Not quite bread, not quite pudding, spoonbread is a southern classic and an addictive side dish, perfect for
probably every bbq meal. Or any meal at all. The primary differences between spoonbread and cornbread are moisture and cooking technique.
Before getting into the specific differences between cornbread and spoon bread, I want to take a few minutes and talk about what makes corn bread good. Good means NOT dry, NOT flavorless and not crumbly. I believe that too many cornbread recipes found on the internet result in very dry and bland bread. Not by the author’s fault; I’m sure the recipes have made by the authors many times and through experience, they have developed a ‘feel’ for the bread. They know by sight and touch when the batter is ready, when it needs a little more liquid, when it’s worked enough, and so on. Experience matters, and the subtle touches cannot be learned through an internet recipe.
This is an internet recipe.
Therefore I will not try to describe the subtle nuances. Flavor and moisture come from a couple places. First, do not use water, milk, or cream. Buttermilk will add all the flavor and moisture you will need. Second, and I hate saying this, but in this particular case, fat equals flavor (and moisture). Add melted butter, and don’t go light. Do not use margarine, shortening, whipped butter, lard, or any substitute. Use real, unsalted, organic high quality butter. And last, don’t be afraid to add bits of savory items to the bread. Add a little grated cheese, bacon bits, scallions, whole sweet corn kernels. These are the things that have authentic flavor and will transform your bread into something wonderful.
My spoonbread recipe is nothing more than a glorified cornbread recipe, with a lot of delicious savory items, cooked in a skillet. The batter is a little tighter than traditional cornbread and the end result is a little denser. By no means does dense mean dry. It’s moist, flavorful, delicious and remarkably easy.
Buttermilk Spoonbread with Cheddar and Bacon
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 portions
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup organic stone ground cornmeal (bob’s red mill is perfect)
1/2 cup unbleached organic flour
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter, gently melted
1/2 bunch scallions, very thin sliced
1 cup mild yellow cheddar, grated
3 slices bacon, crisped and crumbled (save the drippings)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 red bell pepper, pith removed, very small dice
2 large organic eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Heat your oven to 400 and make sure you have a rack in the center of the oven. In a mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugar together until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well. Continue to whisk until light and smooth. Add the buttermilk and whisk until combined. Add all the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder and salt and gently stir to combine. It’s very important not to whisk this. Overworking the batter can develop glutens which will make the bread tough. The batter should be thick. Add the peppers, scallions, bacon, bacon drippings, and cheese. Stir gently to combine everything.
Heat an iron skillet or oven safe straight-sided saute pan over medium high heat. Add the vegetable oil. Using a large kitchen spoon, add the batter to the pan spoon full at a time. In the end the pan will be completely full. The point of adding the batter spoonful at time is to give the hot oil a chance to work into the batter, adding another element of flavor and texture.
Let the batter cook on the stove top for about 2 minutes, or until you see the bottom becoming light golden brown. Transfer the pan to the hot oven and let cook for about about 25 minutes, or until the middle is set. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Flip the pan onto a cutting board or plate. Slice into wedges.
Best served with any southern style meal or bbq.