By now, you may have noticed we have an affinity for the actor Vincent Price in our household. After all, my husband Andrew and I host a podcast on this very network dedicated to the spooky ooky films of his (along with other films of the horror fare) called Vincent Price’s Laugh.
What you may not know about Vincent Price is that he had an acute appreciation for the arts. He studied world art, culture, and cuisine, and had a refined sensibility that may not have always come through as he was making all those beloved B-pictures and horror schlock. Take a look at his personal life, and from collecting fine art to gourmet cooking to loving animals, you’ll see that Mr. Price was truly a Renaissance man.
For my birthday this year, Andrew gave me a truly sensational gift: an original 1965 pressing of A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price. It’s a beautifully bound and illustrated cook book containing the couple’s favorite recipes from renowned restaurants all over the world – in addition to some typical fare from the Price household. Some of the entries are ritzy; some of them are down-home. What’s very neat about this book is it features photographs of the actual menu from each restaurant, giving it what today we consider a very cool vintage flair.
So, combining my love of cooking with Andrew’s love of art (he’s our art director, don’tcha know) and our appreciation of Mr. Price, we are pleased to bring you this new blog where we will test out and critique this treasury of great recipes – something we are simply and affectionately calling “Cooking With Vincent Price’s Laugh.”
For this first recipe, I wanted to start with something simple. I really do enjoy cooking, but I will admit, without any formal training, my kitchen is somewhat…experimental. So I thought starting with a recipe that seemed somewhat familiar might be best.
The recipe originates from a special dinner held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in honor of Vincent Price for his contributions to the world of art collecting. The inspiration for the menu was combining elegant dining with a bit of Virginian flair. Pictured here is the program for the event.
Spoon bread is a traditional southern American dish, kind of like a mix of corn bread and a soufflé. It’s light and airy, and gets its name because it’s a corn bread so soft you can eat it with a spoon. I chose this recipe because I have made a few soufflés in my lifetime, and from Vincent’s preface, I figured I could handle it. If you haven’t made a soufflé before, don’t fret; just because it’s a French word, that doesn’t mean it’s over-complicated. After all, the natural chemical reactions during the baking process do all the hard work.
This recipe turned out pretty tasty, and was relatively easy to make. The only thing I recommend to my fellow amateur chefs is to make sure you have all the ingredients measured and ready before you start. Timing is everything with this, as you have to pay close attention to heating the milk so that it’s lightly scalded, but not burned-tasting. You can play a lot with adding ingredients to this as well; we thought the ham would be complimented by a nice mild white cheese like gouda – or add vegetables like onions, peppers, or corn. We paired it with a spring mix salad for dinner, but we heated the leftovers the next morning and drizzled them with maple syrup, which made for an exceptionally savory breakfast.
Step by step, and word for word, here’s what Vincent says to do:
Ingredients: white cornmeal, milk, salt, eggs, Virginia ham, butter, baking powder
Spoon bread is a little like a heavy soufflé made with cornbread. The real old-fashioned spoon bread was made without leavening, but nowadays many recipes suggest using baking powder to help puff it up. I like this recipe which, like a man who wears both belt and suspenders, keeps the spoon bread up both ways.
- Preheat oven to moderate (350° F.).
- Heat just to boiling point: 2 cups milk.
- Sift together: 1 cup white cornmeal and 1 teaspoon salt. Add to the scalded milk slowly, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat and stir until thick.
- Remove from heat and cool cornmeal mixture to lukewarm.
- In a skillet heat: 2 tablespoons butter. Sauté in it: 1/2 cup finely chopped Virginia ham. Add ham and butter to the cornmeal mixture.
- In a large bowl beat well: 3 eggs. Add the cornmeal mixture slowly to eggs. Add: 2 cups milk and mix gently. (Elbee’s Note: it’s okay if you don’t think you can get all of the lumps out of this batter. I whisked and whisked, and still had some lumps. But they turned out fine during the bake.)
- Sprinkle: 2 teaspoons baking powder over top of batter and stir in rapidly.
- Pour batter into buttered 10-inch casserole or soufflé dish.
- Bake in the moderate oven for about 1 hour, or until spoon bread puffs and browns slightly. Serve at once.
Come back next time to see what horror Elbee cooks up from one of Mary and Vincent Price’s favorite recipes. And be sure to catch Elbee and Andrew on Vincent Price’s Laugh right here on OME!