Willadeen’s Spoon Bread

Willadeen Monahan and her sister, Geraldeen, used to sing on the local radio shows in north Mississippi back in the 1950s. They were pretty and could sing up a storm, but the act never went anywhere, and in time they both married and settled down, Geraldeen in Kosciusko and Willadeen in Como, where I became her neighbor. Panola County gets mighty cold in the deep Delta winter, and when the north wind came whipping down on us like a blue devil, Willadeen would call us up and say, “Y’all come on over and get some of this spoon bread to keep you warm. You know I make the best in the world!” And she did. Here’s her recipe.

Preheat oven to 400. Sift 1 cup of white or yellow cornmeal into 2 cups of lightly salted (1 teaspoon) boiling water. Lower the heat and stir vigorously until it becomes a stiff gruel. Remove from heat and mix in a cup of cold milk. This is best done with a whip, and some people will use half-and-half or cream for a more sumptuous dish. Add 2 well-beaten eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Blend until very smooth and ladle into a heated, well-oiled 8-in. baking dish. Willadeen used a skillet, which gives a nice crust. Bake until firm in the middle and nicely browned, for about 40 minutes, less if you’re using cast iron. Serve hot from the oven.

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