Sunday, March 3, 2013

Boone Tavern Spoon Bread, the 1950s recipe

We have tried spoonbreads (soft, luscious, buttery—described by James Beard as a "heavy, dense soufflé") as Cornbread Supper mainstays before, and used great recipes, but the spoonbreads always did what spoonbreads (and soufflés) do: deflate. Through serendipity, and thanks to a Cornbread Supperian, I lucked into the old Boone Tavern (Berea College) recipe for spoonbread, and it is far less droopy. Perhaps Boone Tavern developed an approach to spoonbread that preserves all its goodness while still working for a busy restaurant. In any case, with thanks to Kentucky food and foodways author and guru John van Willigen, here's an excellent recipe for that can be doubled, tripled, and quadrupled to feed spoonbread to a crowd. It did just that on Monday, February 25, 2013.

From Richard T. Hougen. Look No Further: A cookbook of favorite recipes from Boone Tavern Hotel, Berea College, Kentucky. New York: Abingdon Press. 1955.

Southern Spoon Bread
3 cups milk
1 1/4 cups cornmeal
3 eggs
2 tablespoons butter
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1. Stir meal into rapidly boiling milk. Cook until very thick, stirring constantly, to prevent scorching.
2. Remove from fire and allow to cool. The mixture will be cold and very stiff.
3. Add well-beaten egg, salt, baking powder and melted butter. Beat with electric beater for 15 minutes. If hand beating is used break the hardened cooked meal into the beaten eggs in small amounts until all is well mixed. Then beat thoroughly for 10 minutes using a wooden spoon.
4. Pour into well-greased casserole. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F. Serve from casserole by spoonfuls.

Cooking note: I quadrupled the recipe, used Sunflower Sundries heirloom organic Hickory King cornnmeal (available at Good Foods Market), and made the cornmeal/milk mixture in a crockpot. I mixed the cold milk and cornmeal together, and set the crockpot to cook on high for four hours. I checked it after 2.75 hours, and it was adequately cooked. I let the mixture cool completely and then made the recipe as written.

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