september 26, 2014
Spoonbread is the ultimate Southern comfort food. Served hot from the oven with a generous dollop of soft butter, it satisfies. Creamy and hot, and quite possibly made from locally milled cornmeal, spoonbread can be made plain jane, with sweet milk or buttermilk, studded with kernels of fresh corn or with any number of variations like the pumpkin spoonbread currently on the fall menus of The Good Eats Company.
The word soufflé can strike fear in the heart of even the most dauntless chef or home cook. Failure to rise. Lumpen appearance. Gritty texture. Their mercurial nature makes soufflés poor candidates for make-ahead prep; they must be served right away, and like all things that go up, they must come down, and sometimes before they are presented.
I don’t miss soufflés on restaurant menus because I never much cared for super fluffy foods that lack a certain heft – too airy for my taste. But I do love a good spoonbread, and retooling my favorite vintage recipe to resemble a towering soufflé, while bringing it down to earth with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, suited me (and my tasters) just fine.
Fine in texture and nutty in flavor, it makes the perfect cornbread (I use it to make the skillet cornbread for Little House Green Grocery’s Sunday Suppers) and heavenly spoonbread. Since the late 18th century, the millstones of Woodson’s Mill have used water power from the Piney River to grind corn and other grains, providing sustainable, preservative-free products sold locally and beyond. This quick and easy bread (don’t be put off by the electric mixer) makes a great breakfast entree and would make a fine accompaniment to entrees like chicken with wild mushrooms and carrot and chorizo sausage with lentils and tomato.
Here is your weekend recipe for southern comfort, y’all. Enjoy!
parmesan spoonbread souffle
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
four eggs, separated, at room temperature
2 cups milk, preferably whole
1 cup white cornmeal
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons baking powder
- Preheated oven to 350 degrees and butter four 10 ounce oven ready ramekins.
- In heavy two quart saucepan, bring milk to scalding (just to the boiling point) and gradually whisk in cornmeal to avoid lumps.
- Over low heat, whisk frequently and cook until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Whisk in butter, salt and sugar.
- Off heat, whisk in egg yolks.
- With electric mixer, beat egg whites just until peaks begin to form.
- Whisk parmesan cheese into cornmeal mix, then gently whisk in baking powder just until incorporated.
- With spatula, gently fold in about one third of the beaten egg whites, then gently add the rest until just combined – okay to see a few streaks of egg white.
- Working quickly, divide mixture between the ramekins and bake 20 minutes or until puffed and very lightly golden.
- Serve immediately with lots of good butter.
- eggs are easiest to separate while still chilled, but room temperature whites whip better
- have all ingredients at room temp to avoid shocking or stiffening the cornmeal mixture
- whip the egg whites just until they begin to hold peaks – overbeating gives a grainy texture
- add part of the whites gently to lighten the cornmeal mixture, then gently add the rest, folding with a spatula and avoid whisking
- baking powder, your leavening agent, is called double acting because it starts working when liquid is added, and when heat is applied; work quickly once baking powder is added to your recipe – letting mixtures sit on the counter will decrease rising power