These beauties are Onion Cracklin’ Cornbread Croutons. Have them at the ready for your next summer farm salad. And don’t forget the Buttermilk Goddess Dressing.
Instead of pork for the cracklings I used crispy onions, the lovely fried shallots from Thailand you buy in jars and bags at most any international market (K&S Market in Nashville). Fried shallots provide last minute miracle umami service for so many dishes, especially these croutons. I sprinkle the onions liberally on just about anything Asian, like Singapore chicken rice, congee, noodle soups, and fried rice.
But not just that. Think of them as a fancy, more sophisticated, smaller and lighter Durkee onion on the traditional Thanksgiving green bean casserole. Toss them on as-is over a salad, rice, steamed vegetables, scrambled eggs, hot grits, you name it. What doesn’t taste great with fried onions? A one-pound bag costs us about five bucks and lasts quite a while. We store them in the freezer or fridge.
Continuing our crispy southern cornbread jag, we had to add these crispy onions to the batter for Onion Cracklin’ Cornbread Croutons. We always encourage a thin and crisp cornbread, so croutons made from cornbread are just another good reason not to go thick and tall. A half-sheet pan makes a perfect crouton.
Notice that the liquid in the recipe is a combination of buttermilk and water. I love the tang of buttermilk, but all buttermilk can make the croutons a little too moist–a fine quality for regular cornbread, but not so much for croutons. So, use part water to hydrate the cornmeal for just the right crunchy/soft bite. Just like a skillet of cornbread, get the greased pan good and hot while the oven heats up. It’ll make the best crust and with cornbread, it’s all about the crust.
One more thing–I don’t usually add sugar to my cornbread, but just like caramelizing onions, a little sugar seemed to bring out the onion flavor. Cut and toss your croutons warm on a salad, or first cool, cut and reheat later for extra crispness and serve at room temperature. They’re great both ways.
Now add them to your favorite salad and pour on the Buttermilk Goddess dressing!
We made this big recipe for the Nashville Les Dames d’Escoffier Tour De Farm salad course in half-sheet pans. It can easily be cut in half and baked in a hot greased 9 x 13 pan. Or, make a lot and keep them bagged in the freezer. Reheat in a hot oven.
Here’s the salad we served at the Les Dames Nashville Tour De Farm Global Dinner:
Check out all these sheets of beautiful cornbread ready to be cut into croutons!
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pan
- 2 cups packaged crispy fried onions
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
- 4 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
- 1 cup buttermilk
- About 1 1/2 cups water
- Heat the oven to 450F.
- Grease generously with oil a 15 x 17-inch half-sheet pan. Place in the oven while it heats up.
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Blend well.
- Stir in the buttermilk and enough water to make a creamy pourable batter.
- Remove the hot pan from the oven.
- Spread the batter into the pan.
- Bake about 23 to 25 minutes or until well browned.
- Cool slightly on a rack. Turn out onto a rack to completely cool.
- Cut into small cubes.
- To further crisp the croutons, place cubes back on the baking sheet. Bake in a 300F oven about 30 minutes, or until crisp. Check and stir periodically.
- Serve warm or at room temp.