Perfect cheddar cornbread and Parsley root soup

Moist, fluffy, flavorful, and addictive: these are not typical adjectives for cornbread!

I feel quite gluttonous at the moment. I just polished off my third piece of cheddar cornbread – at 10:30 at night for goodness sake – when my belly was already more than perfectly content before that last crumb passed my lips. Truthfully, it wasn’t a full piece, but more like a third of a piece that was left behind from what I’d previously eaten. It was just lying there by itself, the last bit in the row of my 8″x8″ pan. I had to finish it. I couldn’t leave it by itself, could I?

My mom would say I’d “Emmed” the cornbread. Emmed is a technical term, of course, commonly used in my family to describe “Emming [insert food here] to death”. As in, “wow, she really Emmed that chocolate cake to death!” which means that she ate the cake slowly but surely by taking one tiny piece after another until the entire whole was gone. Every thin slice by itself was innocent, but before you knew it that cake was a goner! I love that verb, Emm; it’s named after one of my ancestors – my mother’s aunt, I think – who was named Emma, of course. Apparently she was as narrow as a broom handle, smoked cigarettes by lighting the next with the end of the previous, and allegedly ate like a bird – when she wasn’t Emming cake. If I recall correctly, she retained enough of her British roots to maintain that sleek sophistication even while taking a drag, mysteriously and speedily scarfing chocolate cake.

If only I could pull off that kind of style while eating my cornbread. I wish! I baked it late this afternoon, and stole a corner square to taste it – make sure it was okay, you know. And it was definitely okay: the moistest, softest cornbread I’d ever eaten! But more on that in a moment. So, next I Emmed another little slice, maybe 3/4″ thick. Just a small rectangle, I swear! I just wanted a few more little bites….

But since I did originally bake this to go with my dinner, a few hours later I cut another square, maybe 2″ thick, to go with my parsley root potage. Down the hatch that went, and then another Emmed 3/4″ slice found its way onto my plate. Gone! Happy tummy….

Delicious dinner: parsley root soup and the side that starred....

Fast forward a few hours through watching Olympic skiing and washing dishes, and that final slice wandered into my hands. What is a girl to do when something tastes so great?! I say, one is allowed to indulge a little … and then put it into the fridge and walk away….

Yes, there actually is batter underneath all that cheese and herbage!

To this cornbread itself: well, I honestly thought I would be blogging about the parsley root soup, and the cornbread would be a tasty sideshow. How wrong I was! What was thrown together with a few modifications due to an empty fridge turned out to be a moment of pure serendipity. I’m usually not a fan of cornbread because it’s dry, flat, and gritty. That doesn’t sound like good eats! But what happens when you reduce the amount of cornmeal, nix the milk for nonfat yogurt and a generous splash of water, and throw in some grated cheddar and herbs?

Genius.

The crumb is lighter, there’s enough moisture so you can actually swallow the cornbread, and the flavor is amped up to excite every taste bud in your mouth. Even if you’re not a believer in cornbread – like I never was – you should try this. It’ll go great with something like, say, parsley root soup! Since we’re pretty much getting buried by snow right now in the Northeast, I figured it would be a great day to make some soup. I actually didn’t go into work today, like most of my coworkers, on account of the poor roads and the poor shape of my MINI Cooper’s rear tires, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the snow and a warm meal. This soup is a simple, standard root vegetable soup, so it was easy to whip together. It’s the parsley roots themselves that makes this soup stellar; even though they are pretty rare in most markets, they’re worth grabbing when you find them. And when you do, buy extra so you can make tilapia with cider-glazed parsley root and carrots!

For those of you in the Northeast US, enjoy the snow, stay warm, and make yourself some cornbread and soup. Thanks, Old Man Winter!

Parsley root soup (adapted from Martha Stewart)

A few tips on making this soup … You can use whatever type of potatoes you wish; I had two red potatoes lying around that needed eatin’ up, but I’d rather have had Yukon Gold potatoes. Just make sure you blend this soup very well to make it creamy instead of lumpy – and then blend a little more. Trust me: you’d think there’s cream in there, the texture is so silky. And finally, you can throw in a splash of vermouth to deglaze the pan after sautéing the parsley roots and onions, or a splash of sherry at the end for a bit of extra flavor. I had meant to do so, but forgot. Guess I’ll just have to make this again!

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 large parsley roots, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion), chopped
  • salt
  • 2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cups water, or enough to cover (you can use vegetable stock, but I was a purist here)
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped

Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Sauté the parsley root pieces and onion, salted lightly, for 7 minutes. Lid the pan for about half of that time. You want the veggies softened a tad and leaving a little bit of browned lovelies on the bottom of the pan, but you’re not cooking the heck out of them.

If you’re going to add any vermouth, now is the time. Otherwise, add the potatoes and water. Make sure all the vegetables are covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to an active simmer for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Using an immersion blender in the saucepan or transferring the soup in batches to a stand blender, purée the soup until a creamy texture is achieved. Adjust the seasoning. Serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley leaves on top.

Cheddar-parsley cornbread

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg or 2 egg yolks (only because that’s what I had … and it turned out fine), beaten
  • 3 Tbsp safflower (or other vegetable) oil
  • 1 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 5 Tbsp water
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, preferably sharp
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a 8″x8″ baking pan and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add in the egg, yogurt, oil, and water; stir until just combined. Like making pancakes, don’t overmix or concern yourself with lumps. Over-stirring with develop the flour’s gluten chains and make your cornbread tough. Add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and the parsley, then stir to distribute, no more.

Pour the batter into the baking pan, then top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Place into the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick/knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan at least 5 minutes, but serve the cornbread warm.

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2 thoughts on “Perfect cheddar cornbread and Parsley root soup

  1. Whoa! That is some snow you have. I know everyone is tired of the snow now – but I am a little glad we’ve had a snowy winter here in Virginia (we hadn’t had one in years – we were due!).

    Your meal looks very nice. I’ve never tried cheddar cornbread – sounds like an interesting combination.

  2. Cornbread. I love it. I think it’s best hot from the oven with a slab of cheddar melted in the middle… Oh, man, is that good.

    I have to say though that I’m a purist about my cornbread–no flour, no sugar. Just cornmeal. If you can find some finely ground cornmeal it’s not gritty, and if you double the baking powder/soda it’s light. Well, lightER, anyhow.

    That said, yours looks amazing. I never thought about putting the cheese IN the cornbread. What a great idea! Especially with parsley root soup. The perfect winter dinner.

    THANKS!

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