Cooking PRICE-wise: Sp-boo-on Bread and Villianicious Ham!


By Shawn Robare

One of the reasons that I wanted to try and have two running themes this month (Halloween masks and Vincent Price) is because not all of the Vincent Price content is going to be specifically Halloween-y.  This morning I posted about some monster masks, and this evening I’m going to talk about cooking some crazy 60s-ish era food (which when I stop and think about it could be frightening if only for the amount of butter and eggs in the following recipe!)  Vincent Price was anything but simply pigeonholed as a horror icon.  A veritable renaissance man who loved art as much as acting, and could cook as well as most chefs of his time, there wasn’t a lot of stuff that he wasn’t interested in.

As I mentioned in my sneak preview this past Friday, one of the ways that I found a very personal connection to him has been though his love of interesting culinary concoctions, specifically through the publication of his two cookbooks (which he co-authored with his second wife Mary), A Treasury of Great Recipes and Come Into the Kitchen.  I’ve been searching for inexpensive copies of both books for years and finally managed to snag both this past winter (check eBay as they’ve been popping up fairly cheapy lately.)  From time to time, when I’ve been in a particularly experimental and unhealthy-eating mood, I’ve taken these down from the shelves and tried my hand at replicating some of the dishes.  Today I’d like to share one of these gastronomical experiments with you.  Culled from A Treasury of Great Recipes (originally published in 1965), I present Price’s rendition of Spoonbread with Virginia Ham.  Since there’s nothing inherently frightening about his recipes, I’ll do my best to come up with some spooky titles (ala the pun-y fun that the Cryptkeeper has in naming the stories in Tales From the Crypt.)  I’ll call this one, Sp-boo-on Bread and Villianlicious Ham!

From the description and the ingredients I was basically expecting this to make some sort of giant cornbread muffin with ham mixed in that you “spooned” out of a casserole dish and served in a rustic style.  But will it turn out that way?  Lets see…

The recipe calls for: 1 Cup White Corn Flour, 1 teaspoon Salt, 2 teaspoons Baking Powder, 1/2 cup chopped Virginia Ham, 4 cups Milk, 2 tablespoons of Butter, and 3 Eggs…

Alright, first pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees.  Next, bring 2 cups milk to an almost boil in a pot on the stovetop.  Mix in (slowly) the salt and corn flour until thick.  Take off heat and set aside.  It’ll make a thick porridge-like mixture which needs to cool to luke-warm.  While the corn meal mixture is cooling, heat a sauté pan over medium to medium high heat.  Add the butter and sauté the ham until heated through and lightly browned…

   

Mix the ham with the cooled corn meal, and set aside.  Next, crack the eggs into a large bowl and beat with a fork until thoroughly mixed.  Slowly add the corn meal and ham mixture to the eggs.  Once combined, add the remaining 2 cups of milk to the mixture.  Last, add the baking powder and give the bowl a quick stir to combine it.

   

Pour the mixture into a buttered 10×10 oven safe baking dish.  Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for one hour until the mixture rises and browns on top.  Remove and serve immediately…

So this was a very weird dish at the end of the day.  While I was expecting some sort of ham-y corn muffin loaf, in actuality the Spoonbread is much more like a crust-less quiche.  While this was still quite tasty, it was way more rich and hard to power through than I had anticipated.  In fact the dish is screaming for smaller portions and a side salad to help balance the richness of the egg-y spoonbread.

Though it’s not my favorite of the Vincent Price recipes I’ve tried over the past year, it’s probably the most interesting one I’ve attempted, with the most surprising results!

Anyway, come back tomorrow for more Halloween mask tomfoolery, and if you’re looking for a ton of Halloween content all through the month of October, make sure to stop on by the official Countdown to Halloween site and check out the list of participating blogs for 2011.  You’ll be glad you did!