We affectionately call this rich, custardy spoonbread, shot through with bacon and baked under a lofty cloud of pecan-freckled whipped cream, the “Thanksgiving heart attack.” Its brand of decadence is in keeping with Adam and Jackie Sappington’s Heartlandia cookbook, a collection of recipes from their Southern-inspired Country Cat restaurant in Montavilla*. Typically accompanied by their signature skillet-fried chicken, the spoonbread can stand in for any holiday side: it encompasses the plush, bottomless quality of stuffing, the satisfying substance of corn bread, and the nutty sweetness of pecan pie. Just remember: everything in moderation.
*Editor's Note: Country Cat officially closed its doors in 2019
Country Cat's Pecan Spoonbread
(Makes one 9-by-13-inch pan)
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
- 6 thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into thin strips
- ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ cups finely ground cornmeal
- 1½ tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 5 large eggs
- 4½ cups whole milk
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar
- 2¼ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
COOK THE BACON-ONION MIXTURE
In a large skillet set over medium heat, melt butter. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until nearly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Set mixture aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with butter. In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cayenne, and whisk. In a separate large bowl combine eggs, milk, sugar, and vinegar, and whisk. Pour the wet into the dry, and whisk until just combined. Stir in reserved bacon-onion mixture. Pour batter into the baking pan and set aside. Using a stand mixer or whisk, beat cream until medium peaks form. Gently spread cream over the top of the batter with a spatula, covering entirely. (Don’t worry, the cream will float.)
Cover baking pan tightly with aluminum foil and set in a larger roasting pan. Pour hot water into the roasting pan halfway up the sides of the baking pan, creating a hot water bath. Bake for 1 hour. Remove spoonbread from oven, uncover, and discard aluminum foil. Sprinkle pecans evenly over the top and return to oven for 30 minutes, or until the center is just set but not dry. Remove from oven and discard water bath. Let stand 30 minutes before slicing into squares. Drizzle with maple syrup.