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.

Monte Cristo Casserole

Monte Cristo Casserole

I started a tradition when my nieces (and later my nephew) were very young. Every year at Christmas, I took them to lunch at a restaurant and then we went shopping for toys and food for all the folks who didn’t have as much at Christmas as we always have. When the girls were very little, I didn’t have much experience handling kids on my own, so I chose a popular chain restaurant where I knew we could all be comfortable. I wanted them to have fun, and I wanted to avoid any meltdowns. It became for many years “our place.” But another reason I chose that particular restaurant was selfish – they served a mean Monte Cristo. A giant hunk of fried deliciousness that I couldn’t finish in one sitting. It was a little Christmas present to myself. That chain went out of business years ago, and I have yet to find a Monte Cristo that equals theirs, though we have found a new “our place.”

A real Monte Cristo is a restaurant treat for me though. I simply am not assembling, battering and frying – I’ll leave that to the professionals. The classic combination of flavors, though, is downright good – turkey and ham and cheese encased in tender bread with that surprising sweet sprinkle of powdered sugar and a little dab of strawberry preserves. The idea lends itself wonderfully to the classic brunch casserole and here is my version. I like to keep it simple, with lots of ham and turkey and a lightly mustardy custard encasing it all. I generously sprinkle the top with a dusting of powdered sugar, which adds that lovely sweet edge and adds a touch of elegance, and serve place a nice bowl of good preserves next to it so each guest can dollop as much or as little as they like.

Monte Cristo Casserole makes a wonderful dish on a brunch buffet or for a family dinner. I served it to my extended family recently, and when I told them what it was, my nieces both said “oh, like that sandwich you like.” Memories made.

Monte Cristo Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounce loaf of Italian bread (soft crust)
  2. ¾ pound deli turkey, sliced about 1/8 inch thick
  3. ¾ pound deli smoked ham, sliced about 1/8 thick
  4. 10 ounces swiss cheese, grated
  5. 10 eggs
  6. 4 cups whole milk
  7. 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  8. ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  9. 1 Tablespoon sugar
  10. salt to taste and generous grinds of black pepper
  11. powdered sugar for sprinkling
  12. strawberry jam for serving
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into rough, bite-sized cubes and spread out on a baking sheet or tray. Leave to dry for a few hours (but not until crisp or hard).
  2. Spray a 13 by 9 inch backing dish thoroughly with cooking spray.
  3. Cut the turkey and ham into small pieces, then shuffle them through your fingers to separate them into a large bowl. Add the bread cubes and the cheese and toss to combine. Spread the bread mixture evenly in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Mix the eggs, milk, Dijon mustard, mustard powder, sugar, salt and pepper together in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly, or blend until smooth in a blender. Pour the milk mixture over the bread cubes slowly, making sure it is evenly covering the bread cubes. Push them down under the liquid if needed. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°. Take the dish out of the fridge to take the chill off while the oven is heating. Cook the bread pudding, covered, for 50 minutes to an hour until it is set and puffed up.
  6. As soon as you remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle a generous layer of powdered sugar through a sieve evenly over the top of the casserole. Serve warm with strawberry jam to spoon over each serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Guinness and Oatmeal Quick Bread

Guinness and Oatmeal Quick Bread

It must have been close to St. Patrick’s Day. I had a six pack of Guinness on hand. Maybe I’d made some Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon or some Irish Rarebit. I love cooking with mallty stout, but I don’t particularly like drinking it straight, so I was looking for ways to use all those bottles. An Irish-inspired rustic loaf seemed the perfect thing. This bread has the lovely, dense texture of a traditional soda bread with the added tang from the Guinness. Oatmeal adds a lovely texture and richness. I like to let it cool just enough to slice easily, then spread it with lashings of Irish butter. Its also delicious toasted, or with a slice of good Irish cheddar cheese.

Guinness and Oatmeal Quick Bread
Yields 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  3. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 12-ounce bottle of Guinness stout
  8. 1 cup buttermilk
  9. ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Stir with a fork to evenly distribute the ingredients. Mix the Guinness, buttermilk and butter together in a small bowl, then add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until everything is well mixed and there is no dry flour visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan – it will be very wet.
  3. Bake the bread for 30 minutes at 425°, then reduce the temperature to 400° and cook for a further 30 minutes. Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool.
  4. Serve with lots of butter!
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Café Brûlot Brownies

Café Brulot Brownies

Café Brûlot is one of the spectacular presentation dishes of New Orleans fine dining. It requires a special brûlot bowl and ladle and a lot of skill and daring. Coffee is mixed with brandy, orange liqueur, orange and lemon peels and spices and lit afire. In the traditional restaurants of New Orleans, the whole lot is rolled out on a cart and an expert waiter makes a big show of mixing and lighting the concoction. In a serious Café Brûlot show, the flaming brew is ladled down long strips of orange peel, creating a rather spectacular blue flame.

All this is quite a lot of work, as you can imagine, and as I have neither the equipment not the fearlessness to do it myself, I took the flavors of café brûlot and incorporated them into a deep, chocolate-y brownie that makes a perfect Mardi Gras treat.

Café Brûlot Brownies
Yields 24
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For the Brownies
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  2. 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  3. 1 cup cocoa powder
  4. 4 teaspoons instant coffee powder (dark roast or espresso)
  5. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  7. 2 cups granulated sugar
  8. 4 large eggs
  9. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  10. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon salt
  12. ¼ cup brandy
For the topping
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, plus 4 Tablespoons
  2. 2 cups powdered sugar
  3. 3 Tablespoons orange liqueur
  4. 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  5. 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
For the brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 brownie pan with non-stick foil or foil sprayed with cooing spray, leaving a nice overhang to lift the brownies out.
  2. Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave or a large pot on the stove. Stir in the lemon zest, then stir in the cocoa powder, coffee powder, cinnamon and cloves. Stir in the sugar until well combined. Stir the eggs into the batter, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, then stir in the flour and salt until the batter is completely mixed and smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Sprinkle the brandy evenly over the top of the brownies and leave to cool.
For the topping
  1. When the brownies are cool, beat the stick of butter, powdered sugar, liqueur and orange zest together until completely smooth. I prefer to use an electric mixer for this. Spread the topping over the cooled brownies. Chill the brownies for about an hour in the fridge.
  2. Melt the 4 Tablespoons of butter and the chocolate in a small bowl or measuring jug in the microwave or in a bowl over simmering water. Spread the melted chocolate in a thin layer over the brownies. I like to grate a little more orange zest over the chocolate for decorative effect
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Slow Cooker Southern Black-Eyed Peas

Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas

I feel very strongly about the importance of eating black-eyed peas on New Years day to ensure luck for the coming year (and greens for prosperity). But New Years Day is also not always a day I want to be slaving over the stove. Peas and greens are generally pretty hands off foods, but this has got to be the simplest recipe around for getting your dose of good luck with a nice punch of flavor. I only use the slow cooker, so no extra pots are necessary. Pre-chopped, frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes make this an even simpler prep, but the spices and cured pork add deep, rich flavor.

Start this in the morning to have for dinner, or cook it overnight for a nice lunch. Scoop it as is into generous bowls, or serve it over rice or grits. Some Cast Iron Collards served on the top would make a one bowl meal full of good things for the New Year.

Slow Cooker Southern Black-Eyed Peas
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  2. 10 ounces frozen vegetable seasoning mix (onion, green peppers, celery)
  3. 1 piece of cured pork (about 5 ounces) – country ham shank, ham hock, smoked ham, salt pork
  4. 1 pound dried black-eyed peas
  5. 4 cups chicken broth
  6. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  7. 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  8. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  9. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 jalapeno pepper
  12. 4 cloves garlic, peeled
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into pieces and place it in the slow cooker set to high until it begins to melt. Add the vegetables and pork, cover and cook for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the butter is melted. Add the peas, broth, 2 cups water and tomatoes and stir well. Stir in the paprikas, celery salt and pepper. Drop the whole pepper and the garlic cloves into the pot and cover.
  2. Cook the peas on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours until the peas are tender. Discard the pork and the jalapeno and serve. If using ham hock or smoked ham, you can shred the meat and stir it into the peas.
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Christmas Fruit Salad

Christmas Fruit Salad

Christmas is, for me, a time of indulgence. I gorge myself on cookies and candies and appetizers and heavy meals. It is one of the special treats of the season, and motivation for a new year’s resolution. I have been known to serve Christmas breakfast buffets featuring cheese grits, cheese and sausage casserole, bacon, ham, biscuits and all manner of desserts. It’s not how we eat during the year. It’s a special occasion. But it is nice to have some refreshing fruit on the table. But tough to find good fruit in the heart of winter. I love a rich baked fruit casserole, I find this simple bowl of festive fruit really refreshing and a great complement to all the richness of the other dishes.

Bright red apples and juicy green pears get a dusting of mint sugar. This looks absolutely beautiful in a pretty glass or crystal dish, garnished with a few sprigs of mint. It’s also a great way to use some of the pears from that box that so frequently arrives during the holiday.

Christmas Fruit Salad
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  2. 3 red apples
  3. 2 green pears
  4. 2 cups pomegranate seeds
  5. ¼ cup fresh mint leaves
  6. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  7. ¼ inch piece of vanilla bean
Instructions
  1. Put the lemon juice in a large bowl and add water to fill it half way. This is called acidulated water and will keep the fruit from turning brown.
  2. Cut the apple into chunks and add to the acidulated water. Cut the pear into chinks and add it to the water as well. Stir the fruit around as you add it to the water so every surface gets a dunk.
  3. Drain the fruit and place in a large bowl. Rinse and drain the pomegranate seeds and add to the apples and pears.
  4. Place the mint, sugar and vanilla bean in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse until you have a fine, damp mixture like wet sand. Sprinkle the mint sugar over the fruit and toss to coat. Taste as you go; you may not need or want to use all the mint sugar.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
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Fromage Fort or Lou Cachat

Fromage Fort or Lou Cachat

I have always been an avid entertainer. I made a living out of planning parties for awhile. And I have frequently used this clever French trick to transform the bits left over from the cheese plate. Fromage Fort or Lou Cachat are two versions of this bit of culinary trickery which blend all those leftover pieces with a little alcohol to create an utterly new dish. I’ve seen recipes – or just simple instructions – in French cookbooks both old and new. I started with Lou Cachat, but later discovered Fromage Fort. The difference, as I make it out, is that Lou Cachat is blended with brandy and is traditionally made in Provence with goat cheese. Fromage Fort (“strong cheese”) is made from any variety and mixed with white wine. It’s an old housewives’ trick, so the variations are endless and as varied as the women who make it. I have seen it with garlic or woody herbs and much more butter, alcohol and olive oil. So experiment and expand as much as you like. This is the blueprint for my house version. I use whatever cheese I have left over – goat, triple cream, hard, blue – that’s the point, making those random bits last. I prefer Lou Cachat, because I like strong cheese and I think the brandy really adds to the depth of flavor. When I use strong cheese, I don’t bother with garlic or herbs.

I love the idea that the expensive cheese from the Christmas can be a totally new and exciting treat on New Year’s Eve. I read a Jacques Pepin recipe in which he says his wife makes the Fromage Fort and freezes it packed in little ramekins. That made me love this dish even more. Splash out on the best cheeses you want, because there will be no waste. Serve either as a spread for good crackers or bread, or spread on sliced bread and broil for a starter or a soup sidecar.

Fromage Fort or Lou Cachat
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound cheese pieces, of any variety
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. ¼ cup brandy, cognac or white wine
  4. 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  5. generous grind of black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the cheese into pieces (harder cheeses need to be cut into smaller pieces). Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the cheese. Pulse repeatedly until the cheese is broken up to a very rough, chunky paste. Add the brandy while pulsing, then the olive oil until you have a rough paste. Grind in some pepper and pulse to blend. I like mine to have a bit of chunky texture, but you can blend as smooth as you like.
  2. Scrape the cheese into ramekins and refrigerate or freeze.
  3. Serve the cheese at room temperature, or spread it on slices of baguette and broil for a few minutes.
Notes
  1. (In this picture, my Lou Cachat is made with bits of Southern made cheeses – Mountaineer and Appalachian from Meadow Creek Dairy, Asher Blue and Green Hills from Sweet Grass Dairy)
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Eggnog Pound Cake

Eggnog Pound Cake

Pound cake is one of the best holiday desserts out there. It is easy to make, can be made ahead, is perfect for transport and imminently customizable. Pound cake really just uses the most basic techniques of baking, made easy using an electric mixer, and it’s a pretty forgiving process. A pound cake can easily be made a few days ahead and kept wrapped tightly on the counter. It can even be frozen (without a glaze or frosting). And if the cake dries out, toast the slices and serve with a drizzle of sauce. A pound cake is sturdy, so it can travel to a party or a road trip without fear of layers sliding apart. And the list of what you can do with a pound cake is endless. Serve it with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate, caramel or fruit sauce. Berries, poached fruit, jam or a combination of any of the above.

Here, I up the holiday factor by adding in one of my favorite festive flavors, eggnog. The sweet, creamy flavor is incorporated both into the cake and with a rich frosting, all set off by spicy nutmeg. This cake can make a simple, homey treat or an impressive display. Put it on your favorite funny Santa plate or an elegant cake stand as a centerpiece for a dessert buffet.

Eggnog Pound Cake
Serves 12
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For the cake
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3 cups granulated sugar
  3. 6 eggs
  4. 3 cups flour
  5. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  6. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1 cup prepared eggnog
For the frosting
  1. ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  2. ¼ cup eggnog, at room temperature
  3. ½ teaspoon vanilla
  4. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  5. 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
For the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a large stand mixer on medium until creamy. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, a good 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Combine the flour, nutmeg, salt and baking soda and add the creamed mixture, alternating with the eggnog. Do this in three additions, ending with eggnog. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 -60 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cover the top of the cake loosely with foil if it begins to brown to much. Cool the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes, then invert it on a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting
  1. Beat the butter, eggnog, vanilla and nutmeg together in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium until smooth and creamy. Add the confectioner’s sugar gradually and beat until combined and smooth. You want a thick but pourable icing, so adjust with extra eggnog or sugar as needed. Spoon the frosting over the completely cooled cake.
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Gingerbread Brownies with Buttermilk Glaze

Gingerbread Brownies with Buttermilk Glaze

My first introduction to “gingerbread” was the cute crisp gingerbread men cookies decorated with cinnamon candies and white icing we are all so familiar with. Few of those were homemade, and none ever did much for me. So I really never much thought of gingerbread as a favorite part of my holiday season. Those cookies sure are cute, but not much in the flavor department.

But then I discovered, deep, dark, cakey, traditional gingerbread and I was hooked. The warm spices of gingerbread are now a true holiday favorite for me. I love the way gingerbread smells, while the batter is being stirred up and as the gingerbread bakes. The combination of spices and the rich, deep molasses are immediately homey and comforting. These bars are a fun way to share the classically holiday flavors of gingerbread at any party or gathering. The sweet and tangy buttermilk glaze adds an extra layer of lovely.

Gingerbread Brownies with Buttermilk Glaze
Serves 16
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For the Brownies
  1. 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  4. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. ½ teaspoon baking powder
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  8. ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  9. ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  10. 2 large eggs
  11. 1/3 cup molasses
  12. ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
For the Glaze
  1. 1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  2. 3 Tablespoons buttermilk
  3. ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 8 by 8 inch brownie pan with non-stick foil or parchment.
  2. Mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder salt and spices together in a large bowl. Use a fork to combine everything and break up any lumps of brown sugar.
  3. In another bowl, combine the eggs, molasses and melted butter until thoroughly combined. Add to the dry ingredients and stir together until everything is incorporated and there are no dry ingredients visible. The molasses is thick, so this will take a little effort.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and use lightly moistened fingers to press it out to the edges and smooth the top. Bake for 20 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.
  5. Cool the brownies in the pan.
For the Glaze
  1. While the bars are cooling, whisk together the glaze ingredients, making sure there are no lumps. Spread the glaze over the baked bars and leave to set, at least 15 minutes. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the foil or parchment. Cut into bars.
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Festive Finds 2014

Festive Finds

Holiday shopping season is upon us once again, and I love to share gift ideas for the food lovers in your life. As always, these are just some ideas about personal favorites – no one has asked me to promote any products. To get a good look at all this year fun finds, follow me on Pinterest.

Of course, I think Pimento Cheese The Cookbook: 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite is the best gift you could give or receive. (Ok, I am a little biased).

Available now!

Available now!

There are a host of wonderful cookbooks new this season. For the canner or preserver in your life, Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry is an absolute bible and a must – have. Southern cooks will love The Southern Living Community Cookbook,a compendium of recipes from community cookbooks and resources. The Southern Pantry Cookbook makes it possible to whip up your favorite Southern dishes from a well-stocked pantry. The Savor the South series features lovely little books from amazing writers on classic Southern ingredients like Okra, Sweet Potatoes, Catfish, Celebrations and Pickles and Preserves.

Savannah’s own Byrd’s Cookie Company packages their delicious cookies in wonderful ways. I like these colorful mod tins, but shop around for many options. Chef Vivian Howard has put together some wonderful gift collections and suggestions for Southern Season stores that would be a real bonanza for any Southern food lover. Philip Ashley Designer Chocolates are delicious little works of art anyone would love to recieve. Beautifully packaged and absolutely delicious, Memphis chef Felicia Willet’s Flo’s Homemade Goodness gift box of Tomato Jam, Pepper Jelly, Chow Chow and Bread and Butter Pickles is a treasure trove of Southern preserves (each available individually too). Atlanta’s jewel-box of a shop, Preserving Place also offers some fine Southern preserves – I particularly like the apple butter. Batch offers monthly subscription boxes of local made goods from Memphis, Nashville, Charleston and Austin and is the gift that keeps on giving.

This set of snazzy casserole carriers will liven up any party or potluck, and the two different sizes are handy. Sleek and practical, A Bag Named Sue will carry all your party supplies or cookbooks in style. Alabama Chanin is one of the great Southern makers, and these cocktail napkins are a perfect gift. West Virginia-made Blenko Glass water pitchers are classically stylish and imminently practical. You know and love Tennessee’s own Lodge cast iron, I’m now coveting this carbon steel skillet. And carry your water (or wine) with a touch of whimsy in this coated canvas water bottle. And these fresh, farmers market inspired Produce candlesmake a lovely hostess gift or kitchen happy. The baker on your list is sure to love this personalized rolling pin.

But maybe the best gift of all is giving on behalf of someone you love to someone in need. There are so many great organizations to give to that will create special cards you can wrap up for your recipient or have it sent directly to them. Women for Women International is an amazing organization that works to raise women and girls out of poverty around the world. They have a whole selection of gift donations.

And as food banks are under more strain than ever, Give-A-Meal through Feeding America to a family in need in honor of a family you love. And remember your local food bank with monetary donations or canned goods.

For some more ideas about my favorite fun kitchen finds, book and movies – check out The Spoon’s Store, powered by Amazon. Just click on the box on the right hand side of the page.

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Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts

Green bean casserole is a traditional, can’t-do-without dish for many families Thanksgiving table. I have to say it though, I cannot stand the traditional version made with canned soup and fried crunchy bits. The beans are mushy, there is no telling what is in that can of soup and the oniony things are too salty. But green beans do make a great casserole for the holidays.

So here’s a perfect, unique version with a fresh, clean taste and a great deal of interest. I love to use tarragon to get a different herbal flavor in the mix, as I always use lots of sage and rosemary in the dressing and the bird. Toastyhazelnuts add a nice crunch, and a hit of cream, tangy mayonnaise and nutty cheese keep things in the traditional vein, while the lemon keeps it from being too cloying. Maybe this will be a new tradition for your family table too.

Green Bean Casserole with Tarragon and Hazelnuts
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 4 shallots, halved and sliced into thin half moons
  4. 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  5. ½ cup chopped hazelnuts
  6. 3 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
  7. zest and juice of one lemon
  8. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  9. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  10. 6 ounces gruyere, grated
  11. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 8 by 8 inch baking dish.
  2. Cut the trimmed green beans into roughly one inch pieces. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil and drop in the beans. Boil for about a minute, just until the bright color of the beans comes out. Drain the beans and plunge into cold water to cool. Drain again.
  3. Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot strands and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is soft and just beginning to turn a pale caramel brown, about 4 minutes. Add the hazelnuts, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Do not let the garlic brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the green beans, tarragon, the lemon zest and 2 Tablespoons lemon juice until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix the mayonnaise and cream together in small bowl, then add it to the green beans, stirring to coat well. Spread a layer of beans in the baking dish, sprinkle over half the cheese, then layer the remaining beans and cheese.
  5. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake a further 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
  6. The casserole can prepared several hours before baking and kept covered in the refrigerator.
Notes
  1. Easily doubled.
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