Zucchini and Jalapeno Spoon Bread
I have come to an important realization: carefully planting that wee little seedling of a zucchini plant this spring was officially signing a deal with the devil. I didn’t get it at first, mind you. Why would he barter with a measly little green shoot when I’ve been offering up my soul for years (in exchange for very important things, of course, like a 40 of whiskey after last call)?
Now that I’ve realized a zucchini a day does NOT keep the doctor away, I finally get it. He’s a smart man, that Be’elzebub.
(Pssst – hey you! Yeah, you with the cloven hoofs! Here’s another G.D. zucchini recipe. Now can I PLEASE have that bottle of Jack? I need it for….some shrimp…..really…)
Zucchini and Jalapeno Spoon Bread
Serves 8 -10 as a side
- 2 cups shredded zucchini *
- 1/4 cup butter + more for pan
- 2 .5 cups milk **
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 3 large jalapeno peppers ***
- 1/2 large red onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups fine yellow cornmeal
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 150 g white cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese (2 cups shredded)
- salt and pepper
* If you have a plague of gargantuan garden zucchini, 1 of them will be about 2 cups shredded. If you’re using more moderate purchased zucchini that don’t look like they’d be kicked out of the NBA for steroid abuse, about 1.5 of them will yield 2 cups when shredded.
** Whoops! Photographed the French side of my milk. “Lait écrémé” does not mean “cream”, this is actually skim milk. I suppose you could use 2% or even whole milk for a richer flavor and a denser texture, but do you really want a denser texture for spoon bread? This bread is dense enough, believe me. And skim is all we ever have in the house, so I guess that settles that.
** If you’re a bit heat conscious then you might wish to use less. For a mild heat you can use 2 jalapenos and be sure to remove the ribs and seeds. I like a bit of kick so I use all 3 and leave the seeds and ribs intact.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF with your rack set in the center.
Shred the zucchini using a box grater. Salt it lightly and place it in a colander to drain for 1/2 hour.
Peel and grate the red onion and finely chop the jalapeno (minus seeds and ribs if that’s how you roll).
In a smallish pot heat the milk, honey, grated onion and minced jalapeno. Finely mince the garlic cloves (or, if you’re as lazy as I am, grate them out on a rasp) and add them as well. Heat the mixture through until the milk is scalded and just starting to foam slightly around the edges, which will only take a couple of minutes on moderately high heat. Take the milk mixture off of the heat and let it cool slightly.
In the mean time, whisk your two eggs in a large mixing bowl, beating until they’re pale and frothy. Slowly add a half ladleful of the milk mixture to the eggs, whisking vigorously as you do so. Add a little bit more milk, whisking constantly, before pouring in the rest. While you’re pouring in the rest of the milk? Yup. You got it. Whisk, whisk, whisk your worries away.
In a separate bowl combine the fine cornmeal, oregano, cumin and baking powder. You can season the mixture with salt and a generous grinding of fresh black pepper if you like. I rarely measure how much salt I add unless I’m making bread or pastry, but if I were to estimate I’d say I used about 3/4 tsp of kosher salt and 6 good grinds of pepper.
Whirl your fingertips around in the bowl of dry ingredients until everything is combined. This also has the advantage of adding some air to the mixture so your cornmeal won’t clump together when it gets damp.
In a slow, steady stream add the cornmeal to the milk and eggs. Are you tired of whisking yet? Because this is the last time, I swear. Whisk the mixture steadily while you add the cornmeal to make sure that it’s getting evenly incorporated and there aren’t any big, dry clumps.
Finally, squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the zucchini. Shred the cheese and add both to the mix, stirring until combined.
Bake the spoon bread in the center of your oven for about 45 minutes (check on it at 40, it may need another 10), or until the top is golden brown and a pick inserted into the center will come out clean.
Let the spoon bread cool for 5 minutes before dishing it out, quite literally, with a big spoon.
Leaving the seeds and ribs intact for the jalapenos gave this bread a moderate heat, but the smoky sweetness of Tex Mex flavor still shone through. The zucchini? you wouldn’t even know it was there, except that the bread is a bit denser than many of the other spoon breads that I’ve loved over the years. And as much as I really DO love zucchini, at this time of the year not knowing that it’s there is not necessarily a bad thing….