Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Family Cornbread

As soon as I ate the first spoonful of Heidi Swanson's Roasted Tomato Soup with Smoked Paprika, I knew I should've made something bready to go with it. Grilled cheese, maybe, or toasty garlic bread. It's not that the soup wasn't enjoyable; with its oven-roasted tomatoes, red bell pepper, onions and garlic, it was warm and comfy, with a little more depth than your typical tomato soup. But it needed a go-with.

Enter my grandfather's cornbread. Mulyatz, we call it--though that's the phonetic spelling, and when I asked Pop how it's really spelled, he wasn't quite sure. Mogliacci? Mogliazi? I'd never made it before, but remembered eating it as a child, when Pop would make it. His favorite way to eat it is alongside escarole and beans (as bread), or cut into small squares and served as a hot or cold appetizer. It's basically cornbread amped up with Italian sausage and Parmesan cheese. And what's not to like about that? Pop told me he got the recipe from his mother, who got it from her mother--and while cornbread and polenta are typically northern Italian specialties (and Pop's family is from Naples), this dish has nevertheless been part of our family repertoire for five generations.

Spoonful of soup, bite of mulyatz--now we're talking. I even broke off a few little bits of mulyatz and dunked them into the soup. Just delicious.--S

Mulyatz (cornbread)

1/2 lb Italian sausage
1 small onion
1-2 T olive oil
2 c yellow cornmeal
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
4 c water
Black pepper and salt

1. Grease 13"x9" baking dish with olive oil.
2. Dissolve cornmeal in 2 c cold water. Stir and set aside.
3. Remove casing from sausage, break up into pieces and saute with olive oil and chopped onions.
4. Bring 2 c water to a boil. Pour in the sausage and onions, then add cornmeal and water mixture. Stir constantly until very thick, then add cheese, pepper and salt.
5. Pour mixture into baking pan, spreading out evenly to about 1/2" thick. Let rest for 1/2 hour.
6. Preheat oven to 425. Rub a bit more olive oil on top of cornbread and bake for 1 hour or until crust forms on top.

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