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.

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)
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Cranberry Tangerine Relish

Cranberry Tangerine Relish

I am pretty traditional about the cranberries on the Thanksgiving table. I have to have my traditional cooked cranberry sauce. But I like to mix things up sometimes and have a second version as well. But I am not from the jiggly can of cranberry sauce camp, so it’s a chance to get creative.

This raw relish is sweet and tangy and a definite twist. Usually made with oranges, I find the sweetness of tangerines a special touch, and add a little kick of bourbon. You can use small tangerines, larger honey tangerines or even clementines. Serve this with the big meal, and there will still be lots left to go beside leftover sandwiches.

Cranberry Tangerine Relish
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces whole tangerines
  2. 8 ounces fresh cranberries
  3. ½ cup pecan halves
  4. 1 cup sugar
  5. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
Instructions
  1. Cut the tangerines into pieces – skins and all - and place in the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse six to seven times to break up the tangerines. Add the whole cranberries, sugar, pecans and bourbon and pulse until you have a rough relish. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times and make sure everything is well combined. Scoop the relish into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours or up to a week. If lots of liquid accumulates in the bowl, you can drain the relish.
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Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)

Decandent Chocolate Bread Pudding

I’ve been making this bread pudding for years, when I really want to pull out the stops for a decadent, but homey, dessert. It’s another of those recipes written on card, transferred to a notebook, moved to a file folder – the victim of my many attempts to organize a lifetimes worth of shared and saved recipes. The chocolate custard soaks through the bread and the chocolate morsels add little surprises of molten chocolate. This is not a dessert for the faint of heart.

When I was making this again to test and photograph it, I was suddenly struck with great indecision. Should I make a peppermint version? Add a new sauce? I finally decided the most helpful thing to do would be to stick with the basics and share this template recipe, which is utterly delicious and perfect as it is. But I offer some seasonal variations and additional trimmings from the archives.

Decadent Chocolate Bread Pudding (and variations)
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound loaf challah bread or soft Italian bread
  2. 3 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  3. 8 ounces semisweet chocolate
  4. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  6. 5 large eggs
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  8. ½ cup whole milk
  9. 11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate morsels
Instructions
  1. Cut the bread into roughly 1-inch chunks and set aside.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces and drop it in a food processor. Heat 1 cup of the heavy cream in the microwave (about 45 seconds) or in a saucepan until just steaming. Do not boil or bubble. Process the chocolate for a few seconds to break it up, then pour over the warm cream and process until smooth. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, the melted butter and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and process until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, processing until smooth between each addition. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a capacious bowl –one that will fit the bread too. Stir in the remaining 2 cups cream and ½ cup milk and stir until smooth. Add the bread cubes and the chocolate morsels to the bowl and gently stir until the bread is well coated, the morsels are evenly distributed and everything is well combined. Scrape the mixture into a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour, but up to six.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Take the baking dish out of the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes to get the chill off. Bake for 55 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Serve warm.
Notes
  1. You can serve this with ice cream, plain vanilla, salted caramel or peppermint or with whipped cream, or try it drizzled with Toffee Sauce or Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Give an autumn twist by adding 2 cups of dried cranberries, soaked in a little brandy to plump and ½ cup chopped walnuts, using just 1 cup of chocolate morsels.
  3. As the holidays approach, mix this up to make a Mint Chocolate Bread Pudding. Swap the vanilla for ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and use white chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. Sprinkle the top with crushed peppermint candies before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Homemade Southern Hash Brown Casserole

Homemade Southern Hashbrown Casserole

I rather hope this recipe becomes an internet sensation. Because I know I have searched and searched through websites, engines, magazines and books looking for an old-fashioned style hash brown casserole that doesn’t use canned soup. I cannot abide canned soup, so I finally took it upon myself to come up with a can-free casserole. I don’t know why I was so stymied, going without the soup is pretty darn easy. Okay, maybe I stretch the word homemade a bit – I do use frozen hash browns, but as long as they are nothing but potatoes, I am fine with this major timesaver.

I’ve added all the flavors that are reminiscent of southern cooking to me. Chopped green onions, lots of parsley and a hit of paprika in tribute to my grandmother’s garnishing ways, a touch of bacon, and of course pimentos and cheddar cheese. This can be made ahead and popped in the oven to be hot and ready for a family breakfast or brunch. It is rustic and homey, but I happily serve it with my most elegant silver on a holiday table. And sure, it’s great for dinner, too.

The casserole is adapatable too. You could sprinkle some cheese over the top before baking, though I think that leaves an unappealing crust. Swap out the pimentos for green chiles and use Monterrey jack cheese. Leave out the bacon or use ham instead – or country ham.

Homemade Southern Hash Brown Casserole
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 30 ounce bag frozen, shredded hash browns, thawed (potato only)
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 3 Tablespoons flour
  4. ½ cup whole milk
  5. ½ cup chicken broth
  6. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  7. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon paprika
  11. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  12. 8 ounces sour cream
  13. 8 – 10 green onions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
  14. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  15. 1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and well drained
  16. 6 strips bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  17. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Drain the potatoes fully in a colander.
  2. Melt the butter over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir until combined and you have a thick paste. Whisk in the milk and chicken broth and cook until smooth and bubbling and any floury taste is gone. Whisk in the mustard, Worcestershire, salt, pepper, paprika and nutmeg. Set aside to cool.
  3. Toss the thawed potatoes with the green onions, parsley, pimentos, bacon and cheese together in a large bowl until well mixed. Stir the sour cream into the cooled sauce base. The sauce base will be thick, just keep stirring until it is smooth and combined and add to the potatoes. Stir until everything is combined and evenly distributed. Spoon the hash browns into a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.
  4. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated 8 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350° and bake, covered with foil, until heated through and bubbly, about an hour.
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Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce

Crunchy coconut shrimp are sort of a secret treat for me. I don’t eat at a lot of chain restaurants, but there are a few that really excel and I make the occasional visit to sample them. The first time I had coconut shrimp years ago, I was attending the trial run of a chain restaurant opening its first branch in town. The night was a real disaster…the waiters were not ready, there were problems with the lighting and the piped in music. One of the bathrooms hadn’t been finished and the bar wasn’t opened. But the shrimp sure were good.

I generally can’t be bothered with frying at home and this baked version is a bit healthier…leaving room for this creamy tequila lime sauce. I think it adds a little Cinco de Mayo tropical flair to the crispy shrimp. Serve these as a starter to a larger Mexican meal, or make this the main with some rice with lime and cilantro stirred through. Pop open a cold beer with a slice of lime and celebrate.

Baked Coconut Shrimp with Tequila Lime Butter Sauce
Serves 4
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Shrimp
  1. 1 ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  2. ½ cup shredded sweetened coconut
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 pound large shrimp (26- 30 count), peeled, deveined, tails intact
  5. 1 egg
Sauce
  1. ½ cup tequila
  2. 6 Tablespoons heavy cream
  3. 2 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  4. 3 teaspoons lime zest
  5. 1 ½ Tablespoon chopped cilantro
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, sliced
For the shrimp
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°
  2. Stir the panko, coconut and salt together in a large, deep skillet and place over medium heat. Stirring and flipping the crumbs constantly, toast until evenly golden brown. Be careful not to burn the coating. Spread the crumbs on a plate and leave to cool.
  3. Place a rack in a rimmed baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Beat the egg with 2 teaspoons of water in a small bowl until blended. Pat the shrimp dry, then dip by the tail in the egg. Place the shrimp in the crumbs and press to coat each side fully. Place each bread shrimp on the prepared rack.
  4. Bake the shrimp for 10 – 12 minutes until opaque and cooked through.
For the sauce
  1. While the shrimp are cooking, stir the tequila, cream, lime juice, zest and cilantro together in a medium skillet. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently until reduced by half and thickened. Stir the butter in a piece at a time, stirring to melt after each addition.
  2. Serve the shrimp immediately drizzled with the sauce, or with the sauce on the side as a dip.
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Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

I love a good honey-glazed, spiral sliced ham, but I rarely get to enjoy one, because they are just so darn big. But my parents received a whole ham as a gift, and as my mother defines eternity as two people and a ham, we served it for Thanksgiving. I managed to get away with most of the still-copious leftovers and went to work on recipe ideas (and enjoyed a number of ham-sandwich combinations). I enjoyed the leftovers so much, I ordered a ham for Easter.

I took the idea of a simple noodle casserole up a notch with a mustardy sauce and the depth of smoked cheddar cheese (or can use plain if you prefer). A little crunchy bite of pecan adds and extra dimension as well. This casserole is a great way to use leftovers from a holiday ham, but also makes an easy week night meal if you use cooked ham from the deli counter, sliced thick then diced. Serve this as a whole meal with a salad or as a side dish.

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups uncooked pasta, such as shells or elbows
  2. 3 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 small white onion, chopped
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 2 ½ cups milk
  7. 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. 8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese (unsmoked if you prefer)
  14. 6 ounces cooked ham, finely diced
  15. ½ cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but subtracting one minute from the recommended time. Drain and rinse well.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 10 – 12 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of water and cook until the water is evaporated and the onions are a nice light bourbon color. Stir in the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the flour has disappeared into the onions and butter. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the grated cheese, then stir the rest in a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Stir in the yellow mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, ground mustard and nutmeg and stir until the everything is well combined.
  3. Add the diced ham and pecans and stir to coat in the sauce. Add the pasta and stir gently to coat each noodle in sauce. Season with more salt if needed. Scrape the pasta into a 3-quart casserole and smooth the top. Spread the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole.
  4. At this point, you can cool and cover the casserole and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, or bake it right away.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.
  6. Serve warm.
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