Thanksgiving has come and gone again, and it was a doozy. Food galore, and good times with friends. One of the classic side dishes we always have on the table is cornbread. It’s a Southern holiday menu must, and even though Thanksgiving was spent on the West coast, cornbread was an absolute. This cornbread is a little different than the traditional mix of cornmeal, flour, butter, milk and eggs. One of the sneaky ingredients in the blend is pureed butternut squash, and of course, there’s the parmesan. It’s a bit fancier than down home, Southern cornbread, but that’s what makes it stand out.
The culinary history of cornbread is interesting because of its pedestrian appearance at tables in the American South for just about any meal of the day. Cornbread with dinner would be normal, as would cornbread served alongside the midday chow. Leftover, crumbled cornbread soaked in milk could be breakfast. It’s as synonymous with the South as biscuits when it comes to breads, and traditionally, there are few variations to the usual recipe. White or yellow cornmeal, flour, eggs, milk or buttermilk, butter and a leavening agent. The addition of sugar is a contested topic that seems to separate Southerners from Yankees, but a little sweet is fine with me.
Who says cornbread has to be baked in a square or rectangular pan? This one is baked in a loaf pan, so it’s the shape of a typical quick bread. The butternut squash contributes to the yellow hue, as well as adding a bit of natural sweetness and tenderness to the crumb. The parmesan’s salty flavor, and the earthy hint of thyme, stand out in each slice. If you happened upon this blog a couple of weeks ago, you may have caught the Saffron Split Pea, Potato and Bacon Soup. Well, this cornbread was an excellent accompaniment to that soup. Slather it in butter, or dunk it straight into the bowl. Cornbread is just the side dish you need for the upcoming holidays, or any day for that matter.
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into the ½" cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 3 eggs, lightly whisked
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup grated parmesan, divided
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
- ⅓ cup milk
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a 9" x 3" loaf pan with parchment paper, and lightly grease with non-stick cooking spray.
- Spread the butternut squash cubes over a foil-lined baking sheet, and toss with the olive oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until browned and softened. Toss into a food processor, and blend until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of puree. Discard the rest (or eat, if desired). Turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the squash puree, eggs, butter and honey until smooth. In a separate medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and remaining salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then stir in ½ cup of the parmesan cheese and the thyme. Lastly, stir the milk into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the last ¼ cup of cheese and pepper over the top of the bread. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown on top, and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.
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