Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spoon bread à la Nicole with tomato provençale

On Sunday mornings in Harlem, New York lines wind around several street corners for those waiting to get into the Abyssinian Gospel Church. One of the times my friends and I lined up to go to this church, the church filled up before we got in. So what did we do?  We went to a great little restaurant serving Southern brunch. Despite having lived in Texas, that was my first taste of spoon bread - not at all a bread, but a cross somewhere between a soufflé and cornbread and polenta.

Spoon bread is one of those home-cooking recipes that has as many variations as there are families living in the South. It seems everyone has their secret ingredient or method of turning out a truly fantastic crusty, yet soft spoon bread. I didn't grow up in a spoon bread eating family, but after last night. M's & my family will be.

At its most basic, spoon bread is cornmeal, milk and eggs. However, there are lots of variations with things like buttermilk, corn, or onions and cheese thrown in. Besides being easy, this is the great thing about this recipe. It's a great way to use up leftovers. In fact the original recipe, called for 1 cup of cooked rice or millet. It seems I always have at least a cup of rice left over after I cook and I never know what to do with it. Now I do!


I really encourage you to be creative with this recipe. Make it à la Mexican, à la Italian, make it plain & serve with a green salad for hot summer days, pour a hearty mushroom sauce on top in the winter, fry some in a pan for breakfast the next morning. I think some green chilies, Monterrey jack cheese and a salsa poured on top would be delish!

I served mine with Tomato Provençale--otherwise known as breadless garlic bread. That'll be the recipe for the next post.

Spoon bread à la Nicole

Inspired by:  Joy of Cooking, 1975 ed., Rice or millet spoon bread, p. 629, and the little voices in my own head.
Notes: This is a very flexible batter; add to it as you want or leave it plain with just corn and cornmeal.  Feel free to substitute other cooked grains than rice or millet. If you use buttermilk instead of regular milk, add in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
Prep time: 5 - 10 min; depending on if you want to chop some veggies and onions
Cooking time: 1 hour; in the oven.
Servings: 6


Basic spoon bread & cooked grains
1-2 cups / ~200-400g of cooked rice or millet
1/4 cup / ~40 g cornmeal
2 cups / 0.5 L milk
1 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons of melted butter or olive oil
spoon bread à la Nicole
1 bunch of green onions
1 medium red bell pepper
~1/4 cup / 50g mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 177°C / 350°F.

Wash the vegetables. Chop off the roots of the green onions and coarsely chop the remainder along the diagonal. Remove the top of the bell pepper and clean out the ribs and seed inside, discard. Chop the pepper into small pieces. Shred or dice the mozzarella. Combine vegetables and cheese with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine well. Pour into a large oven-safe dish. (I found the 2 tablespoons of olive oil enough to not have it stick to my glass dish, but you may want to lightly grease it first.) Stir again so that the ingredients are evenly spread.  

Place in oven, uncovered for 50-60 minutes until the top is crispy and brown. Cool slightly before serving.

Serve with Tomato Provençale, a mushroom sauce, a green or tomato salad.
© 2010 Nicole

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