by Nicki Wood
Time to heat up the cast iron skillet and work on your cornbread recipe -- then submit it to the National Cornbread Cook-Off as part of the National Cornbread Festival.
With Lodge, Brown Stoveworks and Martha White all based in Tennessee, and the event held in South Pittsburg, Tenn., it is truly a locavore event. (Well, actually, Martha White is now owned by those Ohio Yankees at Smuckers but works to keep its local identity by promoting cornbread and the Grand Ole Opry.)
Submit an entree recipe that uses Martha White cornbread mix and is cooked in a piece of Lodge cast iron cookware. Ten finalists will compete on April 24 for a $5,000 first prize and a $3,000 Five Star oven. (A word from our sponsor: Five Star's performance is so impressive that this Tennessee product deserves to be far better known. It's built like a tank, heats like a blast furnace, and the pieces mostly come apart and go into the dishwasher.)
A chicken-cornbread dressing bake with gravy won the last time I judged. Three years ago, the winner was Chicken Taco Cornbread Wedges with Ranchero Cilantro Drizzle, which put a cool salad mix and dressing over wedges of spicy cornbread. Last year, the magic was captured by Zesty Italian Sausage Skillet with Sun-dried Tomato Cornbread Crust topped with baby greens, balsamic dressing and Gorgonzola cheese. I think there's room in there for a gordita or pupusa entry inspired by Las Americas, maybe?