Photo: Mina Stone

“My sculptures and culinary installations—they’re seductive ideas and something you want to participate in—but they’re difficult spaces to inhabit.” –Hugh Hayden

When I first met Hugh, I was putting on my jacket to leave. I was uncomfortable and upset. As I walked by him, he looked me straight in the eye and asked me what my experience of his artwork was like.

In the hustle and bustle of New York City, the earnestness of that question and the conversation that ensued has stayed with me ever since. I knew Hugh would be thoughtful and eloquent when speaking about his relationship to food and cooking, especially since those themes are such an integral part of his art practice. Hugh’s art makes me process and think—about society, environment, race, class, and in his own words, “the idea of the unattainable American Dream.”

You don’t really know me if you haven’t had my cornbread.... None of my best friends could say they’ve never had my cornbread.

Hugh Hayden

Treasured recipes carry a sense of intimacy, which we share with those we care for. Delicious, confident, and often straightforward, our go-to recipes for friends and family are like our best selves—a perfect combination of what we like, and what we think others will like. Hugh mentioned that he spent months perfecting this recipe, a re-creation of a cornbread he loved from a shop in Dallas, Texas, where he grew up. It is neither “too moist or too dry,” and is comfortingly sweet and familiar. He’s never served it without someone asking for the recipe.

Cornbread Pudding
Serves 6–8

1 stick of butter at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1 (8 1/2 ounce) box Jiffy brand cornbread mix
1/2 (14 1/2 ounce) can creamed corn
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Hugh’s note: You can adjust the amount of sugar to your desired sweetness.

Add the sour cream to the butter and sugar mixture and whisk until fully incorporated. Lightly beat the egg and mix into the butter mixture. Add the creamed corn and drained whole kernel corn and mix to combine. Gradually sprinkle the cornbread mix over the butter mixture and mix gently until incorporated.

Hugh’s note: Don’t over-mix it!

Fold in the dried cranberries.

Pour the batter into an 8 × 8″ buttered pan or a 9″ cast iron skillet and bake the cornbread pudding for 55–65 minutes—until the crust is golden brown.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Hugh’s note: It’s best when it has time to cool to room temperature, but warm is always nice.