I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Sweet Potato Mustard, Bacon Mayonnaise and Cranberry Ketchup

When I claimed thanksgiving for my own, I wanted to create a tradition for this new configuration of family, one for grown-ups and kids alike.  So I came up with the Thankful Tree.  My mom drew a big tree, complete with falling leaves and acorns and a bunny rabbit at the base, on a piece of poster board.  Every year, my nieces and nephew come over before Thanksgiving, when school lets out, to decorate, design menus and work on the Thankful Tree.  We use sticky notes shaped like leaves or apples and write something to be thankful for on the back.  The notes are then arranged on the tree, very artfully mind you.  On Thanksgiving Day, before we start the food free-for-all, everyone pulls a sticky note from the tree (there are usually two for each person) and we go around the room and read out what our notes say we thankful for this year.  Of course, I let the kids choose all the various things to write on the notes.  In the past we have been thankful for air, photosynthesis, bacon and Jedi knights.  But always the first words to go on those stickies are family, food and friends.  As it should be.  But I am thankful for bacon too.

Sweet Potato Mustard

A little sweet, with a nice mustardy tang and rich amber color. Perfect on a leftover turkey sandwich.

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

½ cup sweet potato puree*

1 Tablespoon sorghum or light molasses

1 Tablespoon bourbon

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons ground mustard powder

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the mustard seeds, bay leaf and cinnamon stick, stirring to combine. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. The seeds will absorb the liquid.

Remove the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick, scraping off any clinging seed.  Add the water, sorghum and bourbon to the mustard seeds and stir, then scrape the mixture into the carafe of a blender.  Blend until smooth, then add the sweet potato puree and blend until you have a nice cohesive, smooth paste.  You can add a few drops of water as you go if you need to get things moving.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat over medium heat, bringing it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to boil gently for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Whisk in the sugar, ground mustard, paprika and salt. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat, cooking the mixture until it has reduced a bit and is thick and spreadable. This should take about 10 minutes.

Cool the mustard in the pan, then scrape it into an airtight container.  The mustard will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Makes about 1 ½

*To make things quicker, I happily use canned sweet potato puree, but only plain all potato puree, not sweetened or seasoned.  I find at better markets and whole food stores.  If you can’t find it, wrap a sweet potato in foil, bake until soft (about 1 hour), then blend the flesh with a little water to make a very smooth puree.

Bacon Mayonnaise

Rich and creamy with that hint of bacon.  And yes, you can put bacon mayonnaise and crispy bacon on the same sandwich.

½ cup liquid bacon fat

1 egg

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup canola oil

Generous pinch of kosher salt

The bacon fat needs to be liquid and not at all solidified.  If you’ve just cooked the bacon, strain the fat through cheesecloth to remove any debris, then leave it to cool to room temperature.  If you are using stored bacon fat, heat it gently in the microwave on half power in 20-second bursts, strain and leave to cool.

Crack the egg into the bowl of a food processor and add the lemon juice.  Blend them together until light and creamy. Add the canola oil to the cooled bacon fat in a spouted measuring cup.  With the motor running, slowly, slowly drizzle in the oil in a steady stream until you’ve used all the oil.  The mayonnaise will thicken and emulsify.  When the oil is all incorporated, taste the mayonnaise, add salt to taste and quickly whizz it a few seconds.  Scrape the may into an airtight container or jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  It will thicken in the fridge and keep for three days.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

Cranberry Ketchup

Rich red, with a tangy, vinegary bite.  Amazing on a turkey burger or as a dip for sweet potato fries.

1 pound fresh cranberries

2 shallots, chopped

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 Tablespoon pickling spice

½ teaspoon salt

Place the cranberries, shallots, sugar, vinegar and water in a medium saucepan.  Tie the pickling spice into a little bundle of cheese cloth (or use a tea ball).  Drop it into the cranberries and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the salt and cook until the cranberries burst and the mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the spice bag and set it aside. Scrap the cooled mixture into a blender.  Puree the cranberry mixture until smooth. Rinse out the sauce pan, then press the cranberries through a mesh sieve back into the pan. Pour ½ cup of water in the blender and run for a few seconds to pick up any remaining cranberry, then pour it into the pan. Return the spice bag to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until it is thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove the spice bag, squeezing it up against the side of the pan to get out all the good cranberry flavor.

Cool the ketchup in the pan, stirring a few times to prevent a skin forming, then scoop it into an airtight container. It will thicken up as it cools.  The ketchup will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Makes about 1 cup

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