Superb Kentucky Spoonbread
Kentucky might as well be Corntucky, given how important the tall Zea mays grass has been to us for centuries. No corn? Then no Bourbon. No corn? Then no cornbread. Of special interest today as we highlight a Kentucky food icon: Without corn we could not have our beloved spoonbread -- and what a loss that would be. We love this soft, dense, "heavy soufflé" that lifts any meal toward celebration status.
Spoonbread is primarily cooked at home. The most locally famous restaurant version starts every diner's evening meal at historic, newly green Boone Tavern, 35 miles/56KM from Lexington in beautiful Berea.
Here are three much-tested recipes for spoonbread, each made quite differently:
- James Beard's "Cornmeal Spoonbread," a quite simple, tasty, semi-heavy approach
- Maria Polushkin Robbins's Spoon Bread recipe, not much more complex, but yielding a considerably lighter soufflé
- Boone Tavern's sturdy, wonderful 1950s version, which rises less and falls less, and so is highly useful for extended meals or uncertain serving times
Three more important Spoonbread facts:
- Spoonbread elegantly and exactly reveals the nature and quality of its ingredients. It's a bare, exposed, open food. Use the very best fresh coarsely ground cornmeal, like a Weisenberger Mill Unbolted White, and perfectly fresh eggs, milk, and butter for best results.
- Spoonbread always falls as soon as it leaves the oven. Don't let your spirits fall with it. It is fabulous after it falls.
- Spoonbread is good warmed up in a toaster oven if you should have a rare bit of leftovers.
- Kentucky sweet sorghum syrup and butter make exquisite toppings. Maple syrup and honey are excellent, too.