Monday, June 18, 2012

Southern Spoon Bread

Happy Summer! I was on hiatus to bridge that busy time between end-of-school and beginning-of summer with little time to cook! Now that summer is hot and happening, there will plenty of occasions to cook (and dine) like a Mid-Century Modern Woman.

Father's Day 2012. Time for man-food and that is what we did yesterday in honor of the man of the house and great fathers everywhere. Here was the menu:

Grilled Barbecue Ribs
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Southern Spoon Bread
Grilled Vegetables
Brownie Sundaes

The blog opportunity was the Southern Spoon Bread -- a cornmeal-based savory side reminiscent (to me anyway) of a stuffing or dressing to go with grilled meat. According to Wikipedia,
"although (it's) named a "bread", spoon-bread is closer in consistency and taste to many savory puddings, such as Yorkshire pudding. As made by some recipes, spoon-bread is similar to a cornmeal soufflé, although typical Southern recipes do not involve whipping the eggs to incorporate air."

According to Grandma's notebook the Southern Spoon Bread clipping fit this profile exactly -- with whipped egg whites to boot. I can't give anyone credit for the recipe, it was presented in the newspaper clipping anonymously.

Southern Spoon Bread

Stir 2 cups corn meal into 2 1/2 cups boiling water. Cool. Combine 2 cups evaporated milk and 2 T Heinz Vinegar. Add 1 1/2 t salt, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup grated American cheese, 1 t soda, 1/2 t Heinz Worcestershire Sauce. Add corn meal mixture. Blend. Fold in two beaten egg whites. Pour into buttered casserole. Bake in hot oven (425 degrees F) 40 min. Serves 6.

I've had and enjoyed Spoon Bread before but today almost every version I've had has a hint of sugar, corn kernels, creamed corn, and a Jiffy boxed mix. Good stuff really but with the chance to go authentic I was game. My first view of the recipe turned up surprise ingredients -- evaporated milk? Worcestershire? Two plugs for the Heinz company? Gasp -- No BUTTER?? Sorry Paula Deen!

Early on Sunday the weather was in the 70s and I knew the house could withstand the oven heat for an hour or so. I could make this ahead and do the last-minute stove top items at dinner time. I started with the corn meal and boiling water. As soon as the corn meal hit the water I remembered that distinctively corny smell and the time I tried to make cornmeal mush like Ma Ingalls on the stove. It wasn't very good -- even with about a cup of pancake syrup on top. As a child Mom would very kindly indulge my curiosity to make strange, slightly inedible pioneer recipes -- thanks Mom!

After wrapping Father's Day gifts and aiding in preventing a Lego disaster I went back to complete the recipe. In went the evaporated milk ('cooking milk' as the can so gleefuly stated), the salt, egg yolks, et al. For the cheese I wanted something a tad more complex than American cheese so i grabbed a hunk of Colby-Jack -- easier to grate too. I whipped egg whites with a whisk until my arm hurt (Laura Ingalls did this too) and then I combined. The mixture was strangely soupy and I was nervous the resulting slurry wouldn't congeal so I poured it into a 9x13 Pyrex dish. Into the oven -- and it was deeply brown in under 30 minutes. A round casserole would have resulted in a more souffle-like dish but I was happy it was a solid mass at this point. And the house smelled wonderful -- not at all like mush!!

Dinner time! The spoon bread was indeed just like a savory pudding or stuffing. Nicely salty and rich with the ribs. I can't call it an everyday-side-dish but with the right meal it would fit nicely. I could imagine a chunk of ham on top or a square of spoon bread at the bottom of a ham and bean soup. This recipe might just stay in my personal collection.

Soup Can Rating: Four Cans out of Five