BUTTER-ROASTED CORNBREAD

BUTTER-ROASTED CORNBREAD
Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

15 minutes prep time; 30 minutes oven time
You should bake this a couple of days in advance and let it stale at room temperature.

This is a cornbread with all the classic ingredients for a poultry stuffing already baked into it. Slice the cornbread into croutons and toast them with butter for the Ancho Cider-Glazed Hens, or on a work night, try a warm square of the cornbread with scrambled eggs.

This is a generous recipe because the croutons are good on their own and the bread freezes well for 3 months. Bake it 1 to 2 days before using in the hens recipe and keep it in the fridge.

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, dipped and leveled
1-1/2 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 whole scallions, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 generous teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 large minced garlic cloves
3 ounces mild or hot Italian sausage, cooked and thinly sliced
2/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, beaten
1-1/2 cups milk
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Slip a 9 x 13-inch shiny metal baking pan (not a dark baking pan) into the oven.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a whisk to thoroughly combine. Stir in the scallions, thyme, garlic, sausage, pine nuts, and cheese until well blended. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat the butter with the eggs and egg yolks and gradually add the milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones only long enough to combine. The mixture should be a little lumpy. Don't overmix.

4. Using thick potholders to take the hot pan from the oven, add the oil and swirl it around to coat the pan. Take extra care not to burn yourself. Pour in the batter and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

5. Cool for 10 minutes in the baking pan, then turn the cornbread out onto a rack.

6. To make butter-roasted croutons, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch cubes and melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Spread the cubes on a cookie sheet, toss them with the butter, and roast for 10 minutes, or until golden with crisp edges. Serve with drinks or with the Ancho Cider-Glazed Hens.