I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the home of peaches, cornbread and sweet tea. I left on my third birthday and didn’t return to the south ’til college. Even though I didn’t grow up there, the cuisine has always attracted me.
In fact, when I started cooking on my own, southern food was some of the first I taught myself. I mastered biscuits not because my grandmother made them but because I loved eating them so very much. I soon discovered Edna Mae and devoured her cookbooks. Inevitably I came across a recipe for spoonbread. I fell in love with its pudding-like, spongy texture and the flavor was out of this world.
This spoonbread begins a bit differently. I begin by charring fresh corn and pasilla chiles. The corn is cut off the kernels and then blended with milk, resulting in a delicious corn milk that may tempt you to drink it. Don’t. A smooth corn grit mixture is made and spiked with cheese, diced pasilla chiles and more charred corn kernels. The egg yolks are added, while the stiff egg whites are folded in.
The entire mixture is baked resulting in a creamy, fluffy, sort-of-spicy spoonbread that I think even Edna Mae – a Southern purist – would have enjoyed. (Or at least that would be my hope.)
Pasilla Chile and Cheddar Spoonbread
- Softened unsalted butter
- 3 ears sweet corn
- 3 (3 ounces) fresh pasilla peppers
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded medium sharp cheddar
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Liberally grease a 9-inch square casserole dish or 2 quart soufflé dish. Set aside. Over medium heat, rest the pasilla chiles on the grate of a gas stove, rotating the chiles every 30 seconds or so. Quickly transfer the chiles to a ziplock bag (or alternatively to a bowl and covering it with plastic wrap) and allow the chiles to steam, about 2-3 minutes. Remove them from the bag and using the blade of a knife, scrape the outside, charred skin off of the chiles. Dice the chiles, discarding the seeds, and set aside. Repeat this process with the corn, rotating the ears of corn every 30 seconds or so. Cut the kernels off the cob and reserve 1/2 cup for later use.
- Transfer the remaining 1 cup of corn kernels to the jar of a blender. Add 2 cups of milk and salt; blend until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium pot and heat over medium-low heat. In a measuring cup, measure out the remaining 3/4 cup milk and mix in the cornmeal. Add the cornmeal/milk mixture and cook until the grits have thickened, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Take the grits off of the stove and stir in the diced chiles, reserved corn kernels and cheddar. Stir until thoroughly combined. Do a taste test and adjust the salt accordingly. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool until room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Add the egg yolks to the cooled grits until completely combined. In three batches, fold in the stiff egg whites. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and bake until the spoon bread is golden brown, about 45-50 minutes. Serve right away.
Adrianna Adarme is a food blogger and author living in Los Angeles, California. She writes the blog A Cozy Kitchen, where she shares comforting, everyday recipes from her kitchen. She recently authored her first cookbook, PANCAKES: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack. She’s a lover of breakfast, pie (and sometimes even pie for breakfast), corgis and cute things. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.