Friday, March 6, 2009

Ahead of the trends or trend setter?

Today's Panino Special is Pesto Calabrese - Pesto, mozzarella, provolone, marinated artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers grilled on a ciabatta sub roll. The TCB (turkey, cranberry & brie) is also available.

Vegetarian Chili (vegan) and Roasted Red Pepper Soup (chicken stock base) are already on the warmer. Another, as yet unknown, soup will be on by the afternoon. I'll try to update this post when it is cooking.

Although I am not a trend setter, I do have a pattern of being ahead of the trends - by say three to five years. Long before the fondue revival of the 90s I hosted a surprise birthday party for my SO upstairs at One World when it was a tiny little place on South Charles Street in Federal Hill. One afternoon I spent several hours first calling, then visiting every second hand store within a thirty mile radius buying fondue pots circa 1970. I still love fondue (and its cousin raclette), and this is the pot that is on my wish list (red please).

The humble grit has been elevated in recent years, as has bacon. In the case of these "ingredient" trends it's how they are being used that is noteworthy. Grits are finding their way onto posh dinner plates and being served much like polenta or risotto. And I'd like to meet the person who headslapped and said "Yes! Bacon and chocolate, of course!" That's one I didn't see coming.

But here, for the first time, I am going to make a prediction. Rising from culinary oblivion, Spoon Bread will soon make an appearance on the most progressive, cutting edge fine dining plate. My guess is that if you were not alive when The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show you don't know what spoon bread is. And if you are not native to the south, you might not know even if you danced naked under the sky at Woodstock.

Spoon Bread is the lovechild of cornbread and egg custard. It is served as a side dish, usually with a pat of butter melting over the top. It is an easy alternative to mashed potatoes or rice and would be a fine breakfast accompanied by eggs and bacon. The recipe from the Natural Bridge Hotel has been handed down to me from my Grandmother Halterman and is, to the best of my knowledge, unchanged. Although now that I'm taking a second look, sauteed mushrooms or a bit of minced red onion and green chilies stirred in before baking would be delicious.

Spoon Bread
from the Natural Bridge Hotel Kitchen

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
2 cups water
2 cups milk
5 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 stick of butter (2 ounces or 4 tablespoons)

Add water, salt, sugar and butter to a medium size sauce pan and bring to a full boil. Stir in corn meal and remove from heat. Stir in cold milk. In a bowl, add baking powder to eggs and beat well. Stir into corn meal mixture once it has cooled to luke warm (or cooler). Mix well. Pour into a buttered baking dish and bake about 30 minutes at 400°.