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~Lovin' Spoonful: Buttermilk 'n Cheddar Spoonbread~

IMG_3362Spoonbread is a Southern dish and is believed to be Native American in origin, which makes sense, since the Native Americans were the culinary masters of cooking with maiz/maize (corn and its byproducts).  If you've never eaten spoonbread, it is a savory side-dish.  Calling it a bread is a stretch because it is a moist, ever-so-slightly grainy, custardy concoction with a crispy top.  It gets served in the container it was baked, and, is eaten with a spoon, hence the name.  I liken it to a combination of cornmeal-based polenta, cornbread casserole and cornmeal souffle!

MusaTaking a drive down memory lane, the first time I ever tasted spoonbread was in 1986, it was somewhere in Eastern Tennessee and we were just "passing through". About 20 of us from our PSU tailgate group were traveling to a football game in Tuscaloosa, AL.  We stopped at a diner, where I ordered 'smothered' pork chops (pork chops smothered in a savory onion gravy) served with spoonbread and collard greens.  It was the pork chops I was curious  to try -- it was the spoonbread I fell in love with! 

Over the years I've dabbled with many spoonbread recipes, and, I like the traditional ones the best.  They start with a base of milk or buttermilk, butter, salt and pepper cooked with white or yellow cornmeal until thickened.  Beaten egg yolks get whisked into the cooled mixture.  Lastly, whipped egg whites get gently folded in, which gives spoonbread its signature souffle-like texture. Some options include adding minced chives, onion and/or other herbs and spices, along with cooked and chopped ham or sausage and/or grated cheddar cheese!

IMG_3261My mom lives in Eastern, Pa and gets an Allentown newspaper:  The Morning Call.  In it, comes a monthly mini-magazine insert called Relish, which is also a foodie website:  While my mom doesn't particularly love to cook, she diligently saves and clips all things food related for me. Everytime I visit, I return home with an interesting folder of food related reading, and, Relish is one of the things I look forward to.  I can't say I save them all, but, I do save the ones that "tickle my fancy".  On the cover of the September issue of Relish, there was a gorgeous picture of spoonbread, which immediately caught my attention and more than tickled my fancy!

With minimal tweeking, here's my version of their* recipe:

IMG_32831 1/2  cups buttermilk

1/2  cup yellow or white cornmeal, preferably stone-ground

2  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

3  large eggs, separated and at room temperature

1/4  cup very thinly-sliced green onion, white and light green parts only

1/2  cup finely-grated white or yellow cheddar cheese

additional butter for preparing souffle dish or ramekins

* Original recipe by Nancy Vienneau, a food writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

IMG_3289~ Step 1.  Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 1-quart souffle dish, or, 4, 1-cup individual-sized ramekins.  Set aside.

Note:  A souffle dish is a casserole with straight, deep sides that facilitates rising.  Ramekins are individual-sized souffle dishes. Both are ovenproof and come in a variety of sizes, so, always be sure you are using the right size.  To measure the volume, fill the dish to the "fill line": the indentation around the perimeter just below the top of the dish.  Pour water into a measuring container:  that's the volume!

IMG_3295~  Step 2.  In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, whisking almost constantly, warm the buttermilk until steaming, not simmering or boiling, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the cornmeal.  

IMG_3303Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, creamy and smooth, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.

IMG_3310 IMG_3305~ Step 3. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter, salt, white pepper and optional cayenne pepper, until the butter is completely melted and incorporated.  Remove from heat, partially cover and allow to cool to slightly warm, about 45 minutes.

IMG_3312 IMG_3314 IMG_3318 IMG_3321





 ~Step 4.  Whisk in the egg yolks, then, stir in the green onions and grated cheddar cheese.  

IMG_3337 IMG_3340~ Step 5.  In a medium mixing bowl using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2-2 minutes.  

A little at a time, in about four parts, gently fold the egg whites into the cornmeal mixture, folding VERY gently to avoid deflating the egg whites.  Transfer the mixture to the buttered souffle dish(es).

IMG_3360 IMG_3348                                          ~ Step 6. Bake on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, 28-32 minutes, or until puffed through to the center, golden brown and set.  

Remove from oven, place on the table and serve immediately.  While the spoonbread will not be at any loss for flavor if you wait a moment, it will begin to deflate rather quickly!

IMG_3392This recipe really did taste as good as it looked on their cover!

IMG_3412Lovin' Spoonful:  Buttermilk 'n Cheddar Spoonbread:  Recipes yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup souffle dish, or, 4, 1-cup ramekins; cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; whisk; large spoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula

IMG_2850Cook's Note:   For another creamy, velvety-smooth Fall comfort food you might want to try my recipe for ~ Color Me Fall:  An Autumn Butternut Squash Puree ~ in Categories 1, 4, 15, 18 or 20!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2013) 


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