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The bread and batter of the South comes alive at Tennessee festival

By Patrice Stewart · 340-2446

How many ways can you prepare cornbread?

If you're only familiar with a plain cornbread recipe, you will get an education in plenty of ways to change it into a main course, salad or even a dessert this weekend at the 11th annual National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Your tummy will be happy — and full — if you make the trip to this festival that is bigger than the town between Scottsboro and Chattanooga that hosts it. South Pittsburg is the home of Lodge, makers of cast iron skillets and other cookware. You can tour the foundry in between sampling johnnycakes, seeing entertainment and crafts, watching the finals of the National Cornbread Cook-off, and trying Cornbread Alley delicacies such as Cornbread Coffeecake, Cornbread Pudding, Peanut Butter Cornbread and more.

You might even want to sign up for the cornbread eatin' contest, but consider hitting the carnival rides first. You can take home iron skillet, recipe books and souvenirs, too.

While celebrity and 4-H cornbread cook-offs also will be held, the big competition will begin Saturday at 1 p.m. Ten finalists from around the country will prepare their cornbread creations under the cook-off tent. First prize is $5,000, plus a stainless steel gas range (a $2,500 value) and gifts from sponsors Martha White and Lodge Cast Iron. The winner will be crowned — with an iron skillet — at 4:45 p.m.

Hungry for some cornbread now? Try these winning main-dish recipes from the Cornbread Cook-off. All recipes submitted for competition had to include baking mixes and ingredients by Martha White, which was founded in Nashville in 1899.

Janice Elder from Charlotte, N.C., took first place last year with her Monte Cristo Cornbread Skillet Super recipe, which was inspired by the classic Monte Cristo Sandwich.

"The recipes last year were so creative, especially this strata-like dish, which combined cooked cubes of cornbread with ham, turkey and cheese in a cast iron skillet with a milk and egg mixture poured over it," said Linda Carman, Martha White baking expert. "Each serving is topped with a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar and currant jelly/mustard sauce, and it's ideal for a flavorful brunch or casual supper."

Barbara Estabrook of Rhinelander, Wis., won second place for her Grilled Chicken Skillet Pizza with Corn Meal Crust.

"Barbara created a trendy pizza by using yellow corn meal to make a polenta layer topped with vegetables, chicken and cheese — a great meal for busy families," Carman said.

Third place went to Janine Washle of Sonora, Ky., for her Mile-High Greens and Creamy Cornbread Skillet.

"Taking a cue from traditional Southern fare, Janine reinvented cornbread and greens," Carman said. "She made a moist cornbread, then topped it with cooked ham and a pile of wilted greens with strips of roasted red pepper, proving that classics never go out of style."

Grilled Chicken
Skillet Pizza with
Corn Meal Crust


1 14-ounce can chicken broth (13/4 cups)

1 teaspoon dried Montreal chicken seasoning

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup Martha White Plain Yellow Corn Meal

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese


1 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 4 thin slices red onion, cut in half

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

1/3 cup marinara sauce

1 6-ounce package cooked grilled chicken strips, chopped (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup chopped button mushrooms

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Fontina cheese

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine broth, seasoning and salt; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; gradually stir in corn meal. Add butter, egg and Parmesan and Romano cheese; stir until well blended. Set aside.

In 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, pepper and zucchini; cook stirring frequently until onions are lightly browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Spoon into a bowl; set aside.

Cool skillet slightly. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel; spray bottom only with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon corn meal mixture into skillet. With oiled hands, press evenly in bottom and 1/4-inch up sides to form crust. Spread marinara over crust; top with vegetable mixture, chicken, mushrooms and Fontina cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 23 to 25 minutes or until golden brown along edge. Loosen edges with knife. Cool 10 minutes. Cut into wedges. Makes 4 servings.

Tamale Skillet Pie


1 pound lean ground beef

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained

1 11-ounce can whole kernel corn with red and green peppers

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 6-ounce package Martha White Mexican Style Cornbread Mix

4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend


1 egg

3/4 cup milk

Reserved cornbread mix

4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brown ground beef in 10-1/2-inch cast iron or ovenproof skillet over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain.

Add tomatoes, corn, water, chili powder and 1 tablespoon of the cornbread mix (reserve remaining cornbread mix); mix well. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup cheese. Set aside. Beat egg in medium bowl. Add milk and reserved cornbread mix; beat until smooth. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Pour cornbread mixture over beef mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 6 servings.

Monte Cristo Cornbread Skillet Supper

1 6-ounce package Martha White Cotton Country or Buttermilk Cornbread Mix

11/2 cups chopped cooked turkey

1/2 cup chopped cooked ham

11/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

4 eggs

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons honey mustard, divided

11/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup currant jelly

Confectioners’ sugar

Prepare cornbread mix according to package directions, except bake in a 101/2-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. (Cornbread will be thin.) Remove cornbread from skillet; cool and cut into cubes. Wipe out skillet with paper towels; grease generously.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cornbread cubes in skillet. Top with turkey, ham and shredded cheese. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon of mustard, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour evenly over ingredients in skillet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until set and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, warm currant jelly slightly to melt. Add 1 tablespoon honey mustard; whisk to blend.

Remove skillet from oven. Cut in wedges, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve with currant jelly and mustard sauce. Makes 4 servings.

If you go

What: 11th annual National Cornbread Festival

Where: South Pittsburg, Tenn. (off Highway 72 between Scottsboro and Chattanooga)

When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST)

Admission: $3 daily at gate

Call: (423) 837-0022 or go online at www.nationalcorn to find out more about the trolley towns of South Pittsburg, singer Rhonda Vincent at 1 p.m. Sunday, bands, Friday and Saturday night street dances, children’s activities, juried arts and crafts show, carnival, quilt exhibit, 5K road race, pancake breakfast, church service and other events

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