Made souffle-like with folded-in egg whites, spoonbread is gussied-up cornbread that Southerners offer to special guests. This version uses corn chips instead of cornmeal to endow the bread with heartier flavor and texture. By all means, add a cupful of fresh corn to the vegetable mix if available. To save calories, substitute 2 cups tomato puree for the cream. Serve this dish with some arugula or mizuna, dressed only with a drizzle of olive oil, a drop of balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper.
- For the vegetables
- 1 pound beet greens or Swiss chard, stems removed and well cleaned
- 20 whole, peeled cloves garlic
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 to 4 cups (from 1 small head) cauliflower florets
- 1/2 pound yellow squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices
- 8 ounces mixed wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini or oyster, stemmed and sliced
- 1 bunch large-bulbed scallions, trimmed to retain 1 inch of the green part
- 1 package (5 ounces) Boursin cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the spoonbread
- 2 ounces corn tortilla chips, preferably organic
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups milk (may substitute 2 percent milk)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
For the vegetables: Place the beet greens or Swiss chard in a gallon-size resealable food storage bag and seal the bag three-quarters of the way. Microwave the greens on high for 2 minutes or until completely wilted. Place the greens in a colander, rinse with cold water, then squeeze all of the water out of them. Set aside.
Place the garlic and cream in a large, microwave-proof glass bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and oregano and set aside.
In a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the cauliflower and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the squashes and cook, stirring, for 1 more minute. Add the leeks, mushrooms, scallions and the reserved garlic mixture. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the Boursin cheese and beet greens and salt and pepper to taste. Cover loosely with foil and let the vegetables cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
For the spoonbread: In a food processor or blender, process the tortilla chips until they are pulverized (you should have about 1 cup). Transfer the pulverized chips to a small bowl and add the flour, sugar, salt and pepper and mix to combine. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add the milk and scald it (until a thin skin appears on the surface). With a whisk, slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until it is fully incorporated. Allow the mixture to cool for 20 minutes, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time to fully incorporate. Add the Parmesan cheese and set aside.
With a hand-held or stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Stir about one-quarter of the whites into the corn mixture to loosen it. Fold in the remaining whites until no traces of white are visible. Spread the batter over the cooled vegetables and bake until the spoonbread is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes (a knife inserted into the spoonbread should come out clean). Serve the cobbler in soup plates with some of the cooking liquids spooned over the top.
Adapted from chef and former restaurateur David Hagedorn.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
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