Cornbread and Buttermilk Soup

Now this is a first for me!

In my opinion, Rhubarb restaurant is one of the best we dined at while visiting in Asheville last year.

The recipe for their Buttermilk Soup with Cornbread (the cornbread is actually crumbled in the soup and pureed) appeared in Garden and Gun magazine a while back and I couldn’t resist trying it. Although, my first instinct was “yuck” I read the recipe and thought I should give it a try before turning the page on yet another recipe that I might have liked if only I’d given it a chance.

I’ve probably told this story before and if I have maybe you didn’t read it. My grandfather loved buttermilk and it wasn’t the low-fat kind it was the kind that was full fat and came out in big blobs when poured into his glass. Now that doesn’t sound appetizing at all and it certainly doesn’t make you want to run to the store to buy some buttermilk to make this soup. Anyway, he would pour his thick buttermilk into his goblet type glass and then he would crumble his cornbread in the glass and eat this with a spoon.

Maybe the chef at Rhubarb Restaurant had a grandparent who loved buttermilk and just happened to put cornbread in it and this is how this recipe came about.

We decided to do a modern take on some Southern menu items for our Friday night dinner after Thanksgiving. So, in memory of my grandfather, I made the Buttermilk Soup with Cornbread as an amuse bouche for my contribution to the night’s menu. My little espresso cups worked perfect for the soup I wasn’t sure anyone would like — they surprised me and said they liked the soup. A little twang but different and good, especially with the cornbread sticks and topped with some fried pork belly.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: This little Pepperoni Stuffed Olive is an appetizer I use to make at least a hundred of for parties when I catered. It’s like eating a mini antipasto plate in one bite.


Cornbread ready to go in the oven.


Sweet the leeks until almost translucent.


Add the chicken broth to the soup and then the crumbled cornbread. Then this get blend using a blender or stick blender.


I had chilled the soup after blended and right before serving I added the room temperature buttermilk and heated gently; do not boil.


Pour the heated soup into small cups or bowls and garnish with either some bacon crumbs, green onions or some more crumbled cornbread.


I couldn’t resist crumbling my little bread stick into the cup of soup.

Cornbread and Buttermilk Soup
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  1. Cornbread
  2. 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  3. ¾ tsp. salt
  4. 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  5. 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. 1 oz. melted butter
  9. Soup
  10. 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  11. 2 stalks celery, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  12. 3/4 cup leeks, washed and sliced in ¼ inch half moons
  13. 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  14. 6 cups chicken stock
  15. 1 ¼ cups cornbread, crumbled
  16. 3 cups room-temperature buttermilk
  17. Salt and pepper
  18. ½ cup heavy cream (optional)
For cornbread
  1. Preheat an 8-inch cast-iron pan in a 400-degree oven. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, and buttermilk, eggs, and butter in another. Then combine both wet and dry ingredients and mix well to form a batter. Add bacon fat to the skillet, swirl to melt, then add batter and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove, cool, and set aside for soup.
For Soup
  1. Heat peanut oil in a heavy bottomed saucepot and sweat celery and leeks until translucent. Add garlic. Sauté for 1 minute more, then add chicken stock, cornbread, salt, and pepper. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in batches, using a variable-speed Vitamix or short pulses in a standard blender to avoid an explosion. Combine buttermilk and heavy cream. If storing soup for use the next day, whisk in buttermilk/cream mixture and let cool. If serving soup immediately, return pureed soup base to sauce pot, whisk in buttermilk mixture, and gently bring to serving temperature. Real buttermilk does not like to be heated above 180 degrees, so be careful. Check seasoning and serve.
Adapted from John Fleer, Rhubarb Restaurant, Asheville, NC
Adapted from John Fleer, Rhubarb Restaurant, Asheville, NC
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