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Ham and Polenta Spoonbread


Serves 6 to 8

  • To learn more, read:
    Cook Once/Eat Twice: Fresh Ham
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 108

Traditionally served in the South, spoonbread is a savory pudding-like dish that makes hearty breakfast fare (although it’s great for dinner, too). Here, it’s livened up with a dose of fresh herbs.

  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more for the pan
  • 3 cups milk (whole or low-fat)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. leftover roasted fresh ham, chopped (about 2 cups) (or substitute roast pork loin or cured baked ham) 
  • 4 oz. fontina, grated (1 cup)
  • 2 oz. Asiago, grated (1/2 cup)
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 dashes red hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
  • Freshly ground black pepper
If you substitute cured ham for the fresh ham, you might want to reduce the amount of salt in the spoonbread.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 6-cup baking dish, preferably oval.

Bring the milk and 1/2 tsp. salt to a simmer in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the polenta. Continue whisking until thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft, about 15 minutes. Add the ham and stir often until warmed through, about 2 minutes.

Stir the ham mixture, cheeses, egg yolks, basil, oregano, thyme, hot pepper sauce, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper into the polenta; mix well.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the beaten egg whites into the polenta and then spread the mixture in the prepared baking pan. Cut the remaining 2 Tbs. butter into pieces and dot on top.

Bake until brown and puffed, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving with a large spoon.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 330, Fat (kcal): 21, Fat Calories (g): 180, Saturated Fat (g): 11, Protein (g): 19, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6, Carbohydrates (mg): 16, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 400, Cholesterol (g): 125, Fiber (g): 1,

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe is fairly simple and absolutely delicious. I made it with a very chunky pre-made crab dip and mixed gourmet mushrooms instead of the leftover ham for a little variety at a brunch this weekend. It was creamy but solid and tasted divine. It was a huge hit!

Great, we ate it for dinner, but it would be good for brunch as well. I used normal polenta, not the quick cooking type,and it worked well.

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