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.

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

I have, for many years, been searching and experimenting with recipes for a make -ahead breakfast casserole that is all egg.  The classic breakfast casserole around here is sausage, cheese and bread bound with an egg and milk custard, and I have made many variations of that.  But I wanted something that didn’t include bread or other elements, because so often, a brunch spread includes them in other forms.  Okay, for the big holidays, indulgence is the norm – I have been known to serve a plate of bacon and a sausage casserole, cheesy grits, biscuits and muffins – but that is not always the way to go.  It has been my goal to serve a simple, scrambled egg casserole alongside the bacon and ham and biscuits and preserves, not adding to the overload, just complimenting it.  And most off all, I don’t want to be up early cracking eggs and cooking them to order.

This is the result of trial and error, combining the best bits of all sorts of community cookbook recipes.  My version below is very simple, jazzed up only with a little sharp green onion and some chives, but the brilliance of this is its adaptability.  Add ingredients that suit the rest of your brunch spread – a combination of other fresh herbs, some finely diced peppers or mushrooms, even a little bacon or ham.

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

5 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese

12 eggs

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour until you have a smooth paste.  Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Add the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and smooth, about five minutes. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and whisk it, bit by bit, into the sauce until it is smooth and melted. Remove from the heat.

Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk thoroughly, until the yolks are broken up and the eggs are well combined.  Whisk in a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Pour in the eggs and cook gently to form large, soft curds.  Do not “scramble” the eggs too much, just gently push the cooked egg aside to let the uncooked egg cover the bottom of the pan.  When the eggs are almost cooked, but some uncooked liquid is left, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream sauce over the top.  Sprinkle over the chopped green onion and chives, then fold the sauce through the eggs.  At this point, you can break up any large egg pieces to distribute evenly through the sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Spread the eggs into a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 300° and cook the eggs just until heated through, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6 – 8

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Leek and Brie Bread Pudding

Leek and Brie Bread Pudding

Spring is the perfect time for brunch.  With Easter starting things off, there always seems to be an explosion of daytime events.  Graduations and weddings and all the celebrations that go with them.  And I love a good family brunch.  You can wear a nice dress, but don’t have to worry about high heels and punitive undergarments and retouching your lipstick every ten minutes.  I still look forward to finding my fun spring dress like I did when I was kid.  And the food.  A generous buffet spread, with everyone roaming around and eating and chatting – and eating some more.  This may be my favorite form of entertaining.

This dish fits the bill perfectly.  It is rich and elegant, but with a light, fluffy texture that will amaze.  And you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven before the brunch, so no early morning scrambling in the kitchen.  Leeks, brie and wine bring up the sophistication level, and it is a happy change from a typical egg-cheese-sausage morning casserole.  And it also has no meat, which is great if there is a ham, bacon or sausage on the table too.  Now, I have given you lots of reasons this is a perfect brunch dish, but in the recipe testing process, I served it to my book club for dinner and it was a hit.  A little green salad on the side and a glass of crisp, cold white wine…you’re in for a treat.

Leek and Brie Bread Pudding

16 ounce loaf soft Italian bread (no hard crusts)

3 medium leeks, white and light green parts

4 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup white wine or vermouth, plus 2 Tablespoons

8 ounces brie

10 eggs

1 Tablespoon salt

Generous grinds of black pepper

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 Tablespoons chopped parsley

1 Tablespoon chopped marjoram or thyme

4 cups milk

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).

Meanwhile, slice the white and palest green parts of the leeks in half, then into thin half-moons.  Place in a colander and rinse very well under cold running water.  Melt the butter in a sauce pan with a lid, shake most of the water off the leeks and add them to the pan.  Stir to coat, then add ¼ cup wine or vermouth and ¼ cup water.  Stir well, cover the pan and cook the leeks, stirring frequently, until they are wilted and soft, about 20 minutes.  Make sure the leeks don’t brown – you can add a bit more water if needed.  When the leeks are soft and jammy, leave them to cool.

Trim the rind off the brie, removing as much of the white rind as possible without sacrificing too much cheese.  I find a long serrated knife works best, and the cheese needs to be very cold and firm.  Cut the brie into small pieces. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Spread the bread in the dish.  Spread the leeks out over the bread, tucking them in between the cubes and distributing them evenly.  Distribute the brie pieces throughout the bread and leeks, tucking them down between the cubes of bread and leeks.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly.  Add the salt, pepper, the remaining 2 Tablespoons wine or vermouth, mustard and herbs and whisk well.  Add the milk and whisk until completely blended.  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.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  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.

Serve warm.

Serves 8 – 10

Glazed Canadian Bacon

A few years ago, I was in charge of preparing an Easter lunch for my family.  We were a small group that year, and decided on classic Southern brunch food – grits, fruit, ham.  But a whole ham would have been more than enough food for our group.  We would have had leftovers for years.  But most of the smaller hams on the market are pressed hams, and I am not into that.  And I didn’t want to serve pre-sliced pieces from a plastic package either.

I was standing at the deli counter, contemplating whether or not there was some kind of compromise I could work out.  And I saw the Canadian bacon.  They sell it sliced, like any deli meat, but of course behind the counter, they have it in whole chunks.  It took some explaining to the deli supervisor, but I went home with a big chunk of cured Canadian bacon.  I realized I could treat it both like a ham and like bacon, baking it with a sweet, sticky glaze and serving it sliced. And it was a hit.  Perfect for a small gathering, and perfect with the classic brunch accompaniments.  You can slice it thick or thin, as you like, but basically serve as you would ham.  If there are any leftovers, it is amazing on sandwiches or try an eggs benedict – the tangy, sweet edges on the bacon add a special touch.

Glazed Canadian Bacon

2 pounds Canadian bacon, one piece, unsliced

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 Tablespoon bourbon

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon cane syrup, molasses or maple syrup

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Generous grinds of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking dish with parchment or non-stick foil.

Place the piece of Canadian bacon in the prepared dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cane syrup, mustard, mustard powder, ginger and pepper.  Brush half the glaze over the bacon, spreading along the sides and ends.  Add one Tablespoon of water to the baking dish.

Bake the bacon until it reaches and internal temperature of 165°. This should take about an hour.  About 20 minutes into the cooking time, spoon the remaining glaze over the bacon and continue cooking.  When the bacon is done, leave it to rest for 5 minutes or so before slicing and serving.  It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8 – 10

Peep Mousse

After the international success of my Candy Corn Mousse from Halloween 2009 (yes, international, it was big in Singapore), I have decided to branch out with silly holiday candy desserts.  And so I present Peep Mousse, the more refined way to consume the iconic marshmallow Peep.  In case you were looking for a more refined way to eat Peeps.

You can use any color Peep you prefer, though I find the yellow to be the classic.  The sprinkling of sugar on top definitely gives a flavor boost, and helps to make the experience authentic as the Peep sugar is sure to get all over something. As with the candy corn version, this will delight kids or give grown-ups a good giggle.

Peep Mousse

1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

10 Peeps marshmallow candies

Sparkling sugar or sprinkles for dusting

Heat ½ cup of the cream in a large saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the Peeps and stir until melted and smooth.  Leave the melted Peep base to cool, stirring occasionally.  The mixture will separate, but will come back together with stirring.

When the Peep base is cool, whip the remaining 1 cup of cream until stiff peaks form.  Drop a large spoon full of the cream into the Peep base and stir to combine.  Gently fold in the remaining cream in two batches until everything is combined and evenly colored.  Spoon the mousse into 4 small bowls, cover the top with plasti wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Serve sprinkled with decorative sugar.

Makes 4 small servings