Husk Cornbread

2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal (see note)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons fresh lard, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, preferably made from fresh milk
1/4 cup bacon fat, if making croutons

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet inside.

In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

Combine 4 tablespoons of the lard, the egg and the buttermilk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.

Move the skillet from the oven to the stove top, over high heat. Add the remaining lard to the pan and swirl to coat. Pour in the batter; it should sizzle vigorously. Shake the skillet to distribute it evenly. Cook 15 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

To make large croutons (to serve as a base for greens, poached eggs, etc.), let the cornbread cool in the pan, then turn out and cut into 2-inch pieces. (If using in soup or beans, cut into 1/2-inch cubes.) Arrange on a baking sheet and dry overnight in the turned-off oven, lightly covered with foil. Remove.

When ready to serve, heat oven to 425 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet inside to heat. Add the bacon fat and swirl to coat. Gently turn the cornbread pieces in it, spreading them out, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until brown and crisp. Serve hot.

Note: Fresh cornmeal direct from mills like Geechie Boy and Anson Mills makes soft, fluffy cornbread. If using a supermarket variety, use 1.5 cups cornmeal and .5 cup all-purpose flour.

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