Old Virginia Spoon Bread
My mother used to make Spoon Bread occasionally when I was a child, and it was always a hit. Her recipe was somehow lost or forgotten over time, and nobody in the family gave it another thought. A few years ago I was in a cafeteria-style restaurant in Norfolk, VA and saw that it was on the menu. Remembering my Mother’s spoon bread from my childhood, I ordered it. I slathered butter on the steaming custardy, pudding-like puff and was instantly transformed to another world. I dreamed about that spoonbread for months, and bid Norfolk layovers just so I could eat spoonbread. I found, however, that my restaurant only occasionally had spoonbread on the menu or was sold out by the time I arrived—a big disappointment—but even worse, the restaurant soon went out of business (I suspect because they were always out of spoonbread!); I was devastated! I poured over cookbooks trying to find a recipe that was as good as what I had eaten in that Norfolk cafeteria. Finally, after months of “spoonbread marathons” where I would prepare several different recipes to taste test with my family and friends, we found the following recipe which, is actually better than that defunct Norfolk restaurant and is actually worth dreaming about!
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
3 cups milk, divided
1 tablespoon butter
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 400°. Butter a 1 1/2-quart soufflé or baking dish.
Stir the cornmeal and 2 cups of the milk together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is the thickness of mashed potatoes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining milk and the butter.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the salt, sugar, and baking powder. Whisk into the cornmeal mixture and pour into the prepared dish.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the spoon bread is firm when shaken gently. Serve with butter. You may also serve drizzled with warm maple syrup.