Sweet Potato Spoon Bread with Hearty Greens
For the past few years, my co-workers and I have been participating in Live Healthy Iowa, a 100-day challenge to eat more healthfully and track minutes of exercise/activity. Since the challenge takes place from January-April, it’s a nice boost in motivation during the winter doldrums. One of the perks is a free year-long subscription to a small selection of magazines. This year, I opted for Better Homes & Gardens, even though it makes me feel like I’m turning into my mother (not that that’s a bad thing — hi, Mom!) I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’m enjoying the subscription; almost every issue has one or two recipes I’m excited to try. This recipe for Sweet Potato Spoon Bread, by chef Sara Foster, comes from the November 2011 Thanksgiving issue. Click here for the original recipe.
The texture of this “bread” is soft with a bit of chewiness. I particularly love its slightly sweet, slightly herbal flavor: the unexpected combination of brown sugar and fresh thyme tastes wonderful. I used 2% instead of whole milk, and the spoon bread still turned out great. Since I was cooking for two, I also cut the original recipe proportions in half, down to 4 servings. If you’re crunched for time, you could substitute canned pumpkin for the sweet potato (something I tried on a weeknight), but it just doesn’t compare to the sticky-caramel flavor of a slow-roasted sweet potato. You can roast the sweet potato ahead of time and refrigerate it (up to 3 days) until ready to use. Let it come to room temperature before incorporating it into the other ingredients.
Since the Midwestern Gentleman likes to pretend he’s a vegetarian (when he’s not indulging in the occasional hot dog), I served a warm salad of braised, hearty greens atop the spoon bread, making for a satisfying vegetarian meal. I chose kale for earthiness, and turnip greens for their peppery bite. After sauteeing thinly sliced garlic and shallots in olive oil, I added the greens (still wet from rinsing) with a splash of blackcurrant balsamic vinegar, and braised them for about 5 minutes, until they had wilted but were still bright green. Some grated parmesan cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds finished off this simple dish.
Sweet Potato Spoon Bread
butter, for greasing baking dish
1 Tbsp olive oil + 1 Tbsp butter
1 sweet potato (about 1/2 lb.)
or 1 cup canned pumpkin
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) 2% milk
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 1-quart baking dish. Prick the sweet potato with a fork several times and place directly on the oven rack to bake. (Set a sheet of foil on the rack below to catch any sugary drips.) Bake for about an hour, or until soft when squeezed. Cool enough to handle and peel. Mash the peeled sweet potato in a bowl and set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, thyme, salt, and pepper to a low boil over medium heat. Pour the cornmeal into the hot milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, while whisking constantly. Continue whisking for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Beat the egg yolks, olive oil, butter, and baking powder into the mashed sweet potatoes. Pour this mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir until well combined. In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg white with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold the beaten whites into the cornmeal-sweet potato mixture. (Sara Foster recommends leaving obvious swirls of egg white.) Spoon the batter into the buttered baking dish and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until internal temperature registers 165 on a thermometer. The edges should be firm, while the center is still soft. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.