Spoonbread. So soft! So Franco-Southern! So awesome.
I've only made it a handful of times, but by try two, I had a formula I liked. Lots of milk (whole, local), sharp cheddar (hoop, local), and chives make for a bit of a deviation, but a tasty one. I hear there are mammy's in Kentucky that would frown on such alterations, but hey, I'm anti-establishment. Oh yeah - you know that old superstition about opening the oven door whilst your souffle is baking? It'll collapse on ya if it's spoonbread too. So beware.
I don't use whole kernel corn in my 'bread - weighs it down. You want the cloud effect, so whole, hard, heavy veggies is a no go. Leave those for the stew or ragu you'll be making in accompaniment.
Mini Spoonbreads with Garden Stew and Chive Poached Eggs
For the spoonbread, you'll need:
1 cup corn meal, stone ground, fine
3 cups water
1 cup grated cheddar
1 tsp salt
1 tbl sugar
2 tablespoons chopped chives
4 large eggs, divided
4 tablespoons butter, plus more for pan prep
For the stew, you'll need:
1 cup of whatever you have on hand from the garden - I used 1/2 cup fresh butter beans and 1/2 green beans
Two large heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and roasted (see procedure here)
1/2 cup whiskey (local)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon honey (local)
4 cloves heirloom garlic
1 small vidalia onion, chopped
2 cups water
2 tablespoons (or more) herbs from your garden - more chives, tarragon, and a teeny bit of sage used here
Salt to taste
For the eggs, you'll need:
6 large farmstead eggs
2 tablespoons chives
2 tablespoons melted butter or oil
6 squares of saran wrap
6 3 inch lengths of butcher's twine
Let's do this.
Melt yer butter in a dutch oven or small stew pot. Toss in your onions, garlic, and any tough veggie you're using (like green beans). Saute until onions are translucent. Add your whiskey, cook for 3-4 minutes, until it's reduced a bit. Add herbs, honey, water, and your chopped, roasted tomatoes. Add beans. Cover and simmer while you prepare your 'bread.
Preheat yer oven to 350f.
You're going to want to use the finest, freshest corn meal you can get your hands on, like this stuff:
Heat your milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it starts to bubble around the edges. Whisk in your corn meal, stirring constantly, and cook until the consistency is thick and creamy (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in your cheese and butter, and add your egg yolks. Stir until just combined. Set aside.
Prepare a muffin tin by buttering each depression generously.
Beat your egg whites in a small bowl until they form stiff peaks. Fold 1/2 of the whites into the corn meal mix, then fold in the rest. Carefully ladle the mix into each muffin tin, filling each to the top. Garnish with chopped herbs, if you so desire. Put in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops are just browning. Leave that oven door closed!
To make the eggs:
I saw this neat trick on Chow. They're calling it Egg Sous Vide, I'm going with Easy Poaching. Using a small ramekin for egg-holding, brush each piece of plastic with a little melted butter or oil and scatter about 1/2 tsp of chives over the center. Put the plastic in the ramekin, letting the sides hang over, and crack an egg into the plastic. Gather sides carefully, and tie, tightly, with your butcher's twine. Bring a shallow pot of water to boil, carefully put your packaged eggs in, and boil for 4 minutes, until just set. You can remove the eggs (still wrapped) to a bowl of warm water to wait while you plate the rest of the food.
To serve, ladle some stew into the center of each plate. Spoon three spoonbreads atop the pile, breaking them open a bit. Ladle a little more stew on top, carefully unwrap two - three eggs per plate, and place them atop the spoonbreads. Yum!