Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Le Pigeon's Famous Cornbread Cake

I may live in Los Angeles, but my heart still belongs to Portland, OR. You can count on many mentions throughout the life of this little outpost. The main reason? Portland dining RULES.
My last trip to Portland had many near-perfect dining moments.. But one dessert might have taken the cake - literally.
Portland's culinary darling de jour Le Pigeon has been making some serious waves since it opening in a small storefront on Burnside, in the shadow of the Jupiter Hotel/Doug Fir complex. The trucker cap-wearing hipster chef Gabriel Rucker would look more at home on stage with MSTRKRFT than behind a line, but obviously revels in his slacker-chic in-your-face style of loudly entertaining while serving up the most delicious food in the hood.
Le Pigeon is a tiny bistro, and after my 2 hour wait ended up at a cramped counter spot facing the 3-in-a-hole open kitchen. As we ordered our entrees, Chef Rucker shouted to the house (all of one small room) that there was only one cornbread cake left. My server got a stricken look and I knew this was some secret I wasn't in on yet, so turned to the man and said it was taken. The moustached Rucker grinned at me and promised I treat i wouldn't soon forget. He was right.
The delicious short rib I had that night pales in my memory now compared to the rich "dessert". This delcious fluffy buttery cake is served warm drizzled with maple syrup, dappled with juicy diced bacon and apricots, and topped with a scoop of house-made maple ice cream. Every part of your tongue is exercised tasting this treasure..

Thank goodness for the New York Times. Within a week of my return to LA, this article and recipe was forwarded to me - Apparently I am not the only person who raves about this dessert. If you don't forsee a trip to Portland or Le Pigeon in your immediate future but are dying to indulge, try your hand at this simplified recipe yourself!

Cornbread Cake
Adapted from Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon, Portland, OR
Time: 1 hour

Butter for greasing pan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, more for dusting pan
3 slices bacon, diced small
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) thinly sliced dried apricots
Maple ice cream

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch-square baking pan; set aside. In a large skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels; reserve.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk to blend, then mound and make a well in the center. Pour in eggs, buttermilk and milk; stir with a fork until lightly combined.
3. Add honey, molasses, apricots and bacon bits. Mix again until evenly combined. Pour into pan and bake until it has risen and center is firm and dry when a toothpick is inserted, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool, then cut into small squares and serve with a dollop of maple ice cream on top.

Yield: One 8-inch square cake (12 servings)


  1. Cher Redacteur,
    I found your story on this Cornbread Cake so intriguing I put it on I Love Cornbread (http://cornbreadlove.ning.com/). I imagine it will surprise many and draw a few people to your blog as well.
    Merci mille fois,


  2. I will never forget that night. Or any single lick of that divinity. We should try and recreate it! Seriously. Whadda say? Do I smell a bake-slash-blog off?