Serious Eats: Recipes

Classic Cookbooks: Spoonbread

Book CoverWhile your other correspondents were dolled up and hobnobbing at the Beard Awards Sunday night, I was just a few blocks and a world away, wearing an old Mexican dress and perusing The James Beard Cookbook. I thought I should try one of his hors d’oeuvres, since I was reading about all the party food and his first book was about canapés; when he was a young and struggling actor, he would cater parties to make ends meet, in which enterprise he met much more success than he ever did on the stage. I was delighted to find his recipe for chili con queso—where did an Oregon-raised New Yorker come up with that? Unfortunately his recipe is based on a white sauce. Has anyone ever made this recipe, or is anyone willing to try and report back? I want to hear about it but am afraid they’d take away my native-Texan card if I made queso with white sauce.

I decided instead to make spoonbread, which far exceeded my expectations. While I was awaiting something porridgey like grits, or something airy like soufflé (since the recipe is also called cornbread soufflé), this resembled a substantial, sliceable custard. It had all the sweet, buttery, corny taste of cornbread, but even my favorite cornbread recipe has nothing on this spoonbread when it comes to moistness and texture. With no sugar at all and only one egg and one tablespoon of butter per serving (not so bad), it was still wonderfully rich, like dessert posing as part of dinner. I served it with bacony collard greens and was in heaven.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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