I spent summers with Grandma Leona in my mom’s hometown of Indianapolis. It was there I learned that steamed rice with a little butter and sugar is as good a breakfast as cheesy grits. A true Midwesterner, Grandma Leona didn’t eat grits—but she had grit. The fourth of ten children, Grandma was prone to Depression-era cooking strategies.
She always added a little milk to eggs before scrambling them, “to make them stretch,” she’d tell me as I eyed her with a mix of curiosity and suspicion. Why eggs needed to be “stretched” was beyond my seven-year-old comprehension; however, I now appreciate Grandma’s resourcefulness, as well as the fluffiness of eggs whisked with a little milk before scrambling.
The most popular dish in Grandma’s repertoire showcased her innovation with food: she would fry leftover cornbread batter into these cornmeal pancakes as she hummed hymns and moseyed about her red kitchen. This tasty hybrid of cornbread and pancake was the perfect way to make another meal from leftover cornbread batter, but eventually she started making these whether or not there was leftover batter from the day before.
The pancakes have some grit from the cornmeal and crisp edges from the oil they’re looked in. Grandma would use her giant castiron skillet, whose heavy bottom ensured that the pancake cooked evenly and all the way through. But a griddle or other skillet will give those results, too. The baking powder gets to work as soon as the wet ingredients are mixed with the dry, so whip up the batter just before you’re ready to get cooking. A pat of butter and some maple syrup are all these pancakes need, and the Cranberry-Maple Syrup (page 276) pairs with them beautifully.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and nutmeg.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and melted butter until combined.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Don’t overmix—the mixture will be lumpy, as pancake batters should be.
- Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Once the surface is hot (a drop of water will dance across the pan), add 2 teaspoons of butter or oil and swirl to coat the pan. Once the oil is sizzling hot, use a ¼-cup measure to scoop the batter onto the hot skillet. You should hear the skillet sizzle as the batter hits it. Continue to add the batter, leaving enough space between the pancakes so they can be easily flipped. Cook until bubbles cover the top of the pancakes and break open, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes over and cook until the other side is golden as well, an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat until all the pancakes are made.