Usually, spoonbread is made with cornmeal. But in this recipe, country-style grits add a nice texture. Cook the grits until they are creamy and just pulling away from the sides of the pot.
Make Ahead: The sweet potato-grits mixture can be made 1 day in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before assembling the dish for baking.
- For the sweet potatoes
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup good-quality maple syrup
- For the grits
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 1/4 cups stone-ground grits or regular grits (not instant)
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- To assemble
- 3 large eggs, separated
For the sweet potatoes: Place the sweet potato chunks in a large pot and cover with water; add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain and puree using a food mill or ricer held over a large mixing bowl. Fold in the remaining teaspoon of salt, then the white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and maple syrup. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the grits: Combine the water and garlic in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot; bring to a boil over high heat, then add the butter, salt and cayenne pepper, if using. Gradually whisk in the grits; return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low or low and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the grits look creamy but individual grains are still apparent. Remove from the heat and fold in the cream until thoroughly combined. (At this point, the mixture can be cooled to tepid, then transferred to an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 day, until you are ready to assemble the dish.)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish with nonstick cooking oil spray.
In a large bowl, combine the spiced sweet potato puree with the grits. Add the egg yolks and stir to mix well. Set aside.
To assemble: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bowl using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites for several minutes on medium speed until frothy, then on high speed until soft peaks form; gently fold into the sweet potato puree-grits mixture (some streaks of white may remain). Spread the lightened mixture in the prepared casserole, creating some swirls on top. Bake for about 35 minutes or until it has just set and the top is lightly browned. Serve hot or warm.
Adapted from "How to Cook a Turkey and All the Other Trimmings," from the editors and contributors of Fine Cooking magazine (Taunton, 2007).
Tested by Hal Mehlman.
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