I own a family griddle. It’s a flat piece of cast iron, quite heavy, with a wooden handle in a metal socket riveted to one side. There is a slight rim around the edge, to keep melted grease from running off. (You never pour large amounts of oil on to a griddle: you grease it, and wipe it off after use.) I don’t know how old it is: I inherited it from an elderly cousin who died a few years ago.
This week’s Tuesday Recipe Blogging is inspired by this video at Ezra Klein’s, in which Barack Obama (then a very junior state senator) extols the virtues of Dixie Kitchen, and warns of the dangers of corn cakes.
Which are griddle cakes: there’s a shot of someone cooking them. Sure, you could fry them, if you don’t have a griddle. Different technique, though. Frying is cooking something in hot oil – even a shallow fry is the process of heating oil until it is hot enough to cook whatever you have put in the oil.
Griddle cooking uses grease only to keep whatever you put on the griddle from sticking to it. What cooks the food is the heat from the metal: a cake placed on a griddle is cooked through from the bottom up, and you turn it over only briefly to brown the top side (if you want). It’s a very basic kind of cooking. I have cooked popadoms and chapattis, oatcakes and drop scones and singin’ hinnies, tortillas and tacos, on my griddle. All of them are made with some basic combining of ground grains, water, fat, and flavour.
1 cup plain flour;
1 cup polenta-grind cornmeal;
1 tin sweetcorn, drained;
1 cup sour cream;
Put the griddle on the heat. This is the first step in any griddle cookery. Grease the metal lightly.
Drain the tin and reserve the water. (I’d say tinned sweetcorn rather than frozen or fresh, mainly because the corn needs to be ready-to-eat before it goes into the cakes. You could equally nuke frozen sweetcorn in the microwave till it’s just done, and then let cool for fifteen minutes before adding to the corncake mixture. And yes, sure, if you live somewhere corn-on-the-cob is cheap and you think it’s easy, fine, go to all that trouble… make the rest of us feel inadequate.)
Sift the flour and the polenta meal together in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt – or whatever other seasonings you like with corn. If you want very yellow cakes, a teaspoonful of turmeric works as a natural food dye.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the sour cream: whisk it into the flour. Beat in an egg. Use the water from the corn tin to mix to a thick batter. Stir in the corn kernels.
The griddle should by now be hot enough to cook with. The batter should be thick enough that you can’t pour it, but thin enough that it settles to a fairly thin layer when you spoon it on to the griddle.
You can literally see the cake cooking from the bottom up. When the top looks done (the difference is one of texture, not colour) you turn the cakes over briefly, just long enough to brown the other side, and serve hot.