Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

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.

Autumn Celebration Salad with Port Poached Pears, Maple Pepper Walnuts, Stilton Croutons

Autumn Celebration Salad

I’ll be honest, I am not a big salad eater. Because I feel like, for the most part, salad is often just an afterthought. Sure, I like a restaurant salad with nice add-ins that I am not going to get at home, but I find most home salads come from a bag and use processed, packaged toppings and bottled dressing. People seem to volunteer to bring the salad to a party because it’s the easiest thing to execute. But a salad can be a beautiful thing, packed with vibrant colors and layers of flavor. And everyone will be impressed when you show up with a gorgeous bowl full of the most delicious bites. Rather than that sad little bag.

Each element of the salad can be made ahead. One thing a day until ready to assemble if you like, so it is really easy to create and amazing presentation. If you are transporting this somewhere, keep everything in Ziploc bags, the dressing in a jar and pile it into your salad bowl. It will take a moment to put together when you arrive, sequestered into a quiet corner if the kitchen is crowded. Hearty greens hold up well with these bold flavors – I even like to shave some brussel sprouts and raddichio into the mix.

Autumn Celebration Salad

Greens with Port Poached Pears, Maple Pepper Walnuts, Stilton Croutons

Maple Black Pepper Walnuts

1 egg white

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

¼ cup maple syrup

2 Tablepssons butter, melted and cooled

2 cups walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.

Place the egg white in a medium bowl and whisk with the salt until foamy. Whisk in the pepper, maple syrup and butter until combined. Drop in the walnuts and stir to thoroughly coat the nuts. Lif the nuts out of the glaze with your good clean hands, allowing excess to drip off, and transfer to the prepared pan. Spread the nuts into an even layer not touching and bake for 10 minutes. Stir, then bake for a further 5 – 8 minutes until the nuts are a shade darker. Cool completely. The nuts will store in an airtight container for 3 days.

For the Port Poached Pears

2 large, firm green pears

½ cup port wine

¼ cup water

½ cup granulated sugar

Half a cinnamon stick

1 star anise

5 – 6 whole cloves

Peel and core the pears and cut into small pieces, about ½ inch. Stir the port, water and sugar together in a small saucepan and add the spices. Drop in the pears and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the pears until a knife slips in without resistance, about 10 minutes. You want them soft, but still with a little bite. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Remove the cinnamon, star anise and cloves, then spoon 2 Tablespoons of the poaching liquid into a jar. Discard the remining liquid and transfer the pears to an airtight container. The pears can be covered and refrigerated for 2 days. Make the dressing with the poaching liquid as below.

For the Port Dressing:

2 Tablepoons port poaching liquid

2 Tablspoons red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

6 Tablespoons olive oil

Place all the ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine. The dressing will keep in the fridge for 2 days. Shake well before using.

Stilton Croutons

8 ounces soft Italian bread

6 Tablespoons butter, melted

4 ounces Stilton (or other blue cheese) FROZEN

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Cut the bread into cubes of about ½ inch. Make them as evenly sized as possible. I like them on the larger side, so you get a good crouton to cheese ratio. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl and pour over the melted butter. Toss to coat the bread evenly.

Take the Stilton out of the freezer and use a fine grater to grate about half of it over the bread cubes in the bowl. Toss to coat the bread with the cheese, then transfer the cubes to the baking tray and spread into an even layer. Grate some more of the blue cheese over the top, doing your best to get cheese on every bread cube. You can roll the cubes around in the cheese that drops onto the baking sheet.  Return the cheese to the freezer. Bake for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to turn the cubes over. Grate some more cheese over the cubes and return to the oven for another 8 – 10 minutes until toasted and golden. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for 2 days.

For the Salad

8 cups of hearty greens – I like to include a colorful mix of red and green salad leaves – red leaf, frisee and romaine. For a touch of bitterness and interest, I add some finely sliced raddichio and slivered brussels sprouts. 

Tear the greens into reasonably sized pieces and soak briefly in cold water, then spin or pat dry. Toss together in a bowl or a large ziptop bag for transporting. The greens can be kept refrigerated for several hours.

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Carrot Coconut Cake

Carrot Coconut Cake

Carrot cake, I have found, is an intensely personal taste. There are those on the side of nuts, and those against. The pineapple people and the anti-pineapple people. The cream cheese frosting advocates and the buttercream brigade. I am not ambivalent in my preferences, but not nearly as persnickety as some. I like carrot cake that is moist and full of flavor, with carrots at the forefront. I’ve tried almost every version imaginable to please various factions, but when I create a recipe I do it with my own preferences in mind, like this Carrot Ginger Bundt Cake. I love the idea of a carrot cake with coconut milk for flavor and moistness, and I was inspired to create a pretty white and fluffy version by some pastel Easter candy. I love the idea of filling the center of a perfect Easter cake with a special treat that spills in a tumble out when the cake is sliced.

The insane amount of candy available at Easter is astounding, easily rivalling Christmas and Halloween these days. And I’ll admit, I am tempted. I am a sucker for the specialty seasonal treats (carrot cake kisses, anyone?) and many of the Easter variety are terribly cute. I’ve used little candy coated mini eggs as decoration on a number of things as an afterthought, but this year I found some shimmer eggs that were just too beautiful to pass by (there from Cadbury). The fluffy coconut coating on the cake makes a lovely spring dessert, and you could certainly serve it at any time without the candy eggs.

Carrot Coconut Cake

For the Cake:

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder 

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

4 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups grated carrots (about 2 large)

½ cup sweetened shredded coconut

For the Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

6 – 8 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Pastel candy Easter eggs, such as Cadbury Mini Eggs (about 2 bags)

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 12-cup tube or Bundt pan with baking spray, such as Bakers’ Joy.

Stir the flour, baking powder, spices and salt together in a bowl to combine. Place the melted butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until pale, light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the dry ingredients alternately with the coconut milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the batter is thoroughly combined and smooth.  Add in the grated carrots and coconut until combined. Give the batter a good stir with a spatula to make sure the carrots are evenly distributed, then scoop the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 60 – 70 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes with few moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Place a piece of parchment or foil under the rack to catch drips when you glaze the cake to make clean up easy.

For the Glaze:

Sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and whisk in the coconut milk until you have a thick, spreadable glaze. Use a spoon to drizzle and spread the glaze over the top and down the sides of the cake. As you drizzle, cover the glaze with the shredded coconut, lightly pressing it into the glaze with clean fingers.  You want a generous layer of coconut on the top and some of the sides of the cake. Leave the cake uncovered for a few hours to let the glaze and coconut set.

Transfer to a serving platter and fill the center with 

Serves 12

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

Spring has always been a season of brunch for me. Easter, graduations, wedding showers. It’s a great way to entertain elegantly and with a little planning, pretty easy to do ahead. Center the affair around a ham with biscuits or rolls, a perfect platter of stuffed eggs, add some vegetables, a casserole (maybe this hash brown version) and a few indulgent treats and you are good to go. Tangy mustard with a velvety fluffy texture is a lovely complement to the best spring and summer vegetables. I developed this to go with asparagus, but it works wonderfully well with pillowy snap peas or simply steamed green beans. But wait, there’s more – this is delicious with slices of ham, even with sliced beef tenderloin. So for the Easter buffet, you get a two for one deal – this makes enough to serve with two separate dishes. 

I love a platter of lightly steamed asparagus with a tangy, interesting sauce or dressing, and this fits the bill perfectly. If you’ve ever had the old-school molded mustard mousse once a staple of the Southern ham buffet, this is inspired by the classic, but with a much smoother and cleaner taste, old-fashioned and modern at the same time. I love the bracing flavor of tarragon, but vary that up with dill or, if you have it, chervil. And the sunshine-y yellow color adds its own touch of spring to the feast. I call it velvet because the smooth, fluffy texture works either as a dip or a spread.

Tarragon Mustard Velvet

2 egg yolks

3 Tablespoons prepared Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar (use tarragon vinegar if you have it)

1 Tablespoon water

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon

¾ teaspoons kosher salt

1 Tablespoon butter

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Beat the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, water and sugar together in a small sauce pan until smooth and combined. Stir in the tarragon and salt. Place the pan over medium heat and heat gently until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir almost constantly to prevent the mustard from catching on the bottom of the pan. The mixture should return to the consistency of the prepared mustard. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until melted and smooth. Scrape the mustard into a small bowl so it won’t continue cooking from the heat of the pan. Cool completely.

Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold through the mustard until well combined but still fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, but overnight is fine.

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

Dublin Lawyer

I absolutely discovered this dish because of the name. I first saw it on a pub menu in London and had to ask. After it was described, my dining companion switched his order to it and we both relished bites. But I had to know where the name came from, so I soon set out to do some research. This was many years ago and the internet was not quite so helpful, but eventually I stumbled across an Irish cookbook that clued me in. Dublin Lawyer is traditionally made with lobster, and the story is its name comes from the fact that lobster, whiskey and cream make it “rich as a Dublin lawyer”. I’ve made this for myself for a special treat dinner and served it to friends – a flaming dish is always a hit.

I substitute shrimp in this recipe because they are easier to find and easier to work with. I use great big sweet wild caught Gulf shrimp or almost lobster-like royal reds and think this dish is still rich and decadent. Lobster is not easy to find in landlocked Memphis, and I’ve never been very skilled at cooking with it anyway. You can of course use lobster if you like. Either make the sauce and use it to nap whole lobster tail or stir in lobster meat at the end as you do the shrimp here. You can serve Dublin Lawyer as a first course to an Irish meal or as a main with a green salad. I always serve it with some good bread for mopping up the delicious sauce.

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

4 green onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dash of cayenne pepper

Sea salt and black pepper

¼ cup Irish whiskey

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley, plus a little for garnish

1 pound very large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chopped green onions and sauté until soft and glassy. Add the garlic and cayenne and generous pinches of salt and pepper and cook a further minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the whiskey. Use a long lighter to light the whiskey on fire (stand back!) and let it burn until the flame dies. (Alternatively, you can return the pan to the heat and boil until the whiskey is reduced by about 1/3). Return the pan to the heat and pour in the cream. Stir well and cook at a nice bubble until the cream is reduced and thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Pat the shrimp dry and slip them into the cream sauce. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and firm, turning them over in the sauce, about 4 – 5 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley.

Serves 4 – 6

Confetti King Cake Squares

Confetti King Cake Sqaures

A few years ago, I was working on some Mardi Gras recipes and happened to have arrayed around my kitchen all manner of purple, green and gold decorative sprinkles, confettis, sugars and what-not when By chance I talked to a friend who was making a “funfetti” cake for her daughters’ birthday party. And standing there, looking at a cake shop worth of themed décor, I couldn’t help but think I could use them in my own festive Mardi Gras sweet treat. I opted for bars, because I needed something portable to take to a celebration for which I have frequently made my original King Cake Bars. I wanted something new, and I love this slightly silly, sparkly sweet because that is what Mardi Gras is all about.

These have the richness of cream cheese and butter with the hint of cinnamon I always associate with king cake. I use old fashioned sprinkles, or “jimmies” in the batter, but get creative on the top (because, as I said, I have a lot of purple, green and gold cake decorations!). The simple glaze adds a nice hit of sweetness and helps hold the decorations on top, but a light dusting of powdered sugar works too.

Confetti King Cake Squares

1 cup purple, green and yellow sprinkles (1/3 cup of each color)

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large egg, at room temperature

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

3 – 4 Tablespoons milk

Purple, green and yellow sprinkles or sanding sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with non-stick foil or parchment paper.

Put the sprinkles in a small bowl and mix together to evenly distribute the colors.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to combine, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and egg and beat until combined, scraping down the bowl. Beat in the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until smooth and well combined, scraping down the bowl a few times. Beat in the sprinkles. 

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. It will be thick, so use clean, lightly damp fingers to press the batter into an even layer, then use an offset palette knife or spatula to smooth the top completely. Bake until firm and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 – 30 minutes. 

While the bars are baking, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and milk until you have a glaze as thick as heavy cream. Pour the glaze over the bars as soon as they come out of the oven and tilt the pan to cover the top, or use an offset palette knife to spread It evenly. Decorate the top with sprinkles or sugar (I like to use the back of a palette knife to gently “tap” the decorations into the glaze so they adhere before the glaze sets). Leave to cool completely then cut into squares.

Makes 16

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

Over the summer, in the hot, hot weather, I had a few people over for a last minute meal. I couldn’t bring myself to cook much, so I decided to make a big salad. Another last minute decision was to lay out my ingredients on a big platter rather than toss it it in a bowl. It seemed more substantial somehow. It got raves, so I made it several other times and posted as my Southern Buttermlik Cobb Salad. Since then, the big platter salad has become a favorite of mine. For relatively little effort, you get a showstopper meal or side salad. I’ve got all sorts of iterations in my arsenal, and I am sure they will make appearances here. But with Mardi Gras coming up, I decided to create a beautiful version inspired by the classic muffaletta sandwich, with olives, Italian pickled vegetables and peppers, cured meats and cheese. The dressing is tart from using the well-flavored brine from the giardinera (you could also make the dressing from olive brine). This gorgeous plate is hearty enough for a full meal with a nice loaf of French bread, or a great side for a Louisiana style meal. I prepared this for my family, and several people started picking at it with their fingers, so I suppose you could make it an appetizer as well.

Below is a basic guide to the salad. You could use a different green on the bottom and use whatever olives you prefer. I find lovely little bite-size salami in my grocery, but you can cut larger pieces if that’s what you find. I use salami and soppresatta, but you could add some mortadella or spicy salami. I buy a thick piece of provolone, sometimes sliced at the deli counter, so I can cut it into nice, hearty chunks. Use mild or spicy banana peppers as you like. You could purchase toasted baguette slices, but I tend to use half a baguette and serve the rest with dinner.

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

For the Dressing:

¼ cup brine from jarred giardiniera

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon Creole mustard

½ Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 cup olive oil

For the croutons:

½ a small baguette, thinly sliced

Olive oil spray

Salt and pepper

For the Salad:

2 romaine hearts

6 ounce round of provolone cheese

8 ounces bite-sized Italian salami

3 ounces sliced soppressata

1 (25.5 ounce) jar giardiniera Italian pickled vegetables, drained (reserving brine for dressing)

1 (6 ounce) jar pitted black olives, drained

1 (10 ounce) jar pitted green olives, drained

½ cup banana pepper rings from a jar

For the Dressing:

Place the brine, vinegar, mustard, Italian seasoning and garlic in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Screw on the lid and shake well to combine. Add the olive oil, cover and shake again until well combined and emulsified. The dressing can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Shake well before serving.

For the Croutons:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the sliced baguette on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray one side with olive oil, then flip over and spray the other side. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes until crispy. Cool completely and store for up to a day in a ziptop bag. If you don’t have olive oil spray, brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides.

Assembly:

Cut the romaine into ½ inch wide ribbons, wash well and dry. Cut the provolone into bite size chunks. Cut soppressata slices into quarters. 

Lay the romaine evenly over a large platter. Arrange the giardiniera in the center of the salad, then make attractive rows of the salami, soppressata, provolone, croutons, olives and pepper rings. Drizzle with the dressing right before serving.

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

It’s the time of year, as Mardi Gras approaches, that I start to crave some good Louisiana flavors. And I also find traditional hearty dishes perfect for the cold and dreary weather, from Red Beans and Riceto Shrimp Creole. Warmth and spice are perfect for the season. Shrimp gravy has roots in the Low Country and in Louisiana, and my version is a variation of classic Shrimp Sauce Picante, not quite as kicky and with the added heft of smoked sausage and without the process of a roux. It’s also a simple weeknight dish worthy of a space in the regular rotation.

I love rice grits with this gravy. Rice grits, also known as middlins’, are broken pieces of rice and, not surprisingly, have the taste of rice with the texture of grits. Check local rice growers for rice grits, or check out some online sources. I particularly like Two Brooks FarmDelta Blues, or Anson Mills. If you can’t access rice grits, the gravy is delicious over long grain rice or corn grits. I love a simple smoked sausage, but you could use andouille for some added spice.

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

For the Gravy:

1 pound medium frozen peeled, deveined shrimp, thawed

4 teaspoons creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s), divided

8 ounces smoked sausage

1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with green chile

1 cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

1 yellow onion, finely diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Rice Grits:

3 cups chicken broth

1 ½ cups water

¼ cup (half stick) butter

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups rice grits

For the Gravy:

Lay the shrimp in one layer on a plate and pat dry. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of creole seasoning evenly over both sides of the shrimp and place the plate in the fridge until ready to use the shrimp.

Cut the sausage into small pieces – I like to cut each link into quarters then cut thin slices across. Put the tomatoes and chiles and the broth in a blender and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until melted. Add the diced pepper, onion, celery and the sliced sausage and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to brown and the sausage is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Sprinkle over the flour and remaining teaspoon of creole seasoning and stir to coat the vegetables, making sure there is no dry flour visible. Pour in the tomato-broth mixture and scrape up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just beginning to turn pink and curl. Cover the pot and remove from the heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice grits.

For the Grits:

Bring the broth, water, butter and salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. When the water is boiling, stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, about 20 minutes. Cover the pot for 5 minutes, then fluff the grits with a fork before serving.

Serves 6

Collard and Cornbread Pudding

Any Southerner will tell you that you must eat greens on New Year’s day. It insures prosperity in the year to come (and black eyed peas) for luck. And if you got a big pot of greens to serve up, you just have to have some cornbread to go with it. So here, I have combined the two into a lovely casserole in the style of a savory bread pudding. Frozen chopped greens are a perfect shortcut and the cornbread is really easy to make from scratch.

To serve this on New Year’s Day, I usually whip up the pan of cornbread on December 30, assemble the casserole New Year’s Eve, and pop it in the oven on New Year’s Day. I prefer to cover the cornbread pan with a tea towel to leave overnight. Day-old cornbread soaks up the custard and creates a light and fluffy texture. Plus, it makes assembling the final result simpler. For your black eyed pea fix, try Hoppin’ John Salad with Bourbon Sorghum Salad, or Slow Cooker Southern Black Eyed Peas, both of which would be a perfect match with the pudding. I have to say though, don’t limit this dish to New Year’s only, it’s a fabulous side for roast pork loin, or an excellent brunch dish. 

You can use this recipe as a template and tailor it to your own tastes. Leave out the bacon and sauté the vegetables in olive oil for a meat-free version. Or stir in some chopped county ham instead of bacon. Use a red bell pepper instead of green to add a little color. Add a finely chopped hot pepper to the vegetables, up the amount of hot sauce or add a dash or red pepper flakes. You add some freshly chopped herbs and switch up the cheese with parmesan.

Collard Cornbread Pudding

For the Cornbread:

1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Pudding:

1 (14-ounce) bag frozen chopped collard greens

4 strips of bacon

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

6 eggs

2 ½ cups milk

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon hot sauce

lots of freshly ground black pepper

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

For the Cornbread:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8 by 8 inch square pan.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the egg, milk and oil until the batter is well combined, with no dry ingredients visible.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until firm and lightly golden and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

The cornbread can be made up to one day ahead and kept covered loosely with a tea towel on the counter. 

For the Pudding:

Place the collards in a large, deep skillet and cover with water by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the greens for 20 minutes. Drain the greens through a colander, pressing out excess liquid with a spatula.

Wipe out the skillet, then cook the bacon strips until crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain. Drain all but two tablespoons bacon grease from the pan, then add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium-high heat until soft and glassy. Stir in the garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from the heat and stir in the collard greens, separating them and making sure the vegetables are well distributed in the greens. Break the cornbread into small pieces and add to the greens, stirring to distribute everything evenly. Chop the bacon into small pieces and stir into the mix. Turn the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish and leave to cool.

Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl, then whisk in the hot sauce, salt and pepper.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cornbread and greens and leave to soak for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to 12 is fine.

When ready to bake, take the pudding out of the fridge to take some chill off while you preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the pudding until puffed and golden, about 30 – 40 minutes. Serve warm.

Serves 8 – 10

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

When I was in school in England many moons ago, the chic appetizer on menus all over the country, from bistros to pubs, was fried camembert with a cranberry relish. Small wheels, or sometimes wedges, of camembert were breaded and fried and served with anything from a canned-type cranberry sauce to complicated cranberry relishes. One English grocery store even (to this day) sells a heat and eat version with a little tub of cranberry jelly. I loved it, and ordered all the time. But the likelihood of me coating and frying cheese has always been pretty slim. I tried coating the top of a wheel with breadcrumbs one time, but that was not very successful. But I love the combination of gooey cheese, crunchy crumbs and tart-sweet cranberry. Hence, this was born. A cheat’s version that truly rivals the inspiration.

A melty wheel of creamy cheese makes a wonderful appetizer that never fails to please. I love the funky depth of camembert, but you could certainly use brie or another creamy cheese. I like to bake it until it is really runny, so the cheese picks up the crumble when you swipe a server through it. Hazelnuts are the perfect winter partner for the cheese, but walnuts or pecans would work well. The cranberries and rosemary give this a festive look. Serve melty hot with baguette slices.

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

2 ounces hazelnuts

3 sprigs rosemary

2 sprigs marjoram

1 clove garlic

1 ounce dried cranberries

Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 8 ounce wheel of camembert cheese

Put the hazelnuts in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes over medium heat just to warm them through. Transfer to a tea towel, then fold over the towel and rub the hazelnuts around to loosen the skins. Don’t worry about getting every piece of skin, just the majority of it. Roughly chop the hazelnuts, either with a knife or in a mini food processor. Put about five rosemary leaves aside, then finely chop the remainder. Finely chop the marjoram. Cut the garlic clove in half and very finely mince one half. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the skillet, then add the chopped herbs and the hazelnuts. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently just until the nuts start to take on a little toasty brown color. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. When the nuts are little browned, add the garlic and stir and cook for 30 seconds. Immediately put the mixture in a bowl, then add the cranberries and generous pinches of salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat to oven to 350°. Place the camembert in a small, lightly greased baking dish. Rub the cut side of the remaining garlic half over the top of the cheese, the use thin knife to make several slits in the top of the cheese. Poke the reserved rosemary needles down into the slits in the cheese. Bake the cheese for 15 – 20 minutes, until it is warmed through, soft and runny. Sprinkle over the crumble and heat for a further three minutes. Serve immediately with baguette slices.

Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

I adore chestnuts and when they start to turn up in the shops around the holidays, I go a little nuts (pun intended!) and stock up. What I mean here are the ready peeled and cooked version, sold vacuum packed or in jars. They are so easy to use and so very wintery and festive. I use them in lots of savory recipes, like this lovely Roasted Chestnut Bisque or a hearty Pasta with Chestnuts, Pancetta and Sage. But chocolate and chestnut is a wonderful, rich combination with a very indulgent and celebratory feel. It has, to me, a sort of old world, old fashioned charm that is perfect for the festive season. And this dessert delivers.

This is everything you want in a holiday dessert. Rich, decadent, elegant and it can be made ahead – like five days ahead – and tucked in the fridge. In the photo here, I brushed the top with some edible gold powder, but the decorative options are endless. Candied chestnuts, curls of chocolate – white or dark – fancy glitter or sprinkles, powdered sugar, a sprig of holly. Small slices are rich enough (thought there is nothing wrong with a big piece) and very rich, but you could add a dollop of whipped cream to the plate. I tend to call this elegant because it is stunning on a silver tray and fine china dessert plates, but it would look just as attractive on a wooden slab served on pottery dishes as a more rustic sweet.

Chocolate Chestnut Terrine

For the Filling:

14 ½ ounces roasted and peeled chestnuts

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

3 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons cognac, brandy or chestnut liqueur

For the Ganache:

4 ounces 70% dark chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 Tablespoon heavy cream

Process the chestnuts and sugar in the bowl of a food processor until fairly smooth. Put the butter, chocolate and milk in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cognac. Add to the chestnuts in the food processor and process until the mixture is smooth. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as much as possible. Leave lots of overhang to wrap the top fully. Scoop the filling into the pan and smooth the top, pressing It down to fill the corners. Cover the top with the plastic, then chill for at least 24 hours.

For the topping:

Melt the chocolate, butter and cream in a small saucepan, stirring frequently, until smooth. Unwrap the top of the filling and then invert it onto a serving platter. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and sides. Place in the fridge, uncovered, until set, then loosely cover with plastic wrap and keep for up to four days.

Serves 8