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.

Super Simple Focaccia with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

There is nothing like freshly baked bread, of any kind. And there is a real pride when you manage to do it yourself. That being said, I find a lot of traditional bread recipes a little too intimidating and technical for me, so I am always looking for the easy way out. Hence this unbelievably simple method for making focaccia. The base recipe comes from the fine folks at King Arthur Flour, and I have been making versions of this for years. It never fails to impress when you pull out a handmade, fresh pan of golden focaccia from the oven, and of course the scent of baking bread makes everyone happy.

I share here my favorite iteration of my many experiments with the recipe. I think it is perfect for fall, scattered with toasty walnuts, rich blue cheese and woodsy rosemary. Generous squares of this can make a decadent accompaniment to a roast dinner or a meal served beside a hearty salad. The olive oil in the bread makes butter unnecessary. This is best served warm, and though I always try to give instructions for making something ahead, this recipe is so easy, there really is no need. You can have the dough spread in the pan and topped and the bowl washed and put away before your guests arrive or dinner is ready, then pop it in the oven. Use the instant yeast from a jar rather than the packets of active dry yeast for this. You’ll find this so amazing to make, that you’ll add it to your repertoire and use that yeast in no time.

Super Simple Focaccia with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
Serves 12
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Ingredients
  1. Olive oil
  2. 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
  3. 1 ½ cups warm water
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  6. ½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  7. ½ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  8. 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped rosemary
  9. flaky salt and black pepper for topping
Instructions
  1. Pour 2 Tablespoons of olive oil into a 9 by 13 inch metal baking pan. Swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Put the yeast, warm water, salt, 3 Tablespoon of olive oil and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium for 60 seconds, until you have a cohesive but sticky dough. Dump the dough into the oiled pan and use your fingers to spread it out. Don’t worry too much about getting it to the edges of the pan; rising will take care of that. Cover the pan with a tea towel and leave at room temperature to rise for one hour. Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet until brown and fragrant and quickly remove to a plate to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375. When the dough has risen and is nice and puffy, sprinkle the walnuts and crumbled cheese evenly over the top of the dough. Sprinkle over the rosemary, then a generous grinding of pepper and some flaky salt. Lightly press everything into the dough, then make three rows of three indentions in the dough by pressing you thumb into the dough to make a little divot. Drizzle over about a tablespoon more olive oil, then bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden and firm.
  4. Leave the focaccia to cool for a few minutes before slicing, but serve warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Fresh Tomato Dill Sauce

In the height of tomato season, I am always looking for creative ways to make the most of the bounty. I can, I sauce, I freeze, I dry, I soup. And I use the other ingredients I find at the farmers market as much as I can too. So when I found myself with a few extra tomatoes and the rest of a bunch of dill from canning Dilly Beans, I figured I could make it into something. This sauce is a nice departure from the classic tomato basil combo, with a great fresh note from the celery and lots of spiffy fresh dill. The sauce can be used in any sauce situation, but I found myself with a craving for crispy schnitzel and this sauce makes a perfect pairing.

I think schnitzels are a wonderful summer dinner – the prep takes a little fiddling, but they are super quick to cook and can be made ahead, ready to fry up and serve. You can use the same technique for chicken breasts if you’d like. In summer, I love these with a simple green salad, rather than the more traditional, and to me more cold weather, mashed potatoes or dumplings. If you want to go the potato route, try a vinegary potato salad.

Crispy Pork Schnitzel with Fresh Tomato Dill Sauce
Serves 4
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For the Sauce
  1. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 small onion, finely diced
  3. 2 stalks celery, with a few leaves if possible, finely diced
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. ½ cup white wine
  6. 6 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  7. ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  8. salt and pepper to taste
For the Schnitzels
  1. 4 thin-cut boneless pork chops
  2. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 teaspoon paprika
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1 Tablespoon milk
  8. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  9. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  10. olive oil for frying
For the Sauce
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high and add the onions and celery. Sauté until the onions are glossy and the celery has softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a bubble and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, stir well and bring to bubble again. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and have released some liquid. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender and blend to a rough, textured sauce. Scrape the sauce back into the pan, add the dill, salt and pepper and stir well. The sauce can be made several hours ahead at this point, covered and refrigerated. When ready to serve, heat through over medium heat, stirring to prevent scorching.
For the Schnitzel
  1. Place the pork chops one at a time in a large zipper bag. Pound them to an even, thin piece about 1/ inch thick. Remove each chop to plate and continue with the next. In one shallow bowl or plate, mix together the flour, paprika, salt and pepper until evenly combined. Beat the egg with the milk in a second shallow bowl, and mix the panko and dill in a third. Dip each schnitzel in the flour, turning to coat evenly, then saking off any excess. Next, dip it evenly in the egg, then in the panko, pressing the crumbs evenly to cover the entire chop. Repeat with the remaining chops, placing them back on the plate as you finish. The chops can be loosely covered with plastic and refrigerated for several hours at this point if you’d like.
  2. Put the oven on a low heat, just to keep the schnitzels warm as you go. Heat about 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add a schnitzel to the oil and let it crisp and brown for about three minutes, then flip it over and cook until crispy and browned on the other side. Remove to a baking sheet and place in the oven to keep warm while you continue with the remaining pieces. If there is a lot of burned residue in the pan between any chops, wipe it out, heat more oil and continue.
  3. Serve each schnitzel topped with the warmed tomato dill sauce.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Greek Style Green Bean Salad

Every year, I look forward with great anticipation to the Memphis Greek Festival. I go as soon as it opens and stock up on frozen spanikopita, delight at the flaming cheese saganaki and pig out on the cookies and pastries made by the ladies of the church. And it always gets me thinking about Greek recipes. I’ve only been to Greece once, many years ago, with friends on a budget and without a lot of knowledge about Greek cuisine. But we ate well, and those flavors have always stuck with me. One dish we found on many menus was green beans stewed with tomatoes, garlic and herbs, and it sometimes just came with whatever cheap plate meal we ordered. I’ve used that idea as a template for cooking fresh green beans at home, or for maximizing the flavor of frozen beans. But I flipped the script here to create a refreshing summer salad that makes great use of the farmers market abundance here in the South.

Beans cooked just until crisp, tomatoes roasted to bring out their sweet richness, fragrant oregano and salty feta cheese marry together perfectly. I prefer to use a solid block of feta cheese which I cut into small pieces. Pre-crumbled cheese tends to dissolve and muddy up the finished product.

Greek Style Green Bean Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds fresh green beans
  2. 12 ounces fresh tomatoes (about 2 medium)
  3. 3 cloves garlic
  4. 6 -7 sprigs of fresh oregano
  5. 7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  6. 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  7. salt and pepper to taste
  8. 1 large shallot
  9. 8 ounce block feta cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and fill a large bowl or sink with ice water. When the water is boiling, drop in the beans and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and plunge them into the ice water to stop cooking. When the beans are cold in the water remove them to a tea towel to air dry. The beans can be cooked up to a day ahead and refrigerated in a ziptop bag.
For the Vinaigrette
  1. Preheat the oven to 300. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place in a small baking dish close together. Tuck the garlic cloves into the tomatoes, so they do not touch the bottom of the dish. Tuck three – four sprigs of oregano into the tomatoes, then drizzle over 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Turn the tomatoes around in the oil so they are coated, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 ½ hours, until the tomatoes are completely soft. Scrape the tomatoes and all the collected juices into the carafe of a blender and leave to cool. When the tomatoes are cool, add the vinegar and blend until smooth. Drizzle in the remaining 6 Tablespoons of olive oil until the dressing is smooth and completely blended. The dressing can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge. Blend again before adding to the salad.
  2. When ready to serve, cut the beans into ½ inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Thinly slice the shallot and add to the beans. Cut the feta cheese into small cubes and add to the bowl. Finely chop the remaining oregano and add to the bowl. Toss everything to combine, then pour over some of the dressing, then gently stir to coat the beans. Start with about three-quarters of the dressing, then add more as you like. You may have a little more dressing than you want to use. Taste and season well with salt and pepper.
  3. The salad can be kept in the fridge for a few hours. Serve chilled.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Mexican Chocolate Chewies

As Cinco de Mayo approaches, thoughts often turn to tacos, queso and margaritas. But let us not forget the sweet side of life. Chocolate goes with everything and it’s nice to have a little sweet nibble at any fiesta.

These cookies are a classic recipe, one I have made since I was a kid. I pulled it out recently to make a batch to send to my niece in college, and as I was working, I thought a could jazz it up in some way. Then I had a thought – I bought a fancy, Tennessee-made chocolate bar in Mexican Chocolate flavor a few days before, and was really excited about the special treat. But I accidently threw it away when unpacking the huge load of groceries. I’d been kicking myself for the carelessness. So I decided to verve up these cookies to replace my lost candy bar. The rich chocolate cookies get a twist with cinnamon and just a dash of chili and cayenne. The cookies are soft and chewy and chocolate-y and perfect at any time.

Mexican Chocolate Chewies
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. 1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
  2. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  3. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  5. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  8. 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  9. 1 cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Put the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter in a large saucepan and melt over medium heat, strirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth and combined. Add the vanilla, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Add the flour, and stir well to make sure the flour is completely blended in to the batter. Pull the pot of the heat and let the cool for a few minutes.
  3. Scoop the dough by Tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. I like to use a medium cookie scoop. Press the dough lightly with your fingers to slightly flatten, then bake the cookies for 12 – 13 minutes until firm. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Ham and Parsley Pie

The English have a way with meat pies (no Sweeney Todd jokes, please) and lovely shops and street vendors sell an astounding variety, from chicken with tarragon to beef and kidney with stout, even some amazing vegetarian options. One of these popular meat pie purveyors is a regular stop for me in London and I always have a tough choice choosing which variety I want. Flaky, rich pastry encloses all sorts of flavorful meat and vegetable wonders.

Ham and Parsley is a popular version, and ham steak with parsley sauce is a pretty standard English recipe. For me, this seems like the perfect creation for using up that leftover Easter ham in a unique and filling way. It would make a lovely Easter night dinner or a Monday meal. I think it is an all-in-one dinner, packed with potatoes, ham and parsley, but it’s nice with a simple green salad as well. Of course, if you don’t have leftover ham, buy some thickly sliced ham from the deli counter and cut it into pieces.

Ham and Parley Pie
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium leeks, white and palest green parts only
  2. 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  3. 8 ounces small yellow potatoes
  4. 2 Tablespoons flour
  5. 1 ¼ cup chicken broth
  6. ½ cup half and half
  7. 2 Tablespoons grainy mustard
  8. 8 ounces cooked ham, diced into small pieces
  9. 1 cup packed parsley leaves
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  11. pastry for a double crust pie (homemade or bought, ready rolled)
Instructions
  1. Slice the leeks in half, then slice them into thin half moons. Place them in a colander inside a large bowl and run water over them to fill the bowl. Swirl the leeks around with your hands, then lift the colander out of the bowl and shake out the excess water. You want the water to get into all the leek pieces to wash the dirt away, and then leave the dirt behind in the bowl.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, deep-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, and stir to coat. Dice the potatoes into small chunks and add to the leeks with a good pinch of salt. Stir to coat, then cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until the leeks are wilted and soft and the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and stir several times to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom of the pan. When the potatoes are just tender, sprinkle over the flour and stir until it disappears into the vegetables. Pour in the stock and stir, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken. Pour in the half and half, then add the mustard and a generous grinding of pepper and stir. Cook until the sauce thickens up again, then stir in the ham. Cook until the sauce is thickened and just coats the ham and vegetables. Finely chop the parsley – I frequently pulse it in a mini food processor for speed, though a good session with a heavy knife works as well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Leave the filling to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a deep 9 –inch pie plate with pastry, then spread the filling evenly into it, smoothing out the top. Lay the second crust over the top and seal the edges to the bottom crust with your fingers.
  4. Bake the pie until warmed through and golden on the top, about 30 minutes. Let the pie sit for at least ten minutes before slicing and serving.
Notes
  1. I like to use small yellow potatoes, frequently called Dutch Creamers and leave the peel on, which helps the potatoes hold together and add a nice texture and heft to the pie. You could also use Yukon gold or a white potato.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Guinness Sausage Coddle

As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, I always turn to hearty meat and potato dishes with a nice Irish flair, and this classic with a twist makes a perfect family meal. The origin of the name “coddle” is rather cloudy, but apparently it was a favorite of authors from Jonathan Swift to James Joyce. Loaded with smoky bacon, meaty sausages, rich potatoes and sweet carrots and little woody note from parsnips, this version of Dublin coddle is rich with oh-so-Irish Guinness.

I turn to a local butcher shop for freshly made, well-seasoned pork sausages and sometimes around St. Paddy’s, they have Irish bangers, which are of course perfect. If you can’t track down a specialty sausage, basic bratwurst work really well. The coddle is a cross between a braise and a stew, with a nice amount of flavorful broth in the pot. You can serve the coddle with a slotted spoon, but I like to serve it in bowls with the broth and some nice bread to soak up the dark, meaty juices. Try this Simple Soda Bread to keep the Irish theme going.

Guinness Sausage Coddle
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 strips of thick cut bacon
  2. 6 high-quality pork sausages
  3. 2 medium onions
  4. 6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
  5. 2 carrots
  6. 2 parsnips
  7. 7 sprigs of thyme
  8. 1 ¾ cups stout beer, such as Guinness
  9. 1 cup beef broth
Instructions
  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat in a large (5-quart) Dutch oven with a tight- fitting lid until the bacon is crispy and brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Lower the heat to medium and place the sausages in the bacon grease and cook, turning occasionally, until they are browned all over, 10 – 15 minutes.
  2. While the sausages are cooking, cut the onions into halves, and then into to very thin half-moon shaped slices. When the sausages are browned all over, remove them to the paper towel lined plate, scooting the bacon out of the way. Add the onions to the bacon grease and stir to coat well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and browned and reduced in volume by about half, about 15 minutes. Watch carefully so the onions do not scorch. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to remove the onions to a bowl. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool a little, then discard the remaining bacon grease and wipe out the pot.
  3. Peel the potatoes, carrots and parsnips. Cut the potatoes in half, then in 1-inch chunks. Cut the carrots and parsnips on the diagonal into ½ inch pieces.
  4. Cut the sausages into 2-inch pieces, then begin layering the coddle. In the pot, place a layer of sausage pieces, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and bacon. Spread 1/3 of the onions over the layer and then place a couple of sprigs of thyme on top. Repeat with two more layers, ending with onions and thyme. You can cover the pot and refrigerate for a few hours at this point if you would like.
  5. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pour the Guinness and the beef broth over around the coddle and cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about an hour and a half.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Baked Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Taleggio Sauce

We all need a little comfort sometimes, and I think a rich, meaty, cheesy baked pasta casserole always fits the bill. It’s the meal I often turn to, whether it’s an all-day cooking project or a simple thrown together quickie. Pull one of these hot, melty creations out of the oven on a chilly winter night and gather round the table. Everyone will be ahppy. This is the perfect family meal, but is a wonderful way to entertain as well. Adults and kids alike will dig into this – add some garlic bread and a salad and you’re ready to go. This version is layered with strong flavors for lots of oomph and interest.

Taleggio is one of my favorite cheeses. It’s pungent, rich and creamy and now readily available at good cheese counters. It adds such a punch to this otherwise pretty simple dish. Orcchiette are little ear shaped pasta – that’s what the name means – that perfectly hold the sausage and sauce like a little bowl. You could use a couple of slices of bacon instead of the pancetta and vary the herbs, using basil and oregano. But I think the sage and marjoram add an interesting, woodsy note that perfectly complements the taleggio. I hope this is a meal that comforts you as much as it does me.

Baked Orecchiette with Italian Sausage and Taleggio Sauce
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 10 ounces orecchiette pasta
  2. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  3. 4 ounces diced pancetta
  4. 1 pound Italian sausage meat
  5. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  6. 1 cup finely diced onion
  7. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1/2 cup red wine
  9. 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  10. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  11. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  12. 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  13. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  14. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  15. 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Taleggio Sauce
  1. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  2. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  3. 2 cups whole milk
  4. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  5. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. 6 ½ ounces taleggio cheese, weighed after the rind is removed
  8. ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
For the Pasta
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orecchiette according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Pour the olive oil into a large, deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is browned and crispy, then remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Crumble the sausage into the pot and cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat with a spatula as it cooks. You want small pieces of sausage. When the sausage is no longer pink, remove it with the slotted spoon to the paper towel lined plate.
  3. Pour off all put 1 Tablespoon of fat from the pan, then sauté the onions over medium high heat until they are soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute, then pour in the wine. Bring the wine to a bubble and cook until it is almost completely evaporated, just a little glaze on the now purple onions. Pour in the tomatoes and stir well, then add the sage and marjoram, sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir well. Let simmer over medium low heat for 5 minutes, then use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. Simmer for a further 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool. (Alternatively, you can simmer the sauce for the full 10 minutes, then puree it in a blender and leave to cool).
  4. Stir the pancetta and sausage into the tomato sauce until well combined and evenly distributed. Add the pasta and stir to coat with the sauce, then scrape the lot into a greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish. (If your skillet isn’t big enough to fit the pasta, scraped everything into the pasta pot to combine).
For the Taleggio Sauce
  1. Wash and dry the skillet and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth, and cook for a few minutes until the mixture is pale and thickened. Whisk in the milk and bring to a low bubble. Cook until the sauce is thickened and smooth, then stir in the sage, salt and nutmeg. Lower the heat to low, then stir in pieces of the taleggio a bit at a time, stirring until each addition is melted before adding the next. Stir in the parmigiana until melted and the sauce is smooth. Taste and season with salt if needed. Pour the sauce evenly over the pasta in the baking dish. You can sprinkle a little extra grated parm over the top of your like. At this point, the dish can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for a day.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350. Remove the dish from the oven while the oven is preheating, then bake the dish uncovered until heated through, bubbling and lightly browned on top.
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German Meatballs

Recipe ideas come to me everywhere, at any time and take me in odd directions. I was reading a magazine during an interminable wait at a doctor’s office once and saw a recipe called “German Meatballs.” My mind immediately went to bratwurst, beer and mustard so I was intrigued and kept reading. But that magazine recipe involved frozen meatballs, French onion soup mix and ketchup. That did not appeal at all, and I cannot imagine what qualifies as German about it. But that first thought that popped into my head stayed there.

I rather doubt this version is anywhere near traditional German cuisine either, but it involves all the flavors I associate with German food, my knowledge of which is admittedly limited. In fact, this is a take on my Swedish meatball recipe, made a bit richer with dark rye bread crumbs, tangy with sweet hot mustard and a sauce livened up with beer. Use a good, pale lager – too dark or rich a beer overpowers the meatballs. You can leave out the beer if you prefer, and replace it with an equal amount of additional beef broth. And here’s an idea: pick up some pastrami while you’re at the store – dark rye and sweet-hot mustard make and excellent sandwich.

Let me also share a few little meatball making tips. These freeze really well, so consider making a double batch. Once you get your hands in there and get on a roll, you might as well keep going. And if you are making any type of meatball and want to check for seasoning, make one little meatball and sauté it in a little oil. Taste the cooked portion and adjust accordingly.

(This is a repost from 2011)

German Meatballs
Yields 30
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For the Meatballs
  1. 4 slices dark rye bread (to make 2 cups crumbs)
  2. 2 pounds bratwurst, casings removed
  3. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  4. ½ cup milk
  5. 1 Tablespoon sweet hot mustard
  6. 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
For the Sauce
  1. 3 Tablespoons butter
  2. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup milk
  4. 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  5. 1 cup lager beer
  6. 2 teaspoons sweet hot mustard
  7. 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  8. Salt to taste
For the meatballs
  1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil or foil sprayed lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Tear the dark rye slices into chunks and drop in a food processor. Process to small, rough crumbs. You should end up with 2 cups of crumbs.
  3. Place the bratwurst, bread crumbs and remaining meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, squish everything together to mix well, making sure the meat is evenly distributed. I find it easier to do this if the meat has been out of the fridge for about 15 minutes to take the chill off. Roll the meat mixture into balls about the size of a ping pong ball. A good, heaping tablespoon of mixture is about right. Place the balls on the prepared sheets. You should end up with about 30 - 35 meat balls. Bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes until cooked through and browned. Rotate the pans halfway during the cooking (top pan to bottom shelf).
  4. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven (the meatballs need to fit in) over medium high heat. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. Do not let the mixture darken. Gradually add the milk, the broth and the beer, whisking constantly. Whisk in the mustard and brown sugar and bring the sauce to a boil whisking frequently. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce until it thickens, about five minutes. Salt to taste. Remove from heat.
  5. When the meatballs are done, remove them from the baking sheets to the sauce with a slotted spoon. Stir to coat all the meatballs with the sauce.
  6. Serve immediately, or leave the meatballs and sauce to cool, stirring occasionally to coat the meatballs with sauce. When cool, scoop into ziptop bags and seal. The meatballs and sauce can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for up to three months.
  7. When ready to serve, scoop the meatballs and sauce into a saucepan. Put ¼ cup of water in the ziptop bag, seal and shake to clean out any clinging sauce. Pour the water into the pan with the meatballs and reheat slowly over medium heat stirring frequently.
  8. Serve over curly egg noodles and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Liptauer

LiptauerMany years ago, as a kid, I saw a recipe and photo for Liptauer in a cookbook or magazine, and I remember that it looked impossibly elegant and sounded so exotic and sophisticated to me. I didn’t understand all the ingredients –capers and caraway sounded foreign and out of reach. The picture showed a fancy mold surrounded by intricate garnishes – carved radishes and celery fans. I can still call that image to mind. For years, I’d come across recipes for Liptauer and still imagined it was above my palate and skill level. The first time I ever tasted Liptauer was in Vienna on a family vacation. We visited one of the “huerige” wine halls and sat outside under a canopy of trees. We drank local wines and enjoyed a big Viennese meal. But to start it out, our local guide ordered Liptauer. Far from the fanciful creation I had imagined, it was served in a rustic pottery crock with brown bread. And it was delicious. I knew the time to work on a recipe at home had come.

Years later, at a book signing in North Carolina for Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook, a woman approached me and said she was from Austria, and she grew up eating a spread with cream cheese and paprika, and since she’d been living in the States, she had come to liken it to pimento cheese. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I love the idea of cross-cultural, cross culinary links. Now this is totally different from pimento cheese, but it makes a wonderful party dish; since I’ve started serving it, I either get reactions from people who remember it as a 70’s party dish their parents served, or people who’ve never had it before but ask for the recipe. It’s become a staple dish for me, one I turn to whenever I need an easy to make but exciting appetizer. I love to serve this with sliced pretzel bread or rolls or rye melba toast.

Liptauer
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Ingredients
  1. 3 teaspoons capers in brine, drained
  2. 1 small shallot, peeled
  3. ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
  4. 1 Tablespoon roughly chopped chives
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
  6. 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  7. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  8. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  9. 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika (if you have half-sharp, sub it for ½ teaspoon)
Instructions
  1. Put the capers, shallot, parsley, chives and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until everything is well chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the cream cheese and butter, cut into pieces, and pulse a few times. Add the mustard and paprika and blend until smooth and well combined.
  2. Scrape the liptauer into a bowl and refrigerate until firm. This will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you would like to serve a molded liptauer, line a bowl or mold with plastic wrap and press the liptauer into it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then turn the spread out onto a platter, unwrap and serve.
Notes
  1. Makes about 3 cups
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard

A recipe developer asks a lot of questions. It’s the best way to learn the secrets of cooking – the little tips and hints and tricks people use, things they learned from mothers, grandmothers and aunts, secrets from fathers, advice from magazines, cookbooks and the back of boxes, or lessons learned from failure. So I ask questions. In restaurants, stores, markets, from neighbors, friends and strangers. Thus this cake. I was in a bakery in London having tea on a rainy day, and the very sweet waitress said that on a gloomy day, one should always have a piece of cake. I had to agree and asked for recommendations. She suggested the apple cake – with the caveat that it was her second favorite apple cake, as her mother made the absolute best version. So I asked her to describe her mother’s cake. What struck me was the apples. Her mother, she assured me, peeled and chopped the apples and tossed them with sugar and cinnamon and let them sit for hours, until they produced their own syrup. She then put the apples on top of a simple butter cake and drizzled the juices over. I was intrigued, and wrote the idea in my little travel notebook.

The waitress was Swedish, working at the bakery while she studied at university in London. I could tell describing her mother’s cake made her a little wistful for home. I don’t know if this method is typically Swedish or the whole-cloth invention of her mother, but I knew it was an idea I had to try for myself. As I was in London at the time I learned about this method, I thought I would add a classic British custard sauce – no British dessert is complete without it!

Swedish Waitress Apple Cake with Vanilla Custard
Serves 8
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For the Vanilla Custard
  1. 2 cups milk
  2. ½ a vanilla bean
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4. ½ cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
For the Cake
  1. 1 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
  2. 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  4. ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  5. 3 baking apples
  6. 5 Tablespoons butter, softened
  7. 3 eggs
  8. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  9. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  10. ¼ cup milk
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Custard
  1. Put the milk in a medium saucepan and scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into it. Heat over medium just until small bubbles appear around the edges and on the surface.
  2. While the milk is heating, mix the yolks, sugar and corn starch together in a medium mixing bowl. When the milk is warm, slowly drizzle a little into the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time, then continue to whisk in the milk slowly until well combined and smooth. Pour the custard back into the sauce pan and heat over medium, stirring frequently until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Pour the custard through a sieve back into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard and refrigerate until cold. This can be made up to one day ahead.
For the Cake
  1. Mix 3 tablespoons of sugar, the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves together in a medium sized bowl. One at a time, peel and core the apples and chop into small cubes, dropping them into the bowl and tossing with the sugar mixture to coat completely. Leave the apples, completely coated in the sugar, to sit for several hours, until some juices have been released (I usually wait about 4 hours, longer is fine).
  2. When ready to bake the cake, preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the flour and baking powder, then add the milk and vanilla and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Spread the apple pieces over the top of the batter, pressing them into the cake a little, then drizzle over the accumulated juices. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool at least 20 minutes, then release it from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. The cake can be made one day ahead.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/