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 Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

Creamy Turkey and WIld Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing  Croutons

Thanksgiving leftovers for me are generally of the sandwich variety.  I love leftover turkey sandwiches.  With cranberry sauce and a slice of dressing.  I make extra dressing, bind it with eggs and cram it into a loaf pan.  Baked off, it makes perfect slices to fit a sandwich.  I even make some sweet-savory jams and chutneys during the summer for use on the post-Thanksgiving concoctions.  My family gathers and plows through the leftovers in a laid-back feed, usually at someone else’s home (lucky me). After preparing the bulk of the Thanksgiving feast, I don’t usually have the energy to deal with another cooking project.  Frankly, I don’t’ always have it in me to make stock from the turkey carcass.  Mostly, it means more dirty dishes.

But last year, I put my mind to creating a hearty, warming meal using the leftover turkey with minimal work and lots of flavor.  And this is my result.  There are several ways to speed up this process.  When you are chopping vegetables for the big meal, put some aside in a Ziploc in the fridge to use for this.  Or buy a bag of frozen chopped mire-poix or soup starter when you do the big shop. I always overbuy on sage, the classic Thanksgiving herb, but use what you have on hand. I find quick-cooking wild rice easily, so look out for that and save yourself a step (though it is an easy one) of cooking the rice.   I don’t always have eight cups of turkey stock leftover after I make gravy and dressing, so I make up the difference with boxed stock.  Cream cheese adds a little body and tang to the final creamy product. The soup is lovely as is, but some toasted pieces of leftover dressing on top add a nice contrast.

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

2 cups finely diced onion

1 cup finely diced carrot

1 cup finely diced celery

2 Tablespoons olive oil

8 cups turkey or chicken stock, or a combination

2 finely minced garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

1 yellow potato, finely diced

1 ½ cups quick-cooking wild rice, or 1 ½ cups wild rice cooked according to package instructions

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups diced cooked turkey

Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in a 5-quart Dutch oven in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle over 1 Tablespoon of the sage and stir well.  When the vegetables are soft, add ½ cup stock and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minutes.  Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Add the remaining sage and the potato, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1o minutes until the potatoes are becoming tender.  If using quick cooking wild rice, add it now, cover the pot and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Bring the soup to a low bubble (not boiling, but bubbling). Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and whisk a few at a time into the soup adding more as it melts.  Don’t worry if it looks odd and separated at some point, just keep whisking away until the soup is smooth and creamy. Stir in the diced turkey (and cooked wild rice if that is what you are using) and cook, stirring, until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Because of the potatoes and rice, you may need to be generous with the salt.

Serve immediately.  Leftovers can be gently reheated until warm.

Serves 6

For the Croutons: Cut leftover dressing into cubes or rough pieces.  Melt a Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and toast the cubes until brown and crispy.

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Butternut Squash Pie with Sorghum Whipped Cream

Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall foods.  I buy whole squashes at the last farmers markets, and when I see pre-cut pieces in the store, I buy those up too.  I make pasta sauces and quick soups, I roast and mash. Get creative and go simple.  I generally find myself with a surfeit of squash as I tend to get a little over-excited when they are in season.  As I write this, I see there are three large squashes on my counter, and I know there is some leftover soup in the refrigerator.

Though butternut has its own unique flavor, I frequently use it interchangeably with pumpkin and even sweet potato, so I wondered how it would work in a pie, would it just be the same as standard pumpkin or sweet potato, or would there be a difference?  And a little bit to my surprise, there is a quite a difference.  Butternut squash is earthier, sweet, but with a rougher edge.  I worked with my basic recipe and added woodsy, warm spices that really highlight the unique flavor of the butternut, particularly aromatic clove. This pie turns out a beautiful dark umber color, rich from the spices and squash.  A dollop of whipped cream, flavored but not overly sweetened with grassy sorghum is a perfect accompaniment. Serve this at Thanksgiving, or any autumn meal.  I promise, your guests will be surprised and intrigued – and pleased.

Butternut Squash Pie with Sorghum Whipped Cream

For the Pie:

Pastry for one 9-inch pie, homemade or store bought ready-to-roll

1 ½ pound butternut squash

2 eggs

1 cup light brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tablespoon bourbon

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

For the Sorghum Whipped Cream:

½ cup heavy whipping cream

1 Tablespoon sorghum

For the Pie:

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Place a piece of foil on the rack of the oven (to catch drips) and place the butternut squash on top.  Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until it is completely soft when you squeeze it (wearing an oven mitt of course).  Remove the squash from the oven, and holding it with a folded tea towel, cut it in half.  Scoop out the seeds and fibers and discard, then scrape the flesh into a wire mesh strainer set over a bowl.  Make sure there is no skin attached.  Using a spatula, press the flesh through the strainer completely. There are no solids left behind.  This will give you a smooth purée perfect for pie. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Fit the pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the edges as necessary. Line the crust with waxed paper and fill with beans or pie weights and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes until partially cooked. Remove the paper and weights and set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs and sugar together with a whisk.  Add the cooled squash purée, the heavy cream, the bourbon and the spices.  Beat until everything is thoroughly combined and smooth.  Scrape the filling into the pie shell and bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until the center is set with just a little wobble to it.  Shield the edges of the pie crust to prevent overbrowning about halfway through the cooking.  Cool the pie completely, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.

Serve chilled with a dollop of Sorghum whipped cream.

Serves 6

For the Whipped Cream:

Pour the sorghum and the cream into a small bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat the cream to stiff peaks form.  Serve immediately.

Makes ½ cup

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

Part of the joy of Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers.  I cook a turkey bigger than my family could ever eat on the day, I make huge amounts of dressing, I even cram some in a loaf pan to bake so it can be sliced to fit on a sandwich.  My shopping lists include good bread, cheese and condiments for next day sandwiches.  I’ve made Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam and Rosemary Pear Butter months ahead to spread on those sandwiches.  After the fun of a formal meal, it’s nice to gather the next day (usually at someone else’s house, lucky me) very casually, in jeans and comfy sweaters, to enjoy our own sandwich creations.

If the leftovers are a big part of your tradition, or if you have guests around the house through the weekend, add this salad to your plans.  As long as you are buying (and peeling) all those sweet potatoes for the big meal, it’s worth the little extra effort to have this stashed in the fridge.  It is an absolute dream next to a turkey sandwich, better than a bag of chips, and looks like you really went that extra mile. Earthy sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart cranberries and rich maple syrup create a symphony of fall flavor. If your fridge is full to bursting, you can store this in a ziptop bag in a crisper drawer to take up less room.

A word about process.  Don’t be tempted to do that TV chef-y thing and put the potato cubes directly on the baking sheet, casually drizzle over oil and roast.  When you do that, there is inevitably too much oil, and the potatoes steam rather than roast, so they don’t get those nice, crisp edges, but are mushy and soft.  Lightly toss the potatoes with a small amount of oil in a bowl, rubbing around with your hands to get a little coating on each cube, then lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a baking sheet (I line mine with non-stick foil for easy cleaning), leaving any extra oil behind.  I do this with all my roasted vegetables,

Autumn Sweet Potato Salad

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

¼ cup maple syrup (grade B amber)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 – 4 fresh sage leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Ground black pepper

4 green onions, white and some dark green parts, finely chopped

2/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½ inch pieces.  You want them to be bite-sized and roughly the same size so they roast evenly.  Toss the potato cubes with the 2 Tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Use your hands to make sure every potato cube has just a slick of oil on it.  Lift the potatoes out of the bowl onto a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast them for 25 – 30 minutes, until a knife easily slides into a potato piece.  You want them to be cooked through but not mushy.  They should still hold their shape and have a little bite.  Cool the potatoes to room temperature.

Put the mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  With the motor running, drizzle in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil until you have a creamy, emulsified dressing.

When the potatoes are cool, gently toss them with the chopped green onions, pecans and cranberries.  Pour over the dressing and toss until all the potatoes are coated.  It’s fine if you prefer not to use all the dressing, but reserve the remainder in case you want to add some later.

Refrigerate the potato salad, tightly covered, for several hours or up to a few days.

Serves 6

Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel

Sweet potatoes are a foregone conclusion on the Southern Thanksgiving table.  I would never consider serving mashed white potatoes at the big meal.  For most of my life, I only had sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, though a pie may have snuck in at some other time during the year.  I have now discovered the joy of sweet potatoes, though, and eat them year-round in all sorts of ways, sweet and savory.  But on Thanksgiving, there is just no question.

I grew up with the marshmallow topped version, which never really did much for me.  I think that may be the reason I never explored sweet potatoes much further.  When it came my turn to contribute to the Thanksgiving feast though, I worked out a dish of Sweet Potatoes with Cider, Maple and Orange that has been the standard on our table for many years.  But every once in a while, change is good.  There is however, a strange feeling that comes up.  I’ve made that same sweet potato dish for a decade at least, and everyone always tells me how much they enjoy it.  And when I presented this new version, it got raves. “Best sweet potatoes I’ve ever had.”  I love it when the family enjoys what you cook and take great pleasure that I have done right by them.  But then there is that niggling sense in the back of your mind…”What was so bad about the ones I’ve been cooking you for all these years….”

Southern Candied Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel

Yes, these potatoes are rich. I don’t want to hear it.  It’s Thanksgiving, live a little!

For the Sweet Potatoes:

8 medium sweet potatoes

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup bourbon

¼ cup cane syrup or sorghum

2 teaspoons salt

½ cup cream

For the Streusel:

1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

2/3 cup white sugar

6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the Sweet Potatoes:

Peel the potatoes and slice them ¼” thick ( a mandoline or food processor makes quick work of this). Melt the butter with the brown sugar, bourbon, cane syrup and salt in a large skillet that will hold the potatoes, stirring frequently.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat, drop in the potato slices and stir to coat.  Layer one half of the potato slices in a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Pour over half of the syrup from the skillet. Layer the remaining potatoes in the dish and pour over the rest of the syrup.

The potatoes can be cooled, covered tightly and refrigerated overnight at this point.  When ready to bake, remove from the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

For the Streusel:

In a food processor, process the sugars, the cinnamon, salt and flour for about 1 minute. Add butter; pulse 10 to 15 times, until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Refrigerate the topping, covered, in a medium bowl until ready to use. It can be made up to a day ahead.

Assembly:

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350°.  Pour the ½ cup cream over the potatoes, drizzling it into all the nooks and crannies.  Spread the streusel evenly over the top of the potatoes.  Bake the casserole for one hour, until the potatoes are soft and you can slide a knife easily through the center, the sides are bubbling and the streusel is golden brown.  You can cover the dish loosely with foil if you feel the top is getting too brown too early.

Serve immediately.

Serves 8 – 12, depending on how much food is on the table!

Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits

I do give thanks for biscuits.  And I love a little biscuit bite in the Thanksgiving bread basket, particularly when they are made seasonal with the addition of sweet potato.  These angel biscuits use yeast to get an extra rise, which is helpful when you add the dense potato purée.  Make sure you potato is cooked through and soft to create the smoothest purée.

I like these biscuits in their purest form, but you could add a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon if you want to, or even some very finely chopped fresh sage.  They are delicious with plain butter, but a little honey or sorghum stirred into that butter takes them up a level.  And they make a great breakfast treat or party snack, stuffed with a sliver of ham or leftover turkey and a cranberry sauce.  Feel free to cut them as nice big biscuits or little bite-size babies.

Sweet Potato Angel Biscuits

1 large sweet potato, about 12 ounces (to yield 1 cup purée)

½ cup warm water

1 teaspoon sugar

2 ¼ teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast

5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lilly)

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter

1 ¼ cup cold buttermilk

¼ cup melted butter

Prick the sweet potato all over with a skewer or a thin knife.  Microwave the potato on high for 12 to 15 minutes until it is very soft when squeezed. Alternately, you can bake the potato in the oven for about an hour.  Holding the potato with a folded tea towel, cut it in half and scoop the flesh into a small bowl.  Mash the flesh with a fork to a smooth purée.  Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans.

Stir the sugar and warm water (about 105°) together in a small measuring jug.  Sprinkle over the yeast and leave for 10 minutes until it is foamy.

Stir the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl of a stand mixer.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend the butter and flour on low speed until the butter is the size of small BBs. You want some butter blended in, but the visible small pieces of butter help make the biscuits fluffy.

Stir 1 cup of the buttermilk into the potato purée, mixing vigorously to create a smooth liquid.  Add this to the flour and butter, add the yeast mixture, and beat on medium speed, just until everything comes together.  If the mixture is dry, add a little of the extra buttermilk until the dough comes together.

Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just a few times to pull everything together.  Pat the dough out to a circle about an inch thick.  Dip a cutter into flour and press it into the dough and pull up (don’t twist the cutter or the sides won’t rise).  Place the cut biscuits in the prepared cake pans, fitting them in tight with the sides touching. Pat any scraps together and cut out more biscuits. Brush the tops with melted butter and bake for 10 – 12 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.  If you want to brown the top of the biscuits, turn the broiler on, and watch carefully until they start to brown.  You can brush the hot cooked biscuits with a little extra melted butter if you like.

If you’d like to make these biscuits ahead, you can refrigerate the unrolled dough tightly covered for up to 2 days, then proceed with the recipe.  To make them further ahead, roll and cut your biscuits, place them on a baking tray and freeze for an hour or so until solid.  Transfer to a ziptop bag with all the air squeezed out.  Bake from frozen, increasing the cooking time as needed.  If you don’t serve these fresh from the oven or have leftovers, wrap them in foil and warm in a low oven.

Makes 12 2-inch biscuits

Baked Camembert with Pear, Cranberry and Walnut Relish

Baked brie with fruity toppings used to be all the rage, and the real height of sophisticated appetizers.  But they seem to have fallen out of fashion a little.  I rarely see them at parties or in cookbooks anymore.  Perhaps the trend for simple artsy charcuterie trays have taken their place, or appetizers served on individual spoons.  But just because a dish isn’t trendy anymore doesn’t mean it still doesn’t taste good.  I was missing those old creamy baked cheeses, so I got to work on a version perfect for fall, redolent with the classic tastes of autumn pears, cranberries, walnuts and rosemary – with just a little hit of bourbon.  And camembert is a bit tangier and richer than brie, so I used that.  When I served this, I got two responses about how you never see baked brie anymore, and that’s a shame.  I couldn’t agree more.

This is a perfect, make-ahead starter for Thanksgiving, and looks really beautiful to boot.  I serve it with baguette slices or good cracker.

Baked Camembert with Pear, Cranberry and Walnut Relish

¼ cup dried cranberries

2 Tablespoons bourbon

¼ cup walnut pieces

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1 yellow or green pear

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Pinch of salt

1 (8-ounce) round of camembert

Place the cranberries and bourbon in a small bowl and leave to soak for about 20 minutes, until the berries are plumped.

In a small saucepan, toast the walnuts over medium heat until just brown and fragrant.  Remove to small plate and wipe the saucepan out.

Melt the butter and brown sugar together over medium heat and bring to a boil.  While the mixture is cooking, quickly core the pear and cut it into small pieces.  Immediately add it to the sugar and butter.  Stir to coat the pears.  Stir in the cranberries and any liquid left with them, the rosemary and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat until the pears are soft and there and the liquid is evaporated, about 15 minutes.  There should just be a light glaze coating the pears.  Stir in the walnuts and set aside to cool.  The pear topping can be made up to a day ahead, covered and refrigerated.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350°.  Place the camembert in a small oven proof dish and spread the pear relish over the top.  Bake until the cheese is soft and melty and the relish is hot though, about 15 mintues.

Serve immediately with crackers.

Serves 6 – 8

Roasted Butternut and Chestnut Purée

I love autumn.  I love wearing sweaters, snuggling under a blanket, comforting, slow-cooked stews, steaming bowls of soup.  And my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, which of course leads to a wonderful Christmas season.  But I will admit, that when fall comes on in earnest, and I see the end of tomatoes at the farmer’s market, my herb garden fades and I am not quite ready to break into the stock of summer vegetables in the freezer I feel wistful.  Then I remember the winter squash.  Orange and amber and green, knobbly or smooth, heavy and solid.  Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables.  I love it in soups, pasta sauces, lasagna and even baked in bread.  The color, the flavor, the gentle slow-roasting all sing to me of autumn.

Earthy roasted butternut and slightly sweet, nutty chestnuts are a match made in heaven.  Add some woodsy sage and a swirl of rich crème  fraiche and this is a bowl full of fall.  It is a great alternative to sweet potatoes on the Thanksgiving table, but is wonderful with any roasted meat.

Roasted Butternut and Chestnut Purée

A few sage leaves quickly fried in olive oil until crisp make a nice garnish to this dish.

2 butternut squash, about 1 ½ to 2 pounds each

2 small yellow onions

1 head of garlic

Olive oil

5 – 7 ounces peeled chestnuts, from a vacuum packed bag or jar

10 fresh sage leaves

5 ounces crème fraiche

Salt to taste

½ Tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Peel the butternuts, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and fibrous innards.  Cut the squash into evenly sized chunks.  Place the chunks on a rimmed baking sheet. Peel and quarter the onions and place on the pan.  Separate the garlic cloves and peel them then add them to the pan.  Drizzle over a little olive oil and use your hands to toss everything around.  You just want to slick the vegetables with oil, so use a little at first and add a bit at a time if you need more. You’ll only need about a Tablespoon. Don’t go all TV chef and dramatically slosh oil in the pan.  You don’t want puddles of oil, or the vegetables will not get the nice caramelization going. Spread the vegetables into an even layer.  Try to tuck the garlic cloves in on top of the squash and onions; they tend to burn if they touch the pan. Sprinkle over a little kosher salt.  Roast the veg for 20 minutes, take the pan out of the oven and flip everything over using a spatula. Add the chestnuts and return the pan to the oven to roast a further 20 minutes until everything is soft when pierced with a sharp knife.  Leave the vegetables to cool.

When the vegetables are cool, transfer them to the bowl of a food processor.  Add the sage leaves and crème fraiche and puree until smooth.  You may have some chunks of chestnut in there, but it adds a nice texture.  Season with salt to taste.  Scrape the puree into a greased 2-quartbaking dish.  You may refrigerate the puree for several hours at this point. When ready to bake, very thinly slice the butter and strew it across the top of the casserole.  Bake until warmed through and golden on top, about 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Sweet Potato Mustard, Bacon Mayonnaise and Cranberry Ketchup

When I claimed thanksgiving for my own, I wanted to create a tradition for this new configuration of family, one for grown-ups and kids alike.  So I came up with the Thankful Tree.  My mom drew a big tree, complete with falling leaves and acorns and a bunny rabbit at the base, on a piece of poster board.  Every year, my nieces and nephew come over before Thanksgiving, when school lets out, to decorate, design menus and work on the Thankful Tree.  We use sticky notes shaped like leaves or apples and write something to be thankful for on the back.  The notes are then arranged on the tree, very artfully mind you.  On Thanksgiving Day, before we start the food free-for-all, everyone pulls a sticky note from the tree (there are usually two for each person) and we go around the room and read out what our notes say we thankful for this year.  Of course, I let the kids choose all the various things to write on the notes.  In the past we have been thankful for air, photosynthesis, bacon and Jedi knights.  But always the first words to go on those stickies are family, food and friends.  As it should be.  But I am thankful for bacon too.

Sweet Potato Mustard

A little sweet, with a nice mustardy tang and rich amber color. Perfect on a leftover turkey sandwich.

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

½ cup sweet potato puree*

1 Tablespoon sorghum or light molasses

1 Tablespoon bourbon

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons ground mustard powder

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the mustard seeds, bay leaf and cinnamon stick, stirring to combine. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture rest at room temperature for about 1 hour. The seeds will absorb the liquid.

Remove the bay leaf and the cinnamon stick, scraping off any clinging seed.  Add the water, sorghum and bourbon to the mustard seeds and stir, then scrape the mixture into the carafe of a blender.  Blend until smooth, then add the sweet potato puree and blend until you have a nice cohesive, smooth paste.  You can add a few drops of water as you go if you need to get things moving.

Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat over medium heat, bringing it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to boil gently for approximately five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Whisk in the sugar, ground mustard, paprika and salt. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat, cooking the mixture until it has reduced a bit and is thick and spreadable. This should take about 10 minutes.

Cool the mustard in the pan, then scrape it into an airtight container.  The mustard will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Makes about 1 ½

*To make things quicker, I happily use canned sweet potato puree, but only plain all potato puree, not sweetened or seasoned.  I find at better markets and whole food stores.  If you can’t find it, wrap a sweet potato in foil, bake until soft (about 1 hour), then blend the flesh with a little water to make a very smooth puree.

Bacon Mayonnaise

Rich and creamy with that hint of bacon.  And yes, you can put bacon mayonnaise and crispy bacon on the same sandwich.

½ cup liquid bacon fat

1 egg

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ cup canola oil

Generous pinch of kosher salt

The bacon fat needs to be liquid and not at all solidified.  If you’ve just cooked the bacon, strain the fat through cheesecloth to remove any debris, then leave it to cool to room temperature.  If you are using stored bacon fat, heat it gently in the microwave on half power in 20-second bursts, strain and leave to cool.

Crack the egg into the bowl of a food processor and add the lemon juice.  Blend them together until light and creamy. Add the canola oil to the cooled bacon fat in a spouted measuring cup.  With the motor running, slowly, slowly drizzle in the oil in a steady stream until you’ve used all the oil.  The mayonnaise will thicken and emulsify.  When the oil is all incorporated, taste the mayonnaise, add salt to taste and quickly whizz it a few seconds.  Scrape the may into an airtight container or jar and refrigerate until ready to use.  It will thicken in the fridge and keep for three days.

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

Cranberry Ketchup

Rich red, with a tangy, vinegary bite.  Amazing on a turkey burger or as a dip for sweet potato fries.

1 pound fresh cranberries

2 shallots, chopped

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

½ cup apple cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 Tablespoon pickling spice

½ teaspoon salt

Place the cranberries, shallots, sugar, vinegar and water in a medium saucepan.  Tie the pickling spice into a little bundle of cheese cloth (or use a tea ball).  Drop it into the cranberries and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the salt and cook until the cranberries burst and the mixture is thickened, about 15 minutes.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Remove the spice bag and set it aside. Scrap the cooled mixture into a blender.  Puree the cranberry mixture until smooth. Rinse out the sauce pan, then press the cranberries through a mesh sieve back into the pan. Pour ½ cup of water in the blender and run for a few seconds to pick up any remaining cranberry, then pour it into the pan. Return the spice bag to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until it is thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove the spice bag, squeezing it up against the side of the pan to get out all the good cranberry flavor.

Cool the ketchup in the pan, stirring a few times to prevent a skin forming, then scoop it into an airtight container. It will thicken up as it cools.  The ketchup will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Makes about 1 cup

Butternut Brioche

You are going to want a loaf of this around the house during the Thanksgiving holiday.  It is beautiful, autumnal and something of an achievement to show your friends and family.  It is great spread with butter.  Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam is a real treat.  It is gorgeous toasted, and makes amazing leftover turkey sandwiches.

Let me assure you, I am not an expert bread maker, but I can do this.  It is not difficult or time-consuming, but it does take a little effort and some time – if that makes sense.  After the initial mixing, it is relatively hands-off, but it takes some time for the rising and the chilling.  The bread is not some neon orange color, but has a lovely amber tinge.  The flavor is not overwhelming, just a nice subtle flavor of fall.

Butternut Brioche

1packet active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

3 Tablespoons warm water (around 120 degrees, hot to the touch, but not burning your fingers)

1 cup pureed butternut squash*

2 teaspoons rubbed dried sage

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature

Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl or 1-cup measure.  Add the warm water and gently stir to mix.  Leave the yeast for 10 minutes until it is puffed up and foamy.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butternut puree, sage, salt nutmeg and 1 cup of the flour on medium low until blended.  Scrape in the foamy yeast mixture in, scraping out as much as possible from the bowl into the mixer.  Beat until well blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, alternating with 2 cups of flour, beating on medium low after each addition.  Stop between eggs to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  When the eggs are all blended in, increase the speed to medium and drop in the butter cubes one at a time.  Continue beating until the butter is completely mixed in. Add the remaining flour with the mixer on low until combined.

Grease a large bowl. I prefer glass because you can see how much the dough has risen.  I use the wrapper the butter was in to grease the bowl, but cooking spray works.  Scrape the dough into the bowl and mound it evenly in the center.  At this point, it will be very soft and may seem more like batter than dough.  That is as it should be.  Grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl.  Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  I use my friend Holly’s trick to create a warm, moist dough-rising environment.  Place a 2-cup measure with ¾ cup water in the microwave and microwave on high for 2 minutes.  Place the dough bowl in the microwave with the hot water and steam, close the door and leave to rise.

When the dough has risen, spray a sturdy spatula with cooking spray and use it to gently stir down the dough, scraping the sides of the bowl and moving it all into the center.  Cover the bowl with a clean piece of greased plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, deflate the dough by pressing down on it.   Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in a standard size 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and spread it out to the corners.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled again, about 40 minutes to 1 hour.  The microwave trick works again.

Preheat the oven to 375°.  When the bread has risen, bake it for 30 to 40 minutes until it is firm, puffed and golden and sounds hollow when tapped.  Gently run a thin knife around the edge of the bread and turn it out of the pan.  Make sure the bottom sounds hollow when knocked, then cool on a wire rack.

Makes one loaf

*For the butternut puree, there are several options.  From a whole butternut squash, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place on the rack of an oven and bake until soft, 20 – 30 minutes.  You can also place the halves on a microwave safe plate and microwave until soft, 5 – 8  mintues. Scoop out the flesh and place in a small food processor and blend until smooth.  Add a few tablespoons water if needed

For pre-cut squash pieces, place the pieces in a microwave safe bowl with a bit of water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave until soft, 5 – 8 minutes. Puree as above.

I also find canned butternut squash puree in my local stores, and I am completely fine with that.  Just scoop it out of the can.

Make – Ahead Gravy for Your Turkey

Gravy is essential to a Thanksgiving turkey, but only if it is good gravy.  And what makes gravy good is delicious drippings from a beautifully roasted bird. Many gravy methods involve making it right in the pan the turkey was cooked in, to scrape up all the bits and juices.  And that’s great.  But I realized some years ago that trying to do this while my family stands around the kitchen impatiently waiting for their food is impractical.  So I now make a rich gravy base the day before, and stir in the lovely juices when the bird has cooked.  Bacon grease, caramelized onions and a bit of bourbon add flavor to the base, but don’t worry if it seems a little bland at first.  Whisking in the juices brings everything together in a gorgeous golden gravy.  The onions may make your gravy look a bit lumpy, but the flavor is brilliant.

Make-Ahead Gravy for your Turkey

2 Tablespoons bacon grease or oil

2 cups finely diced onion (from about 1 ½ onions)

2 Tablespoons bourbon

2 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups turkey or chicken stock

Drippings from your turkey, skimmed of fat

Salt and pepper to taste

Pick out a medium sized, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and make a paper lid for stewing the onions by cutting out a circle from a piece of parchment or waxed paper that will fit tightly over the surface of the onions. This is called a cartouche, by the way.  Melt the bacon drippings in the saucepan and add the onions before the grease gets too hot.  Sauté gently over medium until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring frequently.  Don’t let the onions scorch or brown.  Add the bourbon and cook, stirring, until it is almost all evaporated.  Turn the heat to low. Place the parchment paper circle over the top of the onion pressing directly on the surface.  Cook the onions until soft and caramelized and golden brown, removing the paper once or twice and stirring, replacing the paper lid, about 20 minutes.

When the onions are lovely and golden, add the butter and stir until it is melted.  Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the onions.  Cook for about three minutes, then begin slowly whisking in the stock.  Continue whisking until your gravy base is quite thick. It will thin out when you add the turkey drippings.  The base may look and taste a bit bland now, but that will be fixed when we add the drippings.  At this point, you can cool the gravy base, cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, reheat the gravy over low heat, stirring to heat it through.  Skim the fat from your turkey drippings, either by letting the juices settle and skimming off the fat the collects on the top, or use a nifty gravy separator if you’ve got one.  Slowly whisk the drippings from your roasted turkey into the gravy base, tasting as you go, until you have a nice, rich taste.  You don’t want to pour in all the juices and thin the gravy out too much.  Cook the gravy, whisking constantly, to thicken it up as needed.  Taste before adding any salt, as the turkey drippings may be quite salty.  Add pepper to taste if you’d like.