"This recipe by Charles Hunter III is one that I often make, says Bryant Terry. "It is a fun dish that can easily pivot from a sweet breakfast treat, to a snack or a savory dinner dish that can be covered with sauce, legumes and the like."
My grandmother and great-grandmother lived in a duplex not far from our house. They had a garden in the backyard, along with a chicken coop that was attached to a curing shed. The garden was laden with rows of corn and whatever else the season had inspired them to sow into the earth. And one dish you were sure to find at any of our family gatherings was cornbread, lace hoecakes, or cornbread muffins — some sweet and some savory. This recipe transports me to a time when gathering around the table was something of an Olympic sport.
Technique tip: Avoid over-mixing the batter. Cooking the cakes slowly to ensure even cooking.
Swap option: Use oil instead of butter. Omit egg and use a nut-based milk for a vegan version. Leave out the corn if it's not in season.
- 4 ears corn (to yield about 2 cups of corn kernels)
- 3 tablespoons neutral oil or butter, plus more for cooking
- 1/2 cup diced Vidalia onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup full-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons sorghum
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- sliced green onions and smoked paprika, to garnish
For the hoecakes:1.
Preheat oven to 200 F.2.
In a large bowl, shave the corn kernels, being careful not to scrape too close to the cob. Then, using the back of your knife, scrape the milk from the cob into the bowl.3.
In a sauté pan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil or butter and both onions and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the corn kernels, salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 more minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, until fragrant and well-blended. Turn down the heat if you are starting to get color on the onions. Transfer the corn mixture from the pan into a separate bowl and set aside to allow the corn to come to room temperature.4.
Meanwhile, in a second large bowl, combine the cornmeal, egg, buttermilk and melted butter. Blend with a rubber spatula. Then add the cooked corn to the batter. Fold the corn into the batter until fully combined.5.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil or butter. Using a 2-ounce scoop, place three scoops of the batter into the skillet and lightly pat them down to a 1/4-inch thickness. Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between the cakes so you have space to flip them. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the finished cakes onto a sheet pan with a baking rack and keep them warm in a 200 F oven while you finish cooking the remaining batter.6.
Add another tablespoon of oil or butter to the skillet before the next batch.
For the sorghum butter:
In a bowl, blend the butter, sorghum and salt until partially combined (you want some striations of sorghum left in the butter).
Shingle the hoecakes clockwise on a platter and serve the butter in the center. Garnish with sliced green onions or smoked paprika.
Reprinted with permission from Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House. Photographs copyright © 2021 Oriana Koren.