A well-made spoonbread is haute cuisine cooking with corn. There are lots of recipes for spoonbread, but many of them are not much more than a version of cornbread. The version I love is more like a cornmeal soufflé, and baking one requires many of the methods and techniques used to make a soufflé. According to Bernard Clayton in his classic, The Complete Book of Breads, spoonbread was developed by accident in colonial Virginia when a batch of cornbread was forgotten. To me, that seems likely to be apocryphal because spoonbread – at least this recipe – uses entirely different techniques from cornbread.
When we were dating, my wife, Susan, often made spoonbread at my request. She had many special dishes that proved she was a great cook, but without a doubt, spoonbread was one of her major achievements. After our children became old enough to have favorite foods, spoonbread was one of them, so much so that Susan sometimes made two separate spoonbreads for one meal.
During our most recent visit to East Texas, Susan made spoonbread for her brother, sister, and brother-in-law. I flew in for a late dinner, and all I got was a dab. That was better than nothing, though, and many a late diner has missed out on Susan’s spoonbread.
Some recipes call for added cheese. This version gilds the lily with added ham, mushroom duxelles, and scallions. The cheese can be added by serving the spoonbread with Mornay sauce. You don’t have to add all of those things. The basic model is good enough to keep you coming back for more.
For this post, I combined the dressed up spoonbread with fresh asparagus and braised lamb shanks – both go well with Mornay sauce.
Ham and Scallion Spoonbread
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup milk
- 3 extra-large eggs, separated
- ½ cup cooked Black Forest ham, finely chopped
- ¼ cup finely diced sautéed mushroom duxelles, squeezed dry
- ¼ cup scallions, finely chopped, including the green tops
- In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the cornmeal and milk. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until the cornmeal is soft.
- Remove the cooked cornmeal from the heat. Then stir in the salt, baking powder, melted butter and additional milk.
- Beat the egg yolks until foamy. Stir into the cornmeal mixture. Mix well to reduce lumps – you won’t be able to get rid of all of them.
- Stir in the chopped ham, mushrooms, and scallions.
- Beat the separated egg whites to form stiff peaks. By thirds, fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture. Do not beat.
- Pour the batter into a greased two-quart soufflé dish and bake for 1 hour in the middle of an oven preheated to 325°F (163°C).
- Serve immediately while the spoonbread is still puffed.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup grated Swiss cheese
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- juice of ½ lemon
- In a 2 quart saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat
- Stir in the flour and cook for several minutes to remove the raw flour taste.
- Add the half and half, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese until it is completely melted.
- Stir in the lemon zest and juice and adjust seasonings.
- Keep warm until ready to serve with the spoonbread.