Adapted from “Heritage” by Charleston chef extraordinaire Sean Brock.
1/4 pound bacon, finely minced 2 cups cornmeal 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 1/2 cups whole-milk buttermilk 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.
Put the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold it in one layer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn, until the fat is rendered and the bits of bacon are crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel to drain, reserving the fat. You need 5 tablespoons bacon fat for this recipe. If the bacon doesn’t render enough fat, add canola oil or melted butter to make up the volume.
Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and bits of bacon in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and combine the remaining 4 tablespoons fat, the buttermilk, and egg in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not overmix.
Move the skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat and swirl to coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It should sizzle.
Bake the cornbread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm from the skillet.