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.

Irish Bangers and Mash with Guinness Onion Gravy

Everyone gets a kick out of the rather silly names of some traditional British food names. Spotted Dick. Toad in the Hole. Bubble and Squeak. And Bangers and Mash. The mash part is pretty obvious (mashed potatoes). Bangers are sausages, and the term supposedly comes from a time when cheap sausages would explode in a hot pan making a bang. I love a good plate of bangers and mash, but too often what you get is not a very good plate. Pubs that have turned to chain restaurants, my old college dining hall, some touristy restaurants serve up tepid, lumpy mash that may very well be instant and fatty, flavorless sausages with gravy made from a mix. That, I do not like. But when treated properly, a hearty dinner of really good sausages, creamy mash and rich gravy is a sight to behold. So I have worked over the years to develop a really good bangers and mash dish.

And here is my Irish influenced version of this dish, using good Irish bangers and a gravy redolent with Guinness. The mash blends potatoes and earthy parsnips with a tangy dash of Irish cheddar cheese. Crème fraiche adds silkiness without an overpowering edge, but you could use sour cream. Around St. Patrick’s Day, I find Irish bangers on the sausage counter of good markets. Check with a local butcher if you have one – they often whip them up for St. Patrick’s as well. Any good soft pork sausage will do. Bratwurst is a good substitute, or even a mild Italian. You want links of soft sausage in casing, not a harder product like kielbasa or smoked sausage.

Irish Bangers and Mash with Guinness Onion Gravy

For the Mash:

1 pound parsnips (about 4)

1 pound russet potatoes (about 2)

4 cloves of garlic

4 cups chicken stock

Kosher salt

¾ cup crème fraiche

¾ cup grated Irish aged cheddar cheese

2 Tablespoons butter

For the Gravy:

3 Tablespoons butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon English mustard powder

1 cup Guinness

1 cup beef broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper

4 Irish Banger sausages, or any good fresh pork sausages like bratwurst or mild Italian

For the Mash:

Peel the parsnips and potatoes and cut into chunks of roughly the same size. Peel the garlic cloves. Place them all in a large, deep skillet and pour over the chicken broth and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook until the parsnips and potatoes are both very soft when pierced with a knife. Drain, then transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment to break them up, then add the crème fraiche and grated cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the butter and season with salt to taste. If not serving immediately. Spread the potatoes in a baking dish. The potatoes can be kept warm in a low oven, or can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours and reheated in the low oven with a little milk drizzled on top.

For the Gravy:

Melt the butter over medium high heat in large, deep skillet. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft and glassy and beginning to brown. Sprinkle over the brown sugar and stir to combine. Cook, still stirring, until the onions are soft and caramelized, but not sticking to the bottom of the pan, 12 – 15 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and mustard powder and stir until no dry flour is visible, then pour in the Guinness and beef stock and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and season well with salt and lots of ground black pepper. Cover the pot and keep warm.

For the Sausages:

Put the sausages in a deep skillet and add water to come halfway up the sides of the sausages. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes (the sausages should reach an internal temperature of 155°). Uncover the pan and cook until the liquid is evaporated, carefully turning the sausages with tongs to brown them on all sides.

Serve immediately on top of the mashed potatoes and smothered in the gravy.

Serves 4 

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Smoky Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Stew

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

As the New Year starts, we turn again to our black-eyed peas for luck. I usually go for something traditionally Southern, but every once in a while, I like to ring the changes and spice things up. This hearty stew has all the cold-weather comfort of old-fashioned Southern black-eyed peas with a fantastic hit of smoke and spice. I’ll admit, I am mostly a sit-on-the-sofa-reading-and-watching-movies on New Year’s Day person, but this is a great New Year’s Day meal for friends, guarantee them all some luck with an interesting twist to tradition – just put out some bowls and serve directly from the pot.

Smoky bacon and smoky sausage with smoked paprika add a great depth to this dish. Look for double smoked bacon for an extra hit. I love the balance of heat here, but stouter souls can substitute a spicier pepper for one poblano. And of course, serve some hot sauce or pepper vinegar on the side. A chunky slice of cornbread is the perfect accompaniment, but corn tortillas or corn chips are great as well. You can add a dollop of sour cream if you like.

Smoky Spicy Black-eyed Pea Stew

2 poblano peppers

8 strips of smoked bacon (double smoked if you can find it)

12 ounces smoked sausage

1 onion, finely diced

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles

4 cups (1 32-ounce box) chicken broth

2 (12-ounce) bags frozen black-eyed peas

Char the poblano peppers over a gas burner or on a foil lined baking sheet under a high broiler. Get every inch of skin charred black, turning a few times with tongs to cover get all surfaces. Immediately place the charred peppers in a paper bag and fold down the top or in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap. Leave to steam until cool enough to handle, then rub off the skin, rinsing the peppers under cold water to remove any last remnants of char. Remove the stems, seeds and ribs then finely dice the peppers and set aside.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a 5-quart Dutch over medium high heat until very crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a small baking sheet lined with paper towels. While the bacon is cooking, cut the sausage in half lengthwise, then into little bite-sized half-moons. After you’ve removed the bacon, cook the sausage in the bacon grease until lightly browned and curling, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausage to the paper towels with the slotted spoon as well. Drain off all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon grease and let it cool slightly before adding the diced onion (if you drop the onion into sizzling hot grease, they will burn). Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the poblanos and the green chilies with their liquid and cook about 2 minutes, then sprinkle over the chili powder, cumin, paprika and salt and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook about 2 minutes until the spices are very fragrant, then add the garlic and cook a further 2 minutes. Pour in the can of tomatoes and chilies with their liquid and the chicken broth. Add the black-eyed peas and stir to combine, then bring a boil. Reduce the heat and cook the stew uncovered for 30 minutes until thickened and the peas are softened. Hold back a handful of the bacon to top the stew, then stir the remaining bacon and the sausage into the stew. Cover and cook a further 30 minutes or until the peas are very soft and cooked through.  Serve in hearty bowls, sprinkled with a little bacon.

Serves 8

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

Over the summer, in the hot, hot weather, I had a few people over for a last minute meal. I couldn’t bring myself to cook much, so I decided to make a big salad. Another last minute decision was to lay out my ingredients on a big platter rather than toss it it in a bowl. It seemed more substantial somehow. It got raves, so I made it several other times and posted as my Southern Buttermlik Cobb Salad. Since then, the big platter salad has become a favorite of mine. For relatively little effort, you get a showstopper meal or side salad. I’ve got all sorts of iterations in my arsenal, and I am sure they will make appearances here. But with Mardi Gras coming up, I decided to create a beautiful version inspired by the classic muffaletta sandwich, with olives, Italian pickled vegetables and peppers, cured meats and cheese. The dressing is tart from using the well-flavored brine from the giardinera (you could also make the dressing from olive brine). This gorgeous plate is hearty enough for a full meal with a nice loaf of French bread, or a great side for a Louisiana style meal. I prepared this for my family, and several people started picking at it with their fingers, so I suppose you could make it an appetizer as well.

Below is a basic guide to the salad. You could use a different green on the bottom and use whatever olives you prefer. I find lovely little bite-size salami in my grocery, but you can cut larger pieces if that’s what you find. I use salami and soppresatta, but you could add some mortadella or spicy salami. I buy a thick piece of provolone, sometimes sliced at the deli counter, so I can cut it into nice, hearty chunks. Use mild or spicy banana peppers as you like. You could purchase toasted baguette slices, but I tend to use half a baguette and serve the rest with dinner.

Muffaletta Cobb Salad

For the Dressing:

¼ cup brine from jarred giardiniera

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 Tablespoon Creole mustard

½ Tablespoon dried Italian seasoning

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 cup olive oil

For the croutons:

½ a small baguette, thinly sliced

Olive oil spray

Salt and pepper

For the Salad:

2 romaine hearts

6 ounce round of provolone cheese

8 ounces bite-sized Italian salami

3 ounces sliced soppressata

1 (25.5 ounce) jar giardiniera Italian pickled vegetables, drained (reserving brine for dressing)

1 (6 ounce) jar pitted black olives, drained

1 (10 ounce) jar pitted green olives, drained

½ cup banana pepper rings from a jar

For the Dressing:

Place the brine, vinegar, mustard, Italian seasoning and garlic in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Screw on the lid and shake well to combine. Add the olive oil, cover and shake again until well combined and emulsified. The dressing can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Shake well before serving.

For the Croutons:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the sliced baguette on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spray one side with olive oil, then flip over and spray the other side. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes until crispy. Cool completely and store for up to a day in a ziptop bag. If you don’t have olive oil spray, brush the bread lightly with olive oil on both sides.

Assembly:

Cut the romaine into ½ inch wide ribbons, wash well and dry. Cut the provolone into bite size chunks. Cut soppressata slices into quarters. 

Lay the romaine evenly over a large platter. Arrange the giardiniera in the center of the salad, then make attractive rows of the salami, soppressata, provolone, croutons, olives and pepper rings. Drizzle with the dressing right before serving.

Buttermilk Braised Pork Roast

Comfort food is universal. Well flavored, simple dishes transcend cultures, regions and time. No matter where you are, you recognize the dishes that reach into your memories and experiences. This dish is like that for me. It had an immediate familiarity, though I’d never had it before. It’s that sense of slow-cooked flavor and rich, creamy sauce and tender pork I recognized. I first tasted a version of it in Italy, and it resonated. Braising pork in milk is a classic Italian preparation that creates moist and tender meat and a creamy, rich sauce. I have made it a number of times with great results, particularly after my month-long culinary sojourn in Italy a few summers ago. I discussed methods and techniques with chef-instructors at cooking classes, waiters in restaurants, and a driver/guide. My obsession with buttermilk naturally led me to try a Southernized version of the classic and I love it even more.

It’s really amazing how this incredibly simple preparation produces such a complex dish. The pork is tender and infused with the garlic and sage flavor, and the sauce is buttery – I mean really buttery. The low and slow cooking really imbues the pork with flavor, and buttermilk is always a wonderful tenderizer. The addition of cream helps hold everything together and prevents too much curdling (though there may be some). I like to give it a little whirl with the immersion blender to smooth it out, then spoon it over the beautifully tender meat.

Buttermilk Braised Pork Loin
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pound boneless pork lion
  2. Salt and pepper
  3. 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 ½ cups whole buttermilk
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. 6 cloves of garlic
  8. 3 -4 leafy sprigs of sage
Instructions
  1. Season the pork loin well with salt and pepper all over. Heat the oil in the bottom of a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat. Brown the pork loin on all sides, including the ends, then remove it to a plate. Let the pot cool slightly and wipe out the remaining oil. Return the pork to the pot and pour in the buttermilk and cream. Add the nutmeg to the liquid, then tuck the garlic cloves and sage leaves around the loin. Bring the buttermilk to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for two hours, turning the pork over every 30 minutes. After one hour, leave the pot lid slightly ajar.
  2. Remove the pork to a plate, cover with foil and bring the liquid left in the pot to a hearty boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and reduces, about 10 minutes. I like to remove the sage stalks and give the sauce a quick whir with an immersion blender to blend in the garlic and smooth it out.
  3. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce ladled over.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Baked Roast Beef, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Sliders

In my recently released The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, I included a recipe for perfect little baked sliders, because several people told me they had always called them “funeral sandwiches.” The book version includes a delicious country ham spread, cheese and a sweet buttery topping. Working on that recipe, I realized what a great concept they are – perfect flavor-packed hearty bites that feed, and please, a crowd. So I have been a little crazy creating different fillings and toppings. This is one of my favorite iterations – tangy and cheesy, sweet and savory, gooey and rich. Little sandwiches like these are often thought of as snack food or party appetizers, but they make a great meal too. They can be made a day ahead and heated up when ready to eat. Serve with a salad or a bowl of soup (tomato is particularly good).

Use the shredded mozzarella from a bag here, not the fresh Italian variety. The melty mozzarella helps hold the sandwiches together without overpowering the blue cheese flavor. Choose a good roast beef from the deli, I find a roasted London broil I like, and have it thinly sliced. Whole wheat rolls add a nice touch here, but regular rolls are just fine.

Roast Beef, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Baked Sliders

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

3 yellow onions

2 dozen honey wheat Hawaiian rolls

½ pound thinly sliced deli roast beef

8 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella from a bag

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt ¼ cup (½ stick) of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the thinly sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and begin to brown. Pour in ½ cup of water, stir well and cook until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are a rich caramelized amber color. Leave the onions to cool. They can be prepared up to a day in advance.

Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with foil with ends hanging over. This makes it easier to lift out the cooked sandwiches. Use a high-sided brownie pan, not a shallower glass casserole.

Use a long, sharp bread knife to slice each package of rolls in half horizontally. Do not separate the individual rolls, slice open the whole rectangle. Spread caramelized onions in an even layer over both bottom halves, spreading evenly to the edges of the bread. Carefully transfer the covered bread to the prepared pan. They will fit snuggly and you may have to wiggle them in and press them down. Layer the roast beef evenly over the onions, covering the entire surface. Sprinkle the blue cheese in an even layer over the roast beef, then sprinkle over the mozzarella cheese, making sure to reach the edges of the bread. Place the top halves of the rolls over the cheese. Use a thin knife to run through the separations in the rolls to make them easier to pull apart when cooked.

For the topping:

Melt the remaining stick of butter, brown sugar, mustard and pepper together in a small saucepan. When the butter is melted, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.  Drizzle the topping evenly over the sandwiches in the pan, using a spatula to spread it out evenly if needed. Leave to cool, then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sandwiches, covered, for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sandwiches are heated through. Uncover and cook for a few minutes, just until the tops are lightly toasted – be careful, the topping can brown easily. Use the overhanging foil to lift the sandwiches from the pan, then separate them and arrange on a platter.