The deadline for entries in the contest is Feb. 28, and the Cornbread Cook-Off invites home cooks to submit an original main dish recipe prepared with Martha White cornbread mix and cooked in Lodge Cast Iron cookware. Festival organizers will select the top 10 finalists to prepare their dish live at the festival for judging. The winner receives a $5,000 cash prize, a 30-inch stainless-steel gas range and other special gifts. The second prize winner will receive $1,500, and the third prize winner will receive $1,000. The remaining seven finalists will walk away with $150, and all finalists will receive a $500 travel reimbursement and a gift basket courtesy of Martha White and Lodge Cast Iron.
Nicki Pendelton Wood has judged the contest finals in the past and promises that it's a blast. I've been asked to contribute my cornpone palate to the panel this year, so I'd love the chance to sample some Bitesters' wares. For complete details, rules and to complete the entry form for the contest, visit MarthaWhite.com.
Even if you don't want to cook, the National Cornbread Festival is a fun family event with arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, all-day entertainment, a children’s corner, agriculture displays, a historic tour of homes via a double-decker bus and a full midway-style carnival. There's also a big pancake breakfast and a 5K run scheduled during the weekend, and you can visit Cornbread Alley, where customers buy and sample nine different cornbread dishes. For a complete event listing, visit the festival website.
To get your creative juices flowing and maybe help you plan supper tonight, here's the winning recipe from 2011:
Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin
First Prize Winner, 2011 National Cornbread Cook-Off
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 pound Swiss chard, stems removed, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
1 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups low-sodium beef stock
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (6.5 oz.) package Martha White Yellow Cornbread Mix
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Heat Lodge 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Add onions and sugar to bacon drippings. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add chard, white beans, bacon, vinegar and red pepper. Add beef stock and water. Bring to a low simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix together cornbread mix, egg, butter and milk until blended. Fold in cheese cubes. Spoon over simmering soup. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with metal spoon, breaking through cheese crust and scooping soup and cornbread into deep bowls.
Makes 8 servings