage of cornbread and cast iron, Saturday features a 4-H Cornbread Cook-Off in the morning and the National Championship Cornbread Cook-Off in the afternoon. Over the years, we have been amazed by the creative recipes entered in the contest, many of which have become a family favorite.
After last year’s festival, I shared the winning recipe from the Former Judge’s cook-off. Bob’s Bama Hoecake Sliders are a tribute to some of our favorite Southern foods. Entered by Bob Carlton, a columnist for the Birmingham News, his sliders are a creative combination of little cornbread hoecakes, spread with pimento cheese and topped with smoked sausage and spicy pickles. Delicious! In case you missed it, here is the link.
I’ve eaten a lot of cornbread in my life, but never made it into a sandwich. The closest thing I ever had was Southern barbecue served open-faced on a corn meal pancake. That is delicious, but I never thought of taking it much further.
So when a recipe for Bacon and Gorgonzola Cornbread Sliders with Chipotle Mayo was entered in the National Cornbread Cook-Off, we just had to try it. And it won! The slider bun is actually a wonderful corn muffin made with a cornbread mix, bacon and gorgonzola cheese. By adding flour and eggs, the muffin is sturdy enough to hold up as a sandwich. Filled with a small ground beef patty, grilled onions and the seasoned mayonnaise, the flavor is wonderful. The muffins are so delicious you’ll want to make them to serve with a bowl of soup.
Several years later, another corn bread sandwich caught our attention. The Ultimate Southern Grilled Cheese Sandwich was also a Cook-Off winner. A skillet of cornbread, cut into wedges becomes the bread for the sandwich. Spread with ranch dressing and filled with bacon, grilled onions, cheese and tomatoes, the sandwich is grilled until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Hearty and satisfying on a cold night, these sandwiches may give you inspiration to create your own version of a cornbread sandwich. Maybe you already have one – if so, I’d love to hear about it. There are never too many uses for good old Southern cornbread!
Growing up in Alabama, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of football, but I think I always enjoyed the camaraderie more than the game itself. I don’t think anything generates more excitement than a bunch of avid fans getting together to watch the game. Of course, food and football are almost inseparable, so before game day it’s important to figure out what to feed your fans.
Chips, dip and snacks are a necessity, but I like to have something a little heartier to serve at halftime. Since the entries in the National Cornbread Cook-Off are main dish recipes many of our past winners are perfect to serve for the big game. Here are some of my recommendations.
Buffalo Chicken Cornbread with Blue Cheese Salad: My husband first tasted this when I prepared it on some TV cooking segments and it’s been a week night favorite ever since. Chunks of frozen boneless buffalo wings are baked in a moist cheesy cornbread then topped with blue cheese salad. The dish has a great combination of spicy and cool flavors.