I have a crush. To clarify, it’s not a romantic crush (hi honey!) but a culinary one. Ever since I watched Bryan Voltaggio compete on Top Chef I have been a huge fan. I love his food. And I am so lucky that he’s local to the DC area and has several restaurants near me. I’ve copied his work before. Almost two years ago after dining at his restaurant Volt, I returned home to create my own version of one of his dishes- butter poached lobster with steel cut oat risotto. It’s as good as it sounds. I think Bryan is a culinary wizard and am in awe of his creativity in the kitchen.
If Volt wasn’t an hour outside of the city I would dine there much more often. You can imagine my joy when I learned he was opening a new restaurant right down the road from us called Range. It is one metro stop or a five minutes drive from my house. It was very difficult to get a reservation when the restaurant first opened but we were able to enjoy our first meal on my birthday in July. Everything was amazing from the kale caesar salad to the bone marrow with golden raisins, caramelized onions and pine nuts. I still daydream about the lamb course. But one of the unexpected highlights of the meal for me was skillet cornbread with bacon jam and chive butter.
All of the components worked perfectly together. I loved that it was served in a small cast iron skillet identical to the one I often use in recipes. It was the perfect serving for two people. And the bacon jam was phenomenal. Smokey, intense, rich. Within days I was planning out my own version of the recipe at home. I can’t say my bacon jam turned out quite as perfect as his but it’s pretty damn good. I know you will fall in love with this dish just as I did.
This cornbread recipe works with one 5-inch cast iron skillet. For a large skillet, double the recipe. To save time on the day of serving, make the bacon jam in advance!
- 1 pound bacon (preferably thick cut), cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, halved and sliced thin
- 1 shallot, minced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon fresh chives, chopped finely
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup buttermilk + 3 tablespoons
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- In a dutch oven, render fat from bacon and then cook over medium high until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pot, leaving the fat, and drain on paper towels.
- Add the onion, shallot and garlic to the pot and cook over medium heat until the ingredients soften, approximately 10 minutes. Return the bacon to the pot and add the coffee, water, vinegar, maple syrup, sugar and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring periodically, until the mixture thickens substantially, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the mixture to a food processor, leaving as much excess fat behind as possible. Discard the bacon fat.
- Pulse the jam until finely chopped.
- Store in the refrigerator in an airtight jar for up to 2 weeks.
- In a small bowl or ramekin, mix the butter, chives and salt until evenly combined. Shape into a pat of butter and chill in the refrigerator or freezer until it firms up.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the cast iron skillet in the oven on a middle rack and allow it to get hot while preparing the ingredients.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg and all but 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Pour the reserved tablespoon of butter into the skillet and swirl it around. Pour the batter into the skillet and place back in the oven.
- Cook until a toothpick comes out of the center of the cornbread cleanly and the top is just starting to turn golden brown, approximately 25 minutes.
- Serve with bacon jam and compound butter.
Cornbread recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli
Bacon Jam recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook
Tools I used:
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Creative Culinary - Spaghetti Carbonara