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.

Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf Sauce

Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf SauceBay leaves rarely play a starring role in a recipe. I tend to think that if you leave the bay leaf out of a recipe, you may not notice, but the elusive flavor adds a definite boost to soups and stews, and it’s an essential ingredient in a classic French herb seasoning bouquet garni. When I found this recipe in an old community cookbook, I was intrigued, because I have come to enjoy bay leaves as the primary flavor in roasting potatoes and vegetables. I could imagine that flavor in a sweet sauce and immediately thought of earthy blackberries as the perfect foil. Making the ice cream with buttermilk creates a tangy, creamy base for juicy blackberries and marries beautifully with the sauce. It’s also a pretty dish, the lovely purple ice cream with a drizzle of the golden amber sauce, garnished with an extra berry or two.

The sauce could be served over pound cake with a scattering of berries as an alternative, and I think it would also be delicious with peach ice cream. I really can’t wait to explore more uses for this unique sauce as the summer progresses.

Blackberry Buttermilk Ice Cream with Bay Leaf Sauce
Serves 6
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For the Ice Cream
  1. 12 ounces blackberries
  2. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup half and half
  4. 5 egg yolks
  5. 1 cup cold buttermilk
For the Sauce
  1. ¾ cup light brown sugar
  2. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  4. 1 cup water
  5. 6 fresh bay leaves
Instructions
  1. For the Ice Cream
  2. Puree the blackberries in a blender. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer until the sugar is no longer grainy and the mixture is pale. Heat the half and half in a medium saucepan over medium heat, just until it is warm and small bubbles appear on the surface. Dribble the warm half and half into the yolks while beating constantly. Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened. It should coat the back of a metal spoon. Pour the custard through a strainer into a bowl to remove any lumps. Stir in the cold buttermilk, then pour the blackberry puree through the rinsed strainer, pressing the pulp through. Stir to blend. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and chill the mixture for several hours until completely cold.
  3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to process the ice cream in an ice cream freezer.
  4. Serve with the bay leaf sauce.
For the Sauce
  1. Whisk the brown sugar and flour together in a medium sauce pan to blend. Add the lemon juice and water and stir to combined. Drop in the bay leaves and cook over medium high heat until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Leave the sauce to cool, then pour it through a strainer to remove the bay leaves and any lumps. Store, covered, in the fridge for up to two days. It can be served at room temperature or warmed slightly in the microwave or a sauce pan.
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Marinated Summer Squash Salad

Marinated Summer Squash Salad

Squash season is starting, and everyone I know is always looking for new ways to use the bounty. Everything old is new again though, so I pulled out this recipe. In recent years, I have seen an explosion of fancy squash salads on restaurant menus and on Pinterest. The trend seems to be thinly slicing the squash lengthwise to create long ribbons. It does make for a pretty salad. But in the back of my mind, I knew I had made a squash salad from an old community cookbook in my collection. I’ve been combing through the volumes for a couple of squash seasons now looking for the recipe, and I finally found it. The book is from a small town in Mississippi and was published in the Nineties, putting it slightly ahead of the trend. I jazzed it up with a little marjoram in the dressing

I like to slice everything on a mandolin slicer to create whisper thin strands that soak up the simple dressing. Slicing the squash paper thin is essential, but if you don’t have a mandolin, you can use a vegetable peeler to make thin slices, and you can dice the other vegetables into small pieces. And I suppose you can create those photogenic long squash ribbons, but to be honest, I think it’s easier to eat this as round slices. This makes for a wonderful summer cook-out dish. You can make it up to a day ahead, and the tangy pickled bite of the fresh squash is a real taste of summer.

Marinated Summer Squash Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound yellow summer squash
  2. ½ of a yellow onion
  3. 3 stalks of celery
  4. 1 green bell pepper
  5. 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  6. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  7. 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
  8. 2 teaspoons salt
  9. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  10. 1/3 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Thinly slice the squash on a mandolin and place in a large, wide bowl. Cut the onion half in half again, and slice each piece on the mandolin and add to the bowl. Carefully slice the celery on the mandolin and add to the mix. Cut out the seeds from the pepper and cut it into quarters. Slice the pieces on the mandolin and add to the bowl. Use your hands to toss the ingredients together, separating the squash slices.
  2. Put the vinegar, sugar, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large jar with a tight lid and shake to combine. Add the oil, screw on the lid and shake until well combined. You can also whisk everything together in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24. Give everything a good stir when you think about it.
  3. Drain the salad through a colander, then spread the vegetables on a serving platter. Taste and add a little salt if you like. Serve chilled.
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Honey Raspberry Cake

Honey Raspberry CakeRaspberry season is short, and it’s a little hard to find locally grown berries around here. A farmer at the market once told me they were just too labor intensive for him to make much of a profit. When I find them grown here, I jump at the chance. I love to eat them over yogurt with a drizzle of honey, but with a real abundance I like to bake. So I translated that idea into a lovely cake that can be served for breakfast, or as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some sweetened whipped cream

What I particularly love about his cake is that it truly tastes of honey. And there is quite a bit of honey in it to make that happen. I often find baking with honey produces sweetness, but the flavor of the honey just sort of melds into the whole. Not so this cake – it has a very honey forward, with the lovely burst of raspberries throughout. The honey glaze puts the honey front and center again, so use a good, local harvested honey, one with a nice floral undertone if you can find it.

Honey Raspberry Cake
Serves 12
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For the Cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 2 cups honey
  3. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  4. zest from one lemon
  5. 6 large eggs
  6. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  7. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  8. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 1 cup plain yogurt (not Greek)
  11. 2 cups fresh raspberries
For the Glaze
  1. 2 Tablespoons honey
  2. 2 Tablespoons milk
  3. 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 10 –inch tube pan or a 12 – cup bundt pan with cooking spray (I like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter and honey together in the bowl of a stand mixer at medium low until the mixture is smooth and pale in color, almost white, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled- don’t worry, it will smooth out.
  3. Beat in the flours, baking soda and salt, one cup at a time, alternating with the yogurt, until the batter is smooth and thoroughly combined. Gently fold in 1 ½ cups of the raspberries using a spatula. Place several of the remaining berries in the bottom of the prepared pan, the spoon the batter over them. Spread the batter out evenly to fill the pan, then press the remaining raspberries into the top of the batter.
  4. Bale for 45 – 50 minutes until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan set on a rack for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.
For the Glaze
  1. Beat the milk and honey together in a medium bowl, then add the confectioners’ sugar until you have a spoonable glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, creating an even layer on the top with which attractively drips down the sides.
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Beer Shrimp Boil with Beer Sauce and Homemade Shrimp Boil Spice

Beer Shrimp Boil Summer officially kicks off with Memorial Day, and it is the perfect time for outdoor gatherings with big groups of family and friends. I think a shrimp boil makes a nice switch from the classic burgers-and-dogs grill fest. I have a big outdoor table on my patio, and this has become a favorite way to entertain. I simply cover the table with brown paper and scoop the boil ingredients onto it. Everyone gathers around the table, eats with their hands, leaving the shrimp peels and corncobs behind. When we’re all done, I just roll up the paper and take it straight to the garbage. It’s easy, fun and about the least amount of clean-up I’ve ever done after a party.

For an interesting twist, I make my own spice mix for the boil, add beer for an extra hit of flavor and serve a tangy beer sauce for dipping on the table. Don’t bother with a fancy, expensive beer, you’re basic Bud works fine, but serve a good, ice-cold local beer to drink. Corn, sausage and potatoes are the classic ingredients in a shrimp boil, but the last time I did this, I found some gorgeous artichokes and fresh asparagus, which made for a very nice addition. A friend recently clued me in to the idea of adding raw peanuts to the boil to make spiced up boiled peanuts, and I’m definitely going to give that a try. I also put some hot sauce on the table for the spicy folks and a few baguettes from a local baker. Put the beer sauce in shallow bowls spread across the table. Its great for dipping shrimp and potatoes or asparagus or artichokes, or slathering on the corn.

Here are my instructions for a shrimp boil, which easily feeds 12 people:

I use a 22-quart water bath canner on an outdoor burner, but you can use any very large stockpot and a burner on a grill, or do it inside on the stove. You can also divide the ingredients between two stockpots if you don’t have one big enough. I use a frying basket to scoop out the cooked food, but a large metal strainer with a long handle will work (protect your hands with an oven mitt around that hot boiling water). Grill tongs and a large slotted spoon come in handy too. If you happen to have a special shrimp boil pot with a straining basket, lucky you!

Line your outdoor table with brown paper, which you’ll find at a big box store in the mailing supplies section, or several layers of newspaper. Put several rolls of paper towels on the table, accessible to all the dinners. You’ll need lots of paper towels! If you need to do this indoors, scoop your ingredients into big bowls.

1 six pack or 3 (40-ounce) bottles lager beer 1 recipe Shrimp Boil spice (see below)

4 lemons, cut in half

3 heads of garlic, the tops cut off to reveal the cloves

2 pounds of smoked sausage cut into one-inch pieces

4 corn cobs into three pieces each (or thaw frozen corn cob pieces)

2 pounds very small red potatoes

4 artichokes (optional)

4 pounds of fresh, beautiful shrimp with the peels on, but heads removed

1 pound asparagus spears (optional)

3 pounds of beautiful, fresh peel on, head-off shrimp

Pour the beer into the pot, and add enough water to fill the pot halfway – remember you will be adding lots of food to the pot, so don’t fill it up. Stir in the Shrimp Boil Spice, the lemons and garlic heads (and the artichokes if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat. This can take up to 30 minutes, so leave your self plenty of time. If it comes to a boil before you’re ready to cook, just turn it down to a simmer until ready to go.

When the liquid is boiling, drop in the sausage and potatoes and bring back to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes then add the corn. Boil for another ten minutes, then test a potato to see if it is tender all the way through. When the potatoes are tender drop in the asparagus, if using, then the shrimp and give everything a good stir. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and scoop out all the delicious food onto your table and dig in.

Beer Shrimp Boil

For the Beer Sauce:

1.55 ounce jar ground mustard powder

½ cup beer

3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)

2 cups mayonnaise

Put the mustard and the beer in the carafe of a blender. Blend for a few seconds to combine. Drop in the onion pieces and add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and mayonnaise and blend until completely smooth and combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the favors to blend and mellow. This is best made a day ahead, but can be made up to two days ahead.

For the Shrimp Boil Seasoning:

2 tablespoons celery salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the jar and shake until all the spices are blended. This will keep covered in an airtight container for up to a week.

Beer Shrimp Boil

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter

In the kitchen, excess is often the mother of invention and this recipe is a perfect example of that principle. I went overboard buying fresh strawberries, and decided to bake them into something delicious before the overflow went bad. I hadn’t made muffins in awhile, so that seemed like a good idea. As I gathered my ingredients, I found some rosemary left from another cooking project and though why not? After I baked up the muffins, I still had a few berries and a stalk of rosemary left, so I whipped up this delicious butter to go with the muffins.

These muffins are not too sweet and have a subtle whiff of rosemary. A sprinkle of rosemary sugar on the top gives a nice sugary-crackle. This butter is delicious on anything (think popovers or waffles), so you may find yourself making it for other uses.

Strawberry Rosemary Muffins with Strawberry Rosemary Butter
Yields 12
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For the Muffins
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup loosely packed rosemary needles
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  5. ¾ cup buttermilk
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 2 ½ teas;oon baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. ¼ teaspoon salt
  10. 1 cup diced strawberries
For the Butter
  1. ½ cups (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 Tablespoons of rosemary sugar (leftover from the muffins)
  3. ¼ cup diced strawberries
For the Muffins
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. Place the sugar and rosemary in the bowl of a small food processor or blender and pulse until the rosemary is finely ground and blended with the sugar.
  3. Cark the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the melted and cooled butter and the buttermilk until well combined. Stir in ½ cup of the rosemary sugar, then stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt just until combined and there are no dry ingredients visible. Fold in the diced strawberries.
  4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups (I like to use a ¼ cup cookie scoop). Sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon of the rosemary sugar over the top of each muffin, then bake for 20 – 30 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan.
For the Butter
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bowl of a small food processor. Ad the sugar and strawberries and blend until smooth. The butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for up to a week. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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Fresh Strawberry and Cream Pudding

Fresh Strawberry and Cream PuddingA few years ago, I created a Peach Bourbon Buttermilk Pudding to serve to some guests, solely because it was peach season and I had recently acquired some pretty glass vessels that just needed to be used. Now that strawberry season is in full swing, I found myself with some extra berries after a jam making session. I trolled the internet and my own recipe archives for something to do with those berries, but I realized that I wanted something really comforting and creamy and simple – just to set of the beautiful freshness of the berries.

And that’s what this recipe is – miles away from any neon pink concoction from a box and packed full of flavor. This recipe is easy enough to whip up for a weeknight, but can also be an elegant (and slightly cheeky) dessert for a dinner party. Serve it in mason jars or crystal champagne coupes. You can top it with a dollop of shipped cream, whole berries or those elegantly fanned out berry garnishes. When you puree the berries, you could add a splash or liqueur (elderflower is particularly good) or the seeds from a vanilla bean. No matter how you go, homemade strawberry pudding will up your pudding game completely.

Fresh Strawberry and Cream Pudding
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 envelope plain, unflavored gelatin
  2. 1 quart strawberries, hulled
  3. ½ cup sugar
  4. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Stir the gelatin and 2 Tablespoons of water together in a small bowl and set aside to become soft.
  2. Puree the strawberries and sugar in a blender or food processor. You should end up with 2 cups puree. Pour ½ cup of the strawberry puree into a medium saucepan and heat over medium high heat. Stir in the gelatin and heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rest of the strawberry puree. Refrigerate until the puree is cooled, but not set, about 1 hour.
  3. Whip the heavy cream with an electric or stand mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cold strawberry puree, making sure all the puree is distributed through the cream.
  4. Gently spoon the pudding into small cups or ramekins and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours until softly set.
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Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted Strawberries

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted StrawberriesIt is hard not to want to eat something called a Dutch Baby. It’s such a sweet and inviting name. The puffy oven pancakes have experienced something of a renaissance in the last few years, with lots of recipes showing up on the internet for sweet and savory versions with all sorts of flavorings and toppings. I, however, sometimes find a plain Dutch baby a little too plain, so I’ve amped it up with chocolate here, and paired it with chocolate’s natural spring partner, strawberries.

There are a lot of things I love about this recipe. The baby is rich and chocolate-y without being cloyingly sweet. Roasting the strawberries heightens their sweetness, and vanilla adds such an aromatic note. Roasting is particularly helpful if your berries are not super-sweet to begin with, or just a little past their prime. Each component of this recipe is delicious on its own, or paired with other things. Most of all, this could not be easier to make. The berries can be roasted a day ahead, and making the baby in the blender literally takes minutes. If you like things a little sweeter, you can serve this with vanilla ice cream, or a cloud of sweetened whipped cream. Most recipes I have read say serve the Dutch baby immediately out of the oven, but I can tell you I’ve had it at room temperature and it was fine.

Chocolate Dutch Baby with Vanilla Roasted Strawberries
Serves 6
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For the Strawberries
  1. 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  2. 2 Tablespoons sugar
  3. 1 vanilla bean
For the Dutch Baby
  1. 2 Tablespoons butter
  2. ¾ cup whole milk
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  5. ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. ¼ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  8. ¼ cup granulated sugar
For the Strawberries
  1. Cut the berries in half and spread them in a single layer in an 8 by 8 inch baking dish. Put the sugar in a small bowl. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Drop the seeds into the sugar and toss it all around to blend. I like to toss the bowl a few times, then use my good clean fingers to get the vanilla distributed through the sugar. Sprinkle the sugar over the strawberries, then cut the vanilla bean into three pieces and tuck them into the berries. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the berries are soft and lots of juice has run out. Don’t overcook or the berries will break down and become mushy.
  2. You can serve the berries immediately or cool, cover and refrigerate them for up to a day.
For the Dutch Baby
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Melt the butter in in a deep oven-safe skillet, about 9 to 10-inches, over medium heat. Do not let it brown.
  2. Place all the ingredients in the order listed in a blender and blend until combined and foamy, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into the hot skillet, then transfer it to the oven and bake until the Dutch baby until puffed and set, about 20 minutes.
  3. Spoon the strawberries over the Dutch baby immediately and serve.
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Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and cream cheese is a classic pairing that always makes an appearance around Easter. But the combination is usually in sweet recipes. I love a moist carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing, or a carrot cookie with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. But I decided to turn that combo around, creating a savory interpretation perfect for an Easter brunch. And what Easter brunch would be complete without biscuits?

Cornmeal adds interest to the texture of these biscuits, and carrots contribute a hint of sweetness. Dill is such a perfect pairing with carrots I just had to add a dose to the recipe. The cream cheese butter is rich and flavorful and perfect with these biscuits, but they are also delicious with a smear of plain butter. Try these next to an Easter ham to make a very interesting sandwich combo.

Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1 ¼ cup soft wheat flour (I like White Lily)
  2. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3 teaaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  7. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  8. ½ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  9. ¾ cup whole milk
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl using a fork. Add the chopped dill and toss to distribute it evenly. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or your good clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until you have a fine, sandy texture with a few pea size pieces of butter visible. Add the grated carrots and use your hands to toss them into the flour mixture so there are no clumps of carrot and everything is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the milk and stir with a spatula just until combined. Knead with your hands in the bowl a few times just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry cloth and dump the biscuit dough on it. Pat the dough into a rectangle, fold it in half, turn it over and pat into a rectangle again. Do this three times, patting the dough into a ½-inch slab, then use a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits. Place the biscuits vey close together, almost touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Gently fold and pat the scraps of dough and cut more biscuits.
  4. Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until risen, puffed and lightly browned. If you like a burnished top to your biscuits, turn the broiler on for the last 1 – 2 minutes of baking.
  5. Makes at least 12 2-inch biscuits
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before serving. The cream cheese butter can be keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Makes about 1 cup
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Gumbo Z’Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z’Herbes, or green gumbo, is a very traditional Creole dish that you do not find all that often. The magnificent Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is famous for hers, and she serves it primarily the traditional way – on Holy Thursday (before Good Friday). Gumbo Z’herbes is said to bring luck and strengthen the body, and that for each type of green you put in the pot, you will make one new friend in the coming year. The traditional number seems to be nine, with eleven greens being a real bonus, and odd numbers are said to bring even more luck.

I have only had professionally made Gumbo Z’Herbes once in new Orleans, but it is a tradition and a dish that has always intrigued me, so I set out to do some research. I read recipes I found in some old Louisiana cookbooks and online. And the variations are endless. So I took all that information onboard and created this recipe. I generally don’t use as many as nine greens, because I can’t usually track that many down. And some of the recipes used very regional ingredients like pickled pork that I just don’t have access to. Some versions take all day to prepare and cook, some take shortcuts. Some have up to seven different kinds of meat, from pork shoulder to boudin while some insist this should be a vegetarian dish for lent. I am not claiming this is the definitive version of Gumbo Z’Herbes, but it’s mine.

Though traditionally a dish for Lent, I think it is perfect for New Years Day, when eating greens is said to bring prosperity and eating pork is said to be a symbol of progress in the New Year. I say the more greens and pork the better!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of mixed greens: Mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, flat leaf parsley, watercress, chard, dandelion (see note)
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 2 cups finely diced yellow onion (about 1 onion)
  5. 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
  6. 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  7. 1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  8. 1 ham hock
  9. 10 cups hot water
  10. 1 pound Andouille sausage
Instructions
  1. Strip any thick stalks from the greens (particularly collards, mustard, turnip and kale) and place all the greens in a sink or large bowl full of water. Swish them around a couple of times and let them soak about 5 minutes. Lift the greens out of the water into a large colander. Dirt and silt from the greens will settle at the bottom of the sink, so gently lift them out to prevent the dirt getting back on the greens. Shake the greens to drain. Chop piles of the greens into bite size pieces and return them to the colander.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 7 quart) heavy pan (I like cast iron or enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the creole seasoning. Now slowly pour in the hot water (hottest from the tap is fine, or bring some to a simmer in a pot), stirring constantly. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Add the ham hock, then all the greens, a handful at a time, stirring them down to fit in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer the gumbo for 1 ½ hours.
  3. Scoop about a third of the greens into a food processor or blender with a nice dose of potlikker, at least a cup, and puree until smooth. Return the pureed greens to the pot. Remove the ham hock and carefully pull the meat of the bones. If needed, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the gumbo. Slice the andouille into thin half moons about 1/8 inch thick and add to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Serve in big bowls. The gumbo on its own is a little soupy. Serve it over rice to soak up some of that potlikker if you’d like, or with nice hunks of French bread or cornbread to sop it up.
Notes
  1. Head to a good Southern market, farmers market or an Asian grocery to track down all the greens. Many recipes use carrot tops as one of the greens, so if you can find those. Same goes for beet tops and radish tops. Green chard, cabbage, arugula and romaine will also work. Just weigh out 3 pounds.
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Mustard Creamed Pearl Onions

Musatrd Creamed Pearl Onions

Many years ago, when I first started cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, I followed the suggested menu of some magazine or cookbook to the letter, despite existing family traditions or personal preferences. One of the dishes on the list of traditional Thanksgiving fare was creamed onions, which I had never had before. My family had never had them either and didn’t really understand why I had included them on the buffet with all the other food. Everyone tried them, and liked them, but focused more on the dishes standard to our feast. I liked them, and made the recipe a few times to accompany beef roasts. But it fell from the Thanksgiving roster in favor of more traditional Southern fare.

Last year was a transitional Thanksgiving for my family, working to develop new traditions during a time of change. Change of location, new people at the table and some new recipes. Fortunately, we had some distant family relatives from New England in town with recently relocated children. They brought a delicious dish of brussel sprouts that they always have on their Thanksgiving table at home. We’ve never included brussel sprouts at Thanksgiving, its mostly green beans. But they were really happy to see the creamed onions – a throwback from their Eastern childhood. And there were no leftovers.

It was a really nice meal, sharing our family traditions. I can’t say for sure if creamed onion are a purely regional specialty for the holiday, but it is not a tradition on the tables of any of my Southern friends. I have streamlined and jazzed up that original creamed onion recipe, and it makes a lovely accompaniment to the centerpiece turkey.

One reason I chose to make this last year is that I found some beautiful multi-colored pearl onions at the grocery that I couldn’t resist. All white onions are perfectly good if that’s what you find.

Mustard Creamed Pearl Onions
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups pearl onions (white, yellow, purple or a combination)
  2. 1 ½ cups light - colored chicken broth
  3. ½ cup white wine
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 2/3 cups heavy cream
  7. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Cut the tops and roots off the onion. Try to leave a little of the root end intact to hold the onion together. Drop the onions into a pan of boiling water for 45 seconds. Drain the onions, and when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. This can be done up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Put the onions and the broth and the wine in a medium sauté pan and sprinkle over the sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is gone, pour in the cream and add the mustard. Stir and cook over medium until the cream is reduced and thickened and coating the onions.
  3. Serve immediately.
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