Lard is practically a swear. No surprise, given that both pig and fat are redeployed as insults. Lard used to work the bakery with dignity, yielding flaky pastry and crisp crusts. So when a friend confessed that her favorite cake is larded with lard, I resolved to make one.
Necessitating lard. Once lard lounged next to the Crisco (vegetable fat), or butter (milk fat), or margarine (high-tech fat). Now it’s scarce.
I found a container in the cold case above the ham. Next trip to the supermarket: gone. At the butcher shop I got a blank look. “C’mon,” I pleaded. Then added, sidelong: “It’s for a cake.” I shoved a crumple of bills over the counter and scored a tub.
The cake, honestly, was odd. It put me in mind of Thanksgiving. So I switched to baking cornbread and it turned out terrific. Take that, bullies.
11/4cups medium-grind cornmeal
2teaspoons baking powder
1/4teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3ounces lard, melted
1cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
3/4cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1teaspoon salted butter
1. Heat: Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in a cold oven. Heat to 400 degrees.
2. Whisk: In a large bowl whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.
3. Mix: In a large glass measuring cup whisk together lard, milk and egg. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and stir with a fork. Don’t fret over lumps. Stir in corn.
4. Bake: Pull on reliable oven mitts and pull hot skillet from oven. Drop in butter and swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Scrape in batter and smooth. Return skillet to oven and bake until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out clean, about 18 – 20 minutes.
5. Serve: Turn out cornbread onto a cutting board, browned bottom up. Slice into wedges and munch.
Prep: 15 minutes. Bake: 18 minutes. Makes: 1 10-inch round cornbread