12ouncessharp cheddar, grated, 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling on top(about 3 cups packed)
1/2 - 1jalapeño, seeded and minced (optional)
6large eggs, separated (see headnote)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.
Stand an ear of corn in a wide, shallow bowl, and use a sharp knife to cut off the kernels. Reverse your knife and scrape the juices from cob into the bowl. Repeat with the remaining cobs and set aside.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan over a medium flame until it comes to a rolling simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning on the bottom or boiling over. Place the cornmeal and salt in a large bowl. When the milk is near boiling, gradually whisk it into the cornmeal (which will thicken and clump and become difficult to whisk, so you may need to switch to a spoon). Stir in the corn kernels, then the chives, 2 1/2 cups of the cheese, the jalapeño, and (optional)egg yolks.
Place the butter in a 10" oven-proof skillet (see headnotand place in the oven to melt. When melted, brush the butter up the sides of the pan.
In a spanking clean, dry bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Quickly stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then quickly but gently fold the rest of the whipped whites into the batter until no white streaks remain.
Scrape the batter into the hot, buttered pan, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese, and place in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the spoonbread is puffed, deeply golden, and set when you give it a wiggle.
Serve immediately with a spoon, or let it settle a bit for cleaner slices. The spoonbread keeps beautifully, refrigerated, for up to a few days. Reheat in an oven or toaster oven.
Adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.As I mentioned above, the egg yolks in this recipe are optional - use as few or as many as you like. I've made this with both two and six yolks, and the spoonbreads weren't noticeably different.Other additions that might be tasty are chopped, roasted green chiles, scallions, crispy bits of bacon (omit the butter and use bacon fat to grease the pan), shredded zucchini, or different herbs, such as basil, marjoram, thyme or sage. Many cheeses pair well with corn; you could add or substitute smoked cheddar, goat gouda, gruyere or parmesan, just to name a few.Jalapeños vary in strength, so give yours a tiny lick to determine how much you wish to use.This batter just fit in my 10" cast iron skillet with 2" high sides; alternately, use any baking dish with a 2-quart or greater capacity.Nutritional values are based on one of eight servings.