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.

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/

Sauerbraten (Marinated Beef Roast with a Gingersnap Gravy)

SauerbratenThe first signs of fall are just beginning to show, so my mind turns to hearty, meaty meals with bold flavors, and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. Spiced, seasoned and slow cooked, it will make you house smell like autumn and it is a great weekend cooking project. It’s a warming and comforting Sunday night supper, or marinate during the week for a wonderful weekend feast. And perfect for an Oktoberfest celebrations!

Sauerbraten is a classic German dish, or so I am told. I’ll admit, I don’t know much about German food. But my father once requested that I make it, so I tinkered and learned until, after a couple of tries, I got it just the way he wanted it. I wish I had made it for him more often. It may sound a little odd – marinating meat in so much vinegar and using cookies in the gravy, but it works perfectly and will make total sense when you first taste it. The meat is tangy, with a hint of pickling spice, while the gingersnaps add just the right sweetness and spice to the rich gravy. It may not win any beauty contests, but I promise it will win you over.

I know it takes three days, and four hours of cooking to make this – but the actual work involved is minimal. It just takes a little patience. I love to serve this with mashed potatoes or egg noodles. I have yet to perfect the technique for spaetzle, but that would be a perfect combination if you posess the skill. Leftover meat makes a wonderful sandwich!

Sauerbraten
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup red wine vinegar
  2. 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  3. 2 cups water
  4. 1 onion, roughly chopped
  5. 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  6. 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  7. 3 sprigs fresh marjoram
  8. 2 dried bay leaves
  9. 1 sprig sage leaves
  10. 2 Tablespoons pickling spice
  11. 3 – 3 ½ pound bottom round beef roast
  12. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  13. salt and pepper
  14. 5 ounces old fashioned gingersnaps (about 18 – 20)
Instructions
  1. Pour the vinegars and water in a medium sized saucepan, then add the onion, carrot, celery and herbs. Stir in the pickling spice and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pan, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
  2. Pat the bottom round dry with paper towels, then rub the olive oil over it and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper. Heat a 4 -5 quart heavy non-reactive pan over medium high heat (I use an enameled cast iron dutch oven). Sear the bottom round all over until just browned, a few minutes on each side. Leave to cool for a few minutes, so the pot is not too hot, then pour over the marinade. Cover the pot and refrigerate for 3 days, turning the roast over a few times a day.
  3. When ready to cook the sauerbraten, heat the oven to 325. Place the pot with the meat and marinade in the oven and cook for 4 hours. Crush the gingersnaps to very fine crumbs in a food processor, or just place them in a ziptop bag and whack with a rolling pin until you have a nice fine rubble.
  4. Remove the cooked roast from the cooking liquid to a platter and cover with foil. Strain the marinade through a sieve into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir the crushed gingersnaps into the gravy and cook for a few minutes until thick. Strain the gravy again (you can put it in the rinsed out Dutch oven to avoid dirtying another dish) and pour back into the sauce pan and keep warm over low heat.
  5. Slice the meat and serve with the gravy spooned over.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Scandi-Style Potatoes

Scandi-Style Potatoes

Potatoes are a real kitchen workhorse. They go with anything – fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb – and it is easy to make them taste good. Tossed with a little olive oil and herbs and roasted, mashed with butter and milk, baked and topped with all manner of things, cold in a potato salad. I’m a believer that if you have a potato in the house, you always have a meal. But I also admit to falling into a rut. I spend a lot of time working on a main dish, figuring I’ll just cook some potatoes to go with it. The roasted version is my go to, and everyone seems to like them that way. I sometimes pull out the mandolin and slice up a pile for a cheese gratin or a simple pommes boulangere, but I am not always as creative as I could be.

Nowadays, I am also always intrigued by the variety and color range of the potatoes we find in the stores and farmers markets. I can barely resist the selection of jewel-toned orbs available now, and sometimes come home from a shop with way more than I intended. So I look for ways to push the boat out a little, try something new and different to expand my potato horizons. I found a version of this recipe in a community cookbook that involved way more packaged and processed ingredients than I am comfortable with, but I saw the potential and soldiered on. That recipe was called German Potatoes, but these have more of a Scandanavian feel to me – maybe it’s the dill, but really the glaze reminds me of the sweet-tangy sauce on Swedish meatballs. I love to use the bite-size multi-colored potatoes when I find them, but simple red or yellow ones will do. These spuds are perfect with a simple roast meal like a good chicken, a fatty pork roast or a simple beef tenderloin.

Scandi-Style Potatoes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds small potatoes
  2. 6 strips of bacon
  3. 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  4. 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  5. 2 Tablespoons flour
  6. ½ cup granulated sugar
  7. ½ cup cider vinegar
  8. ¾ cup water
  9. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Instructions
  1. Choose small potatoes about the size of a ping pong ball, but if they are larger cut them half. Cook the potatoes just until tender – I prefer to steam them over boiling water for about 20 minutes, which helps them hold their shape, but you can also boil them for about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain the potatoes and set aside, covered with a tea towel to keep warm. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over in a saucepan large enough to hold the potatoes until crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Let the bacon grease cool for about 5 minutes, then add the chopped onion and celery. (If you add the veg to the hot grease, they will burn). Cook over medium heat, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes until the flour has disappeared and the mixture is thick. Add the sugar and stir well until dissolved. Pour over the vinegar and water and continue cooking until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped dill.
  3. Add the potatoes to the sauce and stir to coat completely. Add the chopped bacon to combine. Cook until everything is warmed through, and serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta SpaghettiThe Greek flavors of a shrimp, tomato and feta are a favorite of mine, and always remind me of summer, and a trip to Greece and the island of Mykonos one summer many years ago. Our favorite dish was Shrimp Saganaki, a rich tomato sauce with shrimp nestled in, covered in a blanket of fresh feta cheese. None of my travelling companions or I knew much about Greek food at the time, and when we discovered this, we were glad to see it on almost every menu. I am sure we ate it every day of our trip, possibly even twice a day. This particular dish is also inspired by one of my favorite summer pastas, the Tomato, Herb and Brie Pasta I unknowingly laid claim to as my own creation for years. The idea of leaving ingredients to steep and soften before tossing in hot pasta struck me and I have used the technique in many ways, but this is a great version and perfect for a quick summer meal.

Feta cheese doesn’t melt like the brie in the original dish, but the small crumbles will cling to the pasta and the shrimp. While the sauce mixture is sitting, the tomatoes soften and release some juice and the herbs and lemon meld together, making for a really bright and fresh dish. Feta cheese is salty, so season lightly at first, then adjust at serving.

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4 plum tomatoes
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. ¼ cup chopped oregano
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  6. ¼ cup olive oil
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 1 pound spaghetti
  9. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  10. ½ cup white wine
Instructions
  1. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, finely dice the flesh and place in a bowl big enough to hold all the pasta. Put the garlic through a press, or finely chop it, sprinkling a little salt over it during the process.  This helps mellow the garlic - you don’t want big chunks. Add the lemon zest and juice, the oregano and feta cheese to the bowl and season lighlty with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and stir to combine. Leave to sit for at least an hour, but up to three is fine.
  2. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions, about 12 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, bring the wine to a boil in a medium skillet and add the shrimp. Continue cooking until the shrimp are pink and cooked through and the wine is reduced to just a couple of Tablespoons.
  3. Put the cooked shrimp and reduced wine in the bowl with the other ingredients, then drain the pasta and put it on top. Cover with a towel and let sit a few minutes, then toss everything together and serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Queso Fundido Soup

Queso Fundido SoupCinco de Mayo approaches and with it, thoughts of the completely Americanized restaurant specialty, queso, or cheese dip as we used to call it. I, and pretty much anyone from in Memphis, grew up on a thin, cold cheese dip created by the area’s first Mexican restaurant. It is still a favorite and available at local groceries in a plastic tub, and a true guilty pleasure for me. Next came Ro-tel dip, melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned tomato and green chile mix. No teenage party was complete without it. Then a restaurant opened in town serving the first incarnation of what was considered “authentic” Mexican food. It was the first place in town to serve fajitas. And with it came queso fundido (they title their version queso flameado). Spicy chorizo sausage covered in melty cheese, served in a hot skillet. The restaurant has been opened over 25 years, but that dip was a game changer at the time, adding such zip and interest to an old standby.

I was thinking about that dip, and other delicious versions of queso fundido I’ve sought out over the years, when I created this soup. It’s a flavorful and fun meal-in-a-bowl with lots of toppings and flavor addition possibilities. Start the meal with chips and salsa or guacamole and mix up a pitcher of margaritas and celebrate the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.

Queso Fundido Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 9 ounces Mexican pork chorizo sausage
  2. 1 cup finely diced onion
  3. 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  6. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 1 ½ cups whole milk
  9. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  10. 8 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated
  11. 2 small plum tomatoes
  12. fresh cilantro
  13. tortilla chips or strips
Instructions
  1. Sauté the chorizo in a Dutch oven, breaking the meat up with a spatula as you go. When the chorizo releases some of its fat, add the onion, green chiles and garlic and stir well. Cook until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions and chiles are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug and whisk in the flour until smooth and completely dissolved. Stir the milk mixture into the soup and cook at a low bubble – not a boil – until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low. Reserve about a half cup of the cheese to top the soup, then stir in the remaining cheese, ½ cup at a time, making sure each addition is melted and smooth before adding the next.
  3. Serve the soup in large bowl topped with chopped tomato, minced cilantro, a little grated cheese and some tortilla strips.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)I picked up a recipe card in a grocery store in London for a fruit and tea loaf. It sounded good, so I was looking for the ingredients. A lovely lady with a lilting Irish accent was helping me, but she told me that I’d be better off making a real barmbrack than using a product-promoting recipe card. I’d never heard of barmbrack, so she explained that it was a traditional treat her granny always made back in Ireland. She outlined the ingredients and steps in some detail and I took notes on the back of a Tube map I had in my purse, right there in the baking aisle at Waitrose. I never did make the recipe card bread, but when I got home to my own kitchen, I started a little research on barmbrack and developed my recipe in combination with her notes.

Here is what I learned. Barmbrack is traditionally served at Halloween, and sometimes little charms or a coin are baked into the loaf to predict various fortunes for those who get the charm in their slice. There is some dispute, as far as I can make out, as to whether a version made with yeast is the original or the batter bread came first. My grocery store guru never mentioned yeast, so I went with the simpler version. Most recipes I read and the ingredients she listed included candied peel and cherries, but I can only find those readily available during the Christmas, so I substituted dried sweet cherries and citrus zest and juice. The long soak in tea gives this bread a nice tannic finish and a subtle flavor. The bread is fruity but not overly sweet.

I offer this recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day, even if that is not traditional, because it always reminds me of my Irish grocery pal (I like to imagine her name was something wonderful like Siobhan or Aoife) and the name is so musically Irish, especially with the Irish spelling báirín breac, which means “speckled bread.” And this dense, fruit studded, tea infused loaf is good at any time of year, spread with good Irish butter or with a slice of Irish cheddar.

Irish Barmbrack (Fruit and Tea Loaf)
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 2 black tea bags (Earl Gray or English Breakfast)
  2. ¾ cups black raisins
  3. ¾ cup golden raisins
  4. ½ cup currants
  5. ¼ cup dried sweet cherries
  6. 1 medium navel orange, zest and juice
  7. 1 medium lemon, zest and juice
  8. 1 egg
  9. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  10. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  11. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  12. ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  13. ¼ teaspoon cloves
  14. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  15. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  16. 2 Tablespoons buttermilk or milk
Instructions
  1. Brew 1 cup of tea with the two teabags. It should be strong tea. Toss the dried fruits together in a large bowl and cover with the tea and stir. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave the fruit to soak overnight, giving it a stir if you happen to remember.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a standard 9 by 5 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  3. Zest the orange and the lemon into the bowl of fruit and tea and stir to combine. Squeeze the orange, then the lemon to make ½ cup juice (more orange juice is a little sweeter than too much lemon). Add the juice to the bowl and stir, then crack in the egg and stir to combine. Add the brown sugar, flour, soda and spices and stir until the batter comes together. Add the buttermilk or milk. This is a thick batter, but make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed in with the wet. If you need too, you can add a little bit more buttermilk to pull things together.
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and press it out to an even layer. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu CurryI will tell you right up front. I have never been to Japan, I know very little about Japanese food and I don’t like sushi, so I haven’t explored the local Japanese offerings in depth. I will also tell you my interest in this dish comes from a place I don’t normally get inspiration. I first had this at a fast-casual Japanese restaurant in London that I stopped in to get out of a downpour. It was delicious. Then I saw it as a heat-and-eat meal in the grocery a day or so later and, I admit, I bought it. It too was pretty darn good. So I decided there had to be a way to make the recipe at home, so I started searching the internet. Lots of the recipes that came up were from British websites, which reinforced my sense that katsu is becoming a pretty standard dish in the UK (once something reaches the grocery store shelf, you know the trend has taken off). I discovered several things in my research. First, in every recipe I found, the chicken is breaded and fried. That’s what makes it so delightfully crispy and crunchy. Second, a lot of the curry sauce recipes I found used packaged mixes or ingredients not readily available at home, plus I am not a big fan of packaged mixes.

I wanted to make this an accessible recipe. Frying is a rare thing for me. The mess and the prep and the lingering smell. I fry chicken and fish on the burner of the outdoor grill sometimes, but it is certainly not something I do for a weeknight meal, so I wanted to make a baked version of chicken katsu that was still brown and crispy. And I cobbled together some ingredients and instructions for the curry sauce from some websites written in Japanese and translated (poorly) and few ideas from the English versions. The curry sauce is fantastic, perfect with the crispy chicken and rice, but also delicious served with Japanese noodles.

Chicken Katsu Curry
Serves 6
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For the Curry Sauce
  1. 2 tablespoons canola oil
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 5 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 medium carrots, diced
  5. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 4 teaspoons curry powder
  7. 2 ½ chicken broth
  8. 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  9. 2 teaspoons honey
  10. 1 teaspoon garam masala
For the Chicken
  1. 3 cups panko breadcrumbs
  2. 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Pour the canola oil in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and carrot and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften, then cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is very soft and slightly golden and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle over the flour and curry powder and stir to coat the vegetables, then pour in the chicken stock. Add the soy sauce and honey. Stir to dissolve the flour, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the garam masala, then use an immersion blender to just blend the sauce. You don’t need to go for smooth here. Pour the sauce through a strainer into a glass bowl, rinse out the pan and return the sauce to it. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is thickened a little, but still pourable. Season with salt to taste. The sauce can be kept warm over low heat while you make the Katsu, or made a day ahead, cooled, covered and refrigerate. Gently reheat the sauce over low heat.
For the Chicken Katsu
  1. Put the breadcrumbs in a large dry skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are consistently golden. Turn over and stir constantly to prevent burning. They don’t have to be completely browned, just mostly toasted. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or parchment paper.
  3. Cut the chicken breasts in half and place each half between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until evenly thin, about ¼ inch thick. Mix the flour with a generous amount of salt and black pepper on a flat plate. Beat the egg with a little splash of water on a second plate and spread the panko out on a third plate. Dip the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any excess, then dip in the egg and allow the excess to drip off. Press the chicken breast into the panko crumbs, making sure both sides are fully coated, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all the chicken.
  4. Bake the chicken for about 20 minutes until crispy and coked through, then serve with a drizzle of curry sauce, with extra sauce in the side for dipping. Serve with rice.
Notes
  1. This recipe makes a more sauce than you think you will need, but it is delicious stirred into rice and I want it with every bite of chicken. Leftover sauce is great tossed with noodles and vegetables.
  2. If you want to be more traditional, don’t toast the panko, but coat the chicken as directed, then fry in about 2 inches of hot vegetable oil.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill


A good casserole is pure comfort food. And there are, I know, a million versions of casseroles out there, so coming up with new and unique versions is a welcome challenge for a recipe developer. So here’s my process for creating a recipe like this. I wanted to do something different – still a rich, creamy casserole, but with a twist. First I thought rice or noodles? Which led me to orzo, the small rice shaped pasta. Orzo, for some reason, always puts me in mind of Greek and Mediterranean food, and that made me think of lemons, much like one of my favorites, Greek Lemon Rice Soup. And of course, keeping with the Greek theme, feta cheese was an obvious ingredient. So I started to work out in my mind a recipe with orzo, lemon, feta cheese, herbs and chicken. Frankly, I had just finished my testing on another chicken casserole (recipe coming soon!), and didn’t really want to repeat myself, then the idea of using shrimp popped into my head. And with shrimp, I thought dill would be a bright herbal addition in keeping with the sunny Mediterranean profile. A quick shuffle through the ingredient library in my head led me to capers, to add a salty, briny note and a bit of texture.

That’s how these things work out with me. I wanted to create a creative casserole perfect for family meals or entertaining, and one thought led to another. And I am very pleased with the results, I think this dish meets all my points, unique, comforting packed with flavor and a change-up from the standards.

Greek Shrimp and Orzo Bake with Lemon and Dill
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cups orzo pasta
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. zest of two lemons, divided
  5. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  6. 3 ½ cups whole milk
  7. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, divided
  8. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  10. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  11. 1 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  12. 3 Tablespoons capers, drained
  13. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  14. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen (18 - 20 count)
Instructions
  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by one minute. Drain and rise thoroughly with cold water.
  2. Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium high heat, then add the minced garlic and the zest of one lemon. Cook for two minutes until fragrant, then sprinkle over the flour. Cook stirring, until the flour is pale and smooth. Gradually pour in the milk, whisking all the while, and cook until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Whisk in the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in half of the feta and remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining lemon zest, dill and oregano. Add the capers and the lemon juice and stir until well combined. Stir in the cooked orzo until it is completely separated and coated in the sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry with paper towels then add to the warm sauce. Stir until everything is combined and well coated with sauce. The shrimp will just begin to turn pink in the warm sauce.
  5. Spoon the casserole into the prepared dish and sprinkle the remaining feta cheese over the top. The casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours.
  6. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the feta cheese on top if you would like
Notes
  1. Personally, I prefer leaving the shrimp whole, but you may cut them in half before adding to the casserole if you prefer.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

Habitant Pea SoupLast fall, over a year ago now its hard to believe, I set out on a book tour to share Pimento Cheese The Cookbook (available at your local bookstore or online now) throughout the South, tasting all sorts of local specialties along the way. I drove myself for the whole tour, so I spent a lot of time in the car listening to public radio and a few podcasts. One program I was listening to had a Canadian chef expounding the virtues of Habitant Pea Soup, a traditional Canadian dish I’d never heard of before. Maybe I was in the mood for some home cooked food, or the weather was turning cold or just the enthusiasm of the chef, but the story piqued my interest. And the story of this chef exploring the origins of the soup as a piece of Canadian heritage was fascinating. (If I remembered where I heard it I’d post a link!). He deduced that this was a dish made by the original European explorers out of their meager stores, and that it had remained in the Canadian culinary canon. When I got I home, I did a little research and came up with my own version of the soup, cooked in the slow cooker for simplicity.

Habitant Pea Soup is as comforting and homey as I thought it would be. The split peas, an ingredient I had only used in Indian cooking before, add a nice richness and creaminess to the soup, and the use of a ham hock and a little salt pork keep the soup from being plain or boring. In my research, I found a couple of different ideas. I settle on this version for ease of preparation, but one recipe suggested shredding the ham meat and crisping in a skillet and serving on top of the soup, rather than stirred through. I like that. Some suggested topping the soup with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche. I like that too. I can definitely imagine this warming up the original explorers on a cold Canadian night.

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 16 ounces yellow split peas
  2. 1 ham hock (about 14 ounces)
  3. 6 ounces salt pork
  4. 1 medium onion, finely diced
  5. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  6. 1 carrot, finely diced
  7. 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  8. 6 -7 sprigs of thyme
  9. 2 bay leaves
Instructions
  1. Spread the split peas on the bottom of a 7- 8 quart slow cooker. Place the ham hock and salt pork on top, then the onion, celery and carrot. Pour over the chicken broth. Do not stir. Drop in the thyme sprigs (count how many stems so you can remove them later) and the bay leaves. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.
  2. Remove the salt pork, thyme stems and bay leaves and discard. Remove the ham hock to a plate and pull the meat off the bone using two forks. If needed, dice the hock meat into bite size pieces. Return the meat to the slow cooker, cover and cook a further 30 minutes.
  3. Serve warm, topped with sour cream of crème fraiche if you like.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/