I apologize in advance for the extent to which you will crave this cornbread when you finish the first batch.  It started out innocently enough.  As so often happens to me, yesterday I read the word “cornbread” and had to incorporate it into dinner.  I don’t know why that happens – it’s like a fleeting idea of a particular dish will flip a switch in my brain and all of a sudden I am hungry for something I didn’t realize I wanted.  It’s fine when this happens with foods for which I have the necessary ingredients; not so much when I start jonesing for pan-seared foie gras.


So cornbread.  I started jazzing up cornbread a few years ago with diced apples and barbecue sauce – also delicious – and got really hooked on the idea that cornbread can take the main stage as an entrée rather than stay on the side dish sidelines.  I thought the savory trio of the onions, bacon, and cheese here would nicely complement the sweetness of the cornbread.  I didn’t really anticipate that the flavors would come together in a storm of perfection to create something I would end up dreaming about last night as I laboriously digested a third of the pan in my sleep (after intending to eat an eighth…oops).

There is cornbread and there is cornbread.  This is the latter.

Cowboy Quiche

Serves…several, if you aren’t greedy; two if you’re like me and can’t stop eating this stuff

1 medium yellow or white onion
2/3 cup bacon crumbles (see note)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 t salt
1/3 cup softened butter
1 T bourbon (can substitute vanilla – if you do, use 1 t)
2 eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 T baking powder
¾ cornmeal
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

This recipe works really well with a 10” cast iron skillet.  You can use it to caramelize the onions, then grease it up and use it again to bake the cornbread.  If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, you can use an 8×8 baking dish (and you should really just go buy a cast iron skillet, as they are fantastically useful and really inexpensive).

Cut the onion with the grain.  If you don’t know what that means, watch the first two minutes of this video, then come back.  It’s an idea that’s far easier to understand if you watch someone do it.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers.  Add the onion, stir to coat with the oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Keep them cooking while you get everything else ready, stirring occasionally.  They will turn translucent, then soft, then they will begin to brown.

In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, bourbon, salt, and butter until it looks creamy.  You can do this by hand – no need for a mixer.  Add the eggs and stir well until they are fully incorporated.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and cornmeal.  Add approximately 1/3 of this dry mixture to the batter and stir well.  Add approximately 1/3 of the buttermilk and stir again.  Alternate the dry and wet ingredients until everything is combined.  This is a technique you’ll see fairly often in batter-based baked goods.

Fold in the bacon, cheese, and onions.  Stir gently, just until everything is evenly distributed. Spray the skillet with oil and fill it with the batter.  Smooth the top with a spatula and bake for 20 minutes.

When it’s done, it will be beautiful and golden on top.  A toothpick inserted in the center will come out mostly clean – if it isn’t clean, check to see if it looks like batter or cheese.  If you happen to stick it in a pocket of cheese, it will come out looking gooey even though the thing is done!

Slice and serve warm.  Reheat leftovers (if you have any) in a 350-degree oven.


About the name – so I’m being a little cute here.  Make the recipe and take your first bite.  Notice how the rich onion flavor blends with the smokiness of the bacon and the tang of the gruyere.  See how it looks like a quiche in the pan, round and golden.  And picture yourself eating it around a campfire on the prairie.  Then giggle, because Cowboy Quiche is silly and alliterative, but still tastes good.

About the bacon – I buy cooked, crumbled bacon in 2 lb bags from Costco.  It’s great to keep in the fridge, ready for whenever the bacon mood strikes.  If you don’t have this, you can certainly cook up a few slices of bacon and crumble them into the batter.  Barring that, I think a bit of sausage or Canadian bacon would also be lovely.