The Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina has been serving the same cornbread for almost 70 years, and it's as simple as you can get: just cornmeal and water, harkening back to the earliest days of the dish. Add some bacon fat for extra flavor (a step we've added to Skylight's minimalist recipe) and serve it with greens to moisten the crumbs.
- 2 tbsp. rendered bacon fat (optional)
- 2 1⁄3 cups finely ground cornmeal
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350° and set a rack in the top third. In a 10-inch cast iron skillet or metal cake pan, drizzle the bacon fat if using, swirling to coat the bottom of the pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the cornmeal, 2 cups water, and salt (the consistency should be soup-like).
Pour the cornmeal mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until set and just beginning to brown, 18 to 20 minutes.
Remove and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a paring knife to help dislodge the sides of the cornbread as needed. Turn it out onto a cutting board and slice into 8 wedges. Serve warm.