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posted: 1/11/2012 6:00 AM

Skillet cornbread a favorite memory

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  • A well-seasoned, heirloom cast-iron pan creates a nice crust on this hearty cornbread.

    A well-seasoned, heirloom cast-iron pan creates a nice crust on this hearty cornbread.
    Alicia Ross/Desperation Dinners


As I was downsizing for the second time in two years, I had to make some hard decisions about what to keep in the "kitchen equipment department" and what I could leave behind. Some items were easy to let go of, especially all the duplicates: the additional 30-cup coffee maker, the extra fondue set and the spare Crockpot. Others were easy to say goodbye to because of the dust that had gathered on the top, indicating the lack of use over the years: the heart-shaped waffle maker, the bread maker and the family-sized George Foreman Grill.

But the items that were the most difficult to deal with were those where practicality bumped up against emotional attachment. One piece in particular was my grandmother's 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Although I can honestly say I haven't used it in at least three years, I decided I'd rather hang it on the wall than sell it at the yard sale.

Black and sturdy, that cast-iron skillet has seen almost 100 years of cornbread recipes, salmon cakes, Spanish tortillas, omelets and more. And hanging there, it seemed to beg to be used. So off the wall it came and into the kitchen I went, ready to develop a recipe that was just for this precious piece of cookware.

Several batches of cornbread later, I came up with a hard-to-beat basic recipe that you can find on But today's recipe is a special twist on a basic loaf with caramelized onions and honey. It is worthy of any special dinner or, as in this case, a salute to a piece of my personal kitchen history.

The great news is you don't have to own an antique cast-iron skillet to make this quick bread. An 8-by-8-inch metal baking pan does just fine, even if the resulting loaf is a bit weaker on the crust. But I encourage you to seek out a 9-inch cast-iron skillet and cook some love into it. Maybe one day your grandchild will write about it, too.

• Alicia Ross is the co-author of "Desperation Dinners!" Write her at Kitchen Scoop, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106, or More at

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