Cooking in the Appalachians: Sweet Potato Pecan Spoon Bread
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On my husband and I’s first anniversary we went on a Route 44 road trip across the country from California to Virginia Beach, where we were married a year earlier. Most of our trip consisted of finding the best places to stop and eat across the country. We ate avocados and citrus from farmsteads in California and BBQ in Tennesse. But when we reached the Carolinas in the Appalachians we were awe struck. It was stunning and quiet. Although not much was on the map out there. Luckily, we found the cutest revamped old school house restaurant called G.R.I.T.S. “girls raised in the South.” And boy could those ladies cook! We had our fill of fried, stewed, and baked delicacies of the Appalachians. The spoon bread was a thing of my dreams. Still to this day we talk about G.R.I.T.S. and how much we loved those mountains and the people.
As you know I am a cookbook reader and Appalachian Appetite: Recipes from the Heart of America immediately transported me to that trip in the Carolinas. The recipes are full of that regions spectacular flavors and the mountain specific ingredients. Think possum, ramps, and morels. As I read further I had a hankering to dive into foraging and finding these treasures of the hills. Ultimately, most of the ingredients are unavailable in my area as culturally we are meat and potatoes kind of people in Idahome. But I am on the search so I can use these intriguing recipes. One recipe however caught my eye immediately and I knew I had to adapt the Sweet Potato and Pecan Praline Spoon Bread. Since I hadn’t had a good spoon bread since being in the Appalachians.
Sweet Potato and Pecan Praline Spoon Bread
Anything with sweet potatoes really makes my heart happy. Sweet potatoes are comforting and sweet and good for you. It’s a magical thing the humble sweet potato. When you make a bright earthy orange mash of these and they are steaming, it just feels good. This recipe called for cooking the batter like the technique for making a choux dough/pastry. Then you added in the mashed sweet potatoes and 5 eggs. The texture with the whipped egg whites was light and fluffy and eggy like a soufflé. Because I exchanged the cornmeal in the recipe for masa harina it was not a gritty bite. My husband really hates cornbread, texturally. I love cornbread and so you got the cornbread taste without the cornbread texture. Sweet potato spoon bread was moist and the flavors of ginger and maple syrup were so complimentary. If you don’t already believe me you ought to go try this spoon bread from heaven out!
Sweet Potato Pecan Spoon Bread Recipe
- 2-1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
- 1 Tsp. Dried Grated Ginger
- 2 Tsp. Salt
- 1 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup Masa Harina
- 6 Tbs. Salted Butter
- 3 Medium Sweet Potatoes (Baked, Peeled, and Mashed Smooth)
- 5 Large Eggs (Separated)
- 2 Tsp. Baking Powder
- Pecan Praline:
- 2 Tbs. Salted Butter
- 1 Cup Chopped Texas Pecans
- ½ Cup Maple Syrup
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter a 3-quart baking dish, I used a cast iron.
- Add the heavy cream, ginger, salt, and brown sugar to a sauce pan and on medium heat.
- Stir at a simmer until the sugar is dissolved
- Whisk in masa harina a little at a time and stir until it comes together and pulls away from the pan.
- Pull off the burner and add the butter and combine it.
- Add the mashed sweet potatoes and dough to a bowl and mix together
- Add egg YOLKS and baking powder mixing well until smooth.
- Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks then fold into the batter.
- Spoon into your prepared baking dish.
- Pecan Praline Topping:
- In a saucepan melt the butter and add the pecans and maple syrup, once warm pour over the top of the spoon bread. Spreading the pecans evenly over the surface.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. The top will be golden brown, the center soft and fluffy, and the edges will be firm. Cool and serve!