Saturday, September 13, 2008

Craig Claibourne's Sunflower, MS Spoonbread

"Craig Claiborne was the pioneering food editor of the New York Times food section, having started it in 1957. Claiborne was originally from Sunflower, Mississippi, where his mother and the family's cooks served up this basic soufflé-style cornbread." Adapted from The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon.

Craig Claiborne was one of my early influences. I read the food section in the Sunday Times religiously, and bought the Chinese Cookbook Craig wrote with Virginia Lee while I was still in high school, determined to teach myself how to cook. Wish I had known him.


Vegetable oil cooking spray
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sifted stone-ground yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 350°F, and spray a deep 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish with oil.

2. Bring the milk to a boil in a medium saucepan, preferably nonstick. Gradually pour in the cornmeal with one hand, whisking with the other, creating a very thick mixture. Reduce heat; add the butter and salt. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring almost constantly, for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the cooked mush from the stove; transfer it to a medium-size heat-proof bowl. Let the mush cool to lukewarm, about 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a small bowl and the whites in a large, high-sided, nonplastic bowl. When the mush is lukewarm, beat yolks vigorously with a fork, then whip baking powder into them and quickly mix yolks into the mush, making sure yolk mixture is thoroughly incorporated.

5. Beat egg whites until stiff and glossy. Gently fold them into mush; transfer batter to prepared baking dish.

6. Bake until a knife inserted into center comes out barely clean, about 40 minutes. The spoonbread will have risen slightly, and its top will be irregular, with small deeply golden-brown patches. Serve immediately.

Serves 6

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