The caviar of cornbread is what this is. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, studded with salty bits of fried pork rind (crackling) goodness. Ten minutes to make, 30-40 to bake, freezes beautifully. Our mama made this for Christmas morning every year, with Dortch’s* sausage biscuits, Moravian bread, ambrosia, and grits casserole. If you can’t carb at Christmas when can you. When Mama died on New Year’s night of 2005, her crackling bread died with her. She did not use a recipe. She made it by “feel.” She was that kind of cook and brilliant. I am neither.
Years of wandering in the Internet wilderness and no recipe that came close. Plus, hey you try finding cracklings in the Upper East Side of New York. Now the Piggly Wiggly in Tarboro, they always had cracklings. It was one of those things you could count on like Carolina’s basketball team. Like I said, years passed. Then one day an angel appeared and said “Behold, I bring you tidings of great substitutes: What about those pork rinds you buy at the convenience store when nobody’s looking?” And I said “Hark, that might work.” And lo, it worked well enough. Joy to the world and what not.
And I wish you all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, a blessed and peaceful time with those you love, near and far, including yourself. Thank you for all you have given me.
Developed with Chef Stephanie Valentine and as close to Mama’s as we can get. For the cracklings, if you cannot find the real thing, use packaged pork rinds, available at most convenience stores catering to country people. Also popular in the Latin-x world, they are called chicharrones.
10 minutes to prepare, 30-40 minutes to bake.
Makes about 2 dozen patties, give or take
1 ¼ cups cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups chopped cracklings or pork rinds
Butter for serving
Heat oven to 425.
Combine all ingredients. Drop by tablespoonful on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm, spread with butter.
*The sausage is available at Smith’s Red & White in Rocky Mount, NC. They do not call it Dortches on the website, but to the best of my knowledge that is what it is.