Anne Byrn’s Southern Spoonbread
Hands On Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
3 cups whole milk
1 cup white cornmeal
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more softened butter for greasing
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large eggs
Place a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish or 8-cup souffle dish with softened butter.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine the milk and 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and once boiling, slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, whisking, until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, sugar, nutmeg and cayenne. Continue to whisk until the butter melts.
Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a small bowl and the whites in a large stainless steel or glass bowl with a pinch of salt.
Stir about a tablespoon of the cornmeal mixture into the egg yolks. Add the egg yolk mixture to the remaining cornmeal mixture and stir until smooth.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold the beaten whites into the cornmeal mixture until nearly smooth. Transfer to the prepared casserole and smooth the top.
Bake until the spoonbread is golden brown and puffed, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.
About the recipe
In Anne Byrn’s favorite spoonbread recipe, white cornmeal is cooked in milk until very thick, and she uses no flour. Egg yolks are added for richness, and then egg whites are beaten until nearly stiff peaks and folded in carefully. No other leavening is needed. Yes, you have to have the entire meal ready once the spoonbread is in the oven, and yes, you have to spoon into it while steaming hot lest it sink like a souffle. But that is part of the drill. It’s part of the fun of making and serving spoonbread.