This is one of those recipes that defied all my hopes and expectations—mainly because I defied just about everything I read about how to make it online.
While doodling around on the internet to find things to do with a glut of winter squash, I came across a recipe for butternut squash spoonbread. Sounds delish, right? Trouble was, the recipe was all fancified—calling for things like beaten egg whites, outlandish amounts of butter a variety of cheeses, and far too many bowls, utensils and steps. I did a quick search to see what else was out there, butternut squash spoonbread-wise, and came up with much the same thing.
It just didn’t seem right. My grandmother’s spoonbread had been country food at its simplest best. Her basic combo of cornmeal, milk or buttermilk, eggs and butter yielded a luscious, soufflé-textured side that needed little to no adornment. (Unless you count the butter that was always passed around with it.) I decided to see if I could apply my grandmother’s technique to a squash spoonbread and forego all the extra work.
And ‘Oh my word!’ as my grandmother would say. It was just as light, lovely, creamy and delicious as my grandmother’s, only with a gorgeous sunset hue and a luscious squash flavor.
As I’m writing this, I’ve now made butternut squash spoonbread often enough to know the ingredient quantities by heart, often enough to know that it can be reheated and even tastes pretty good cold, and often enough to get several seals of approval from various French friends/tasters. Since they didn’t have an inkling of what spoonbread is, the fact that each and every one has asked me for the recipe is a sure sign it’s a winner.
2 cups /450 ml. buttermilk, or 2 cups milk soured with 2 Tbs. vinegar
3 Tbs./50 g. butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage, or 1 Tbs. rubbed dry sage, optional
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cornmeal
1 ½ cups/425 g. or 1 15-oz. can butternut squash purée or any other winter squash purée (like pumpkin)
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. black pepper, optional
PREHEAT the oven to 400˚F/200˚C. Butter a medium-size baking dish.
SCALD (bring just to a boil) the buttermilk, butter (it will melt), sage, and salt in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, and stir in the cornmeal. Let stand 5 minutes.
STIR IN the pumpkin until the batter is looser, then whisk in the baking soda, then the eggs and finally the black pepper, if using.
SPREAD the batter in the prepared baking dish, and bake 25 to 35 minutes (the time will depend on the depth of your baking dish), or until the top is firm and beginning to brown—the center should still be a little jiggly, but not totally liquid.
SERVE on its own or with butter. To reheat: Warm the spoonbread in a 300˚F/160˚C oven 15 minutes. Serves 6