Ever seen Dinner and a Movie on TBS? It’s off the air now, apparently, and to be honest it’s been a long, long time since I’ve watched the show. Basic concept–every Friday night, TBS shows a movie, and the two hosts cook up a dinner to pair with the film, always involving a bad pun.
Back in the 1990s, when I was watching more Superstation than SpongeBob, the hosts would advertise the upcoming movie throughout the week. While the film and/or recipe didn’t always grab my attention, what did always get me was the show’s theme song: Louis Jordan’s “Beans and Cornbread.”
For some reason, that song popped in my head earlier this week, and as one thing often leads to the next in my kitchen, I had my next slow cooker meal planned out.
For the Beans
1 lb pinto beans
6 cups water
2 strips of bacon
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 small bay leaves
For the Cornbread
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Rinse and drain the beans, then get them cooking in 6 cups of water. As with our pasta e fagioli recipe, I do not pre-soak the beans. I also use a slow cooker, getting it going in the morning while I’m doing breakfast, then leaving it to do its thing while I’m at work. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry them until almost crisp. Add the bacon, chopped onion, and minced garlic to the beans and let them cook (and as with other bean dishes no salt yet or you will end up with tough beans). Let the beans cook until tender–at least 8 hours on low in a slow cooker, or 3 hrs in a simmering pot.
At this point, your beans will look closer to a soup than what you’re after. You are going to want to reduce the liquid just a bit until you get something closer to the density of a stew. At this point, I transfer the beans carefully from the slow cooker to a pot. Add salt, pepper, and bay leaves and allow them to continue to cook while you work on your cornbread.
I did not grow up eating cornbread, but rumor has it my version is not too bad. Really, it’s an amalgamation of lots of different cornbread recipes I’ve come across–so I guess it’s as much my recipe as any other hand-me-down. The key for me, though, is less about what goes in the cornbread than how you bake it–it’s got to be in a cast iron skillet.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add the milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine. Finally, add the melted butter to the batter.
Pour the batter into a well-buttered 9″ cast iron frying pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown. If the edges look like they are getting too dark, lower the temperature to 400 degrees for the final five minutes or so.
By the time your cornbread is ready, the bean liquid should have reduced to a thick broth. Ladle out the beans into wide shallow bowls, then top the beans with a healthy sized wedge of cornbread.
Serve with some kind of smothered greens, and you’re good to go!