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.

Chicken Tinga

Chicken Tinga

When I was a kid, taco night mean hard shells, ground beef cooked with a packet of seasoning and shredded cheese. It was fun, because you got to “make” your own dinner, putting as much meat and cheese on as you wanted (though mom probably insisted that I put a little lettuce on it too). And eating with your hands! But my, how times have changed and only for the better. Tacos much closer to traditional Mexican food are readily available, and those kit tacos from my youth seem bland and boring now. That’s not Mexican food anymore, that’s drive-thru fast food now.

But one thing does remain, the fun of building your own dinner. I have often mentioned how much I love an interactive meal – everyone gets involved and talking and laughing and everybody has a meal they love. Chicken Tinga, which is a wonderful name for a dish, is chicken slow-cooked to melting tenderness in a flavor-packed onion and chipotle sauce. It is pretty simple to make for the reward it produces, and incredibly versatile. Use the juicy chicken to fill tortillas for tacos, or spread it over a crispy tostada. Stuff it into bread to make a torta, or use it to top an colorful taco salad. It is wonderful over rice, or serve it on its own, or rolled into burritos. The leftovers can be used for several days, and you can even freeze it.

I love to pull out a full array of colorful toppings to add crunch and creaminess and counterpoints to the smoky chipotle flavor. Simply pickled red onions are traditional and the vinegar tang complements to rich meat perfectly and this creamy avocado sauce cools everything down. Make this for family taco night or invite friends over for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. I think this would also make a great book club meal.

Chicken Tinga
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 tomatillo, diced
  6. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (2 if you want), diced
  8. 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce from the chipotles
  9. 1 – 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (fire-roasted adds a little smokiness)
  10. 2 teaspoons oregano (preferably Mexican)
  11. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  12. 6 chicken breasts
Topping ideas
  1. Creamy Avocado Sauce
  2. Quick Pickled Red Onions
  3. Crumbled cotija cheese
  4. Shredded lettuce or cabbage
  5. Shredded radishes
  6. Pico de gallo
  7. Salsa
  8. Limes wedges to squeeze over the top
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then add the onion and bell peppers. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables star to soften, then lower the heat a little, add the garlic and cover the pan. Cook until soft and browning a little, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times. Add a little water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits form the bottom of the pan, then let the water cook off. Browning the vegetables a little adds some depth of flavor and richness. Add the tomatillo, chipotles, adobo sauce, tomatoes, oregano and cumin and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes. When the sauce has cooled a bit, transfer it to a blender and puree until smooth.
  2. Pour the sauce back into the pot and add the chicken breasts, stirring to cover each breast with sauce. Bring the pot to a bubble over medium high heat, then turn the heat to low, cover the pot and leave to simmer until the chicken is very tender, about 1 ½ hours. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate one at a time and use two forks to pull the chicken into shreds, then return the shreds to the sauce in the pot. Continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce reduces and thickens, about 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. You can place the chicken and sauce in a slow cooker and cook over low heat for 4 hours, then shred the meat as above.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Quick Pickled Red Onions
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Ingredients
  1. 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  2. 1 cup water
  3. ½ cup cider vinegar
  4. 1 Tablespoon sugar
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  6. ½ teaspoon pickling spice
Instructions
  1. Layer the onions in a pint jar or glass bowl. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices to a boil in a small pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the onions and leave to cool, then seal and keep in the refrigerator for a least an hour, but the onions will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Creamy Avocado Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 1 avocado
  2. 3 tomatillos
  3. juice of one lime
  4. 2 garlic cloves
  5. ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  6. salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Scoop the flesh out of the avocado and place it in a blender. Chop the tomatillos roughly and add to the blender with the garlic, cilantro and salt. Blend until smooth and scoop into a bowl or jar. Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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Potted Ham

Potted Ham

Potted ham is some truly old fashioned cooking. Potting was a method for preserving meat and seafood and even cheese in English kitchens before the advent of refrigeration. It is basically sealing finely chopped meat under a layer of clarified butter. The butter solidifies and shields the meat form unwanted visitors. It was the precursor to canned meats and I think that is probably why it’s reputation suffered and it went largely out of fashion. I’ve made potted shrimp and potted stilton for English themed tea parties and they’ve always been very popular, but I had never thought of potting ham until I found this recipe in Noel McMeel’s book Irish Pantry at the precise moment I had a surfeit of leftover ham in my refrigerator.

I find this dish charmingly old-fashioned, but it somehow seems to have a modern resonance and stylishness to it. It seems so homemade and self-sufficient. Make this in elegant little ramekins and serve as a first course with toasted crusty bread and a pretty little spreading knife, or make a larger ramekin (no more than a 2-cup size) and serve on a cheese platter with crackers. And it makes great sandwiches – even as a layer in a bahn-mi.

I would not trust this method as its original purpose as a long-term storage solution for meat, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. And it freezes well too. Pack it into freezable jars, cover with butter, refrigerate until cold, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the fridge before serving. I particularly like it in these European-style jars. I have simplified the original recipe a bit.

Potted Ham
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces of high-quality butter (like Kerrygold)
  2. 1 pound cooked ham, torn onto pieces
  3. 1 Tablespoon parley
  4. 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  5. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  6. ¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  7. ¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt
  9. lots of ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into quarters and place in a 4-cup microwave safe measuring jug. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Leave the butter to sit for one minute, then skim off any white foam from the surface. Slowly and carefully pour the clarified butter into a smaller measuring jug leaving the white solids behind. Set aside.
  2. Place the ham in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse several times to break the meat up into rough crumbs. Add the parsley, vinegar, cloves, mustard seeds salt, pepper and about 2/3 of the clarified butter. Pulse until you have a thick, rough paste that sticks together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and making sure everything is well combined.
  3. Use a spoon to transfer the ham to ramekins or jars. Pack the ham down lightly into the containers making sure there are no large gaps. Smooth the top of the ham to an even layer. Pour the remaining clarified butter equally over the top of each container. The surface needs to be completely covered with a generous layer of butter. No ham should be sticking up through the butter. Leave the ramekins on the counter so the butter settles and begins to solidify, then carefully transfer to the fridge. When the butter has solidified completely, cover with jar lids or plastic wrap. Let come to room temperature before serving.
  4. The potted ham will keep in the fridge for a week or the freezer for up to three months.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake


Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake

Tis the season for the rich, comforting pasta bake. It’s cold and gray, but not so much frigid winter as that doleful in between. I still want the warmth and comfort of cozy, hearty food, but I am growing tired of winter greens and roots and the spring bounty hasn’t sprung yet. I’ve souped and stewed, and I have depleted my stock of frozen-in-summer vegetables. So it’s time to get creative with the comfort food.

This is ingenious take on macaroni and cheese – an all-in-one supper with a twist. Ribbons and flavorful pastrami and cheese enrobed in a creamy, mustardy sauce with the added hit of flavor in toasty rye breadcrumbs. I like to stir the grated cheese through the pasta, rather than adding it to the sauce so you get nice melty, gooey pockets of cheese throughout. Look out for a good, well seasoned pastrami at your favorite deli counter.

Pastrami on Rye Pasta Bake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces campanelle pasta, or other frilly shape like bow ties or fusilli
  2. 4 ounces thin sliced deli pastrami
  3. 3 green onions, white and light green parts only
  4. 8 ounces gouda cheese
  5. 8 ounces swiss cheese
  6. 2 cups milk
  7. 1 cup chicken broth
  8. 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  9. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  10. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  11. 1 Tablespoon stone-ground grainy mustard
  12. ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  13. 3 slices rye bread
  14. 1 Tablespoon butter
  15. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring a Dutch oven full of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than the package recommends. When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, briefly rinse under cold water and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the butter to prevent sticking.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, dice the pastrami in to small pieces. Shuffle through the pieces so the don’t stick together. Dice the green onions finely. Grate the gouda and swiss cheeses and toss together in a bowl. Measure out 1 cup of the cheeses and set aside.
  3. Combine the milk and the chicken broth in a 4-cup measuring jug and heat in the microwave for 1 ½ minutes until it is just warm. (You can also do this in a saucepan) This will help keep the sauce smooth and lump-free. Wipe out the pasta pot and return it to medium high heat. Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter, then whisk in the flour until you have a smooth, pale paste. Gradually add the milk mixture, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon. Whisk in the mustards and mustard powder until smooth and incorporated. Take the pot of the heat and stir in the pasta, pastrami and green onions. Stir well to make sure the pastrami is evenly distributed and not sticking together in clumps. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed (this will depend on the pastrami you are using, so make sure to get some in your tasting bite). Leave the pasta to cool for about 5 minutes.
  4. While the pasta sits, put the rye bread into a food processor (a mini is fine) and pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and process until combined.
  5. Stir the bulk of the cheese into the slightly cooled pasta to distribute it evenly. Spread the pasta in a well-greased 3-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved cup of cheese over the top, spreading out evenly. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cheese, spreading to make and even layer and lightly pressing it into the top of the dish.
  6. At this point, the casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to a day. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until hot through, bubbly around the edges and golden brown, about 30 minutes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Balsamic Beef Stew with Pearl Onions

Balsamic Beef Stew with Pearl OnionsGood beef stew can be one of the most homey and comforting dishes to enjoy on a chilly winter night. But making good beef stew can be a challenge. Somehow, it seems no matter what you do, the stew tastes pretty much the same. Like beef, carrots and brown gravy. This recipe solves that issue. A bottle of inexpensive rich, tangy balsamic vinegar adds such snap to the finished product that it seems like a very complicated, many-ingredient dish with lengthy preparation and complicated technique. The end result is hearty, sweet and flavorful – the perfect beef stew with a little twist.

Don’t worry about the balsamic – this calls for the supermarket salad dressing aisle inexpensive variety, not the gourmet shop aged expensive stuff. I use pre-cut beef labeled “trim cut”, but you can trim your own, which can be more cost effective. Frozen pearl onions make this stew extra easy, but feel free to peel fresh ones. You could also use peeled shallots or cipolline onions if you find them. There is the added bonus that this stew makes the house smell fantastic while cooking.

Balsamic Beef Stew with Pearl Onions
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 pounds beef stew meat chunks, or 4 pounds beef chuck cut into pieces
  2. 1 (8 ounce) bottle balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 cup beef broth
  4. 3 garlic cloves
  5. 3 carrots, peeled
  6. 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen pearl onions
  7. 5 thyme sprigs
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  10. 1 Tablespoon water
Instructions
  1. Place the beef in a large ziptop bag. Pour in the vinegar and seal. Squish the bag around to coat the meat, then put in the fridge to marinate for one to two hours. If you think of it, turn the bag over once during this time. Meanwhile, chop the peeled carrots into big-bite sized chunks and let the onions thaw a little.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325°. Pour the beef and vinegar into a large (5 quart) oven-safe casserole or Dutch oven with a lid. Pour over the beef broth, drop in the carrots, garlic, onions, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to mix, cover, then place in the oven. Cook for 2 ½ hours.
  3. Remove from the oven and strain the stew in a colander set over a bowl. Remove the thyme stalks and the bay leaves from the meat. Carefully wipe out the pot with damp paper towels. Pour the juices from the stew into the pot and cook on the stovetop over medium high heat. Reduce the juices by about 1/3, letting them become slightly syrupy, stirring well. While the sauce is cooking, mix the cornstarch and water until a smooth paste forms. When the juices are reduced, add the cornstarch paste, stirring until thick and smooth. Toss the beef and veg back in the pot and stir to coat.
  4. Leave the stew to cool completely. Spoon the stew into a ziptop bag or disposable plastic containers and seal tightly. The stew will keep in the fridge up to two days or can be frozen for up to a month.
  5. When ready to serve, pour the soup into a pot, stir in ½ cup water and heat over medium high heat, stirring, until heated through.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Cheeseburger Quiche

Cheeseburger Quiche

My family ate together almost every night when I was growing up. We sat at a little table for four in the den; the table came from a restaurant that was once on the property when my grandparents bought their farm lock, stock and barrel. My mom cooked mostly, sometimes my dad, sometimes me as I got older. Never my brother as I remember, though he is a good cook now. The meals were not always complicated, though my mom did tend to go through exotic vegetable phases and my father periods of interest in Chinese cuisine or James Beard books. But sitting at that table as a family was probably the most formative experience of my youth.

This is not, however, a dish from my childhood. But it is the perfect family dinner. It is easy to make and has a whimsical appeal that all ages can love. I take no issue with using purchased, roll-out pie crust, and you can easily brown the beef, onions and garlic early and assemble the quiche right before baking. The shredded lettuce and tomato topper is fun, and you can make up a side salad with any extra lettuce. As I have made pretty clear, I am not a fan of pickle relish, but if your family is, stir a little into the filling or serve a dollop on top.

I asked my family if I should call this quiche or pie, and they suggested Quicheburger Pie. For clarity’s sake I stick with the original, but I will always think of it as Quicheburger now!

Cheeseburger Quiche
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for one 9-inch tart pan (store bought, ready roll is fine)
  2. 1 pound ground beef
  3. 1 cup finely chopped onion
  4. 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  7. 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  8. 4 eggs
  9. 1 cup milk
  10. 1 cup mayonnaise
  11. 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  12. 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  13. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  14. shredded lettuce
  15. diced tomato
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Fit the pastry into a 9 – inch removable bottom tart pan. Line the pastry with parchment and fill with pastry weights (or dried beans or rice) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and leave the crust to cool.
  2. Break up the meat into a large skillet and cook until it begins to brown, breaking it up into small pieces as you cook. Add the onion and cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Set aside to cool. Spread the meat over the crust, then sprinkle over the grated cheese in an even layer.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire together in a bowl until combined and as smooth as possible (there may be some small lumps). Pour the filling over the meat and cheese in the crust. Use a fork to help some of the custard seep through the filling.
  4. Bake the quiche for 25 – 30 minutes until the center is puffed up and firm. Let the quiche cool for a few minutes, then carefully remove the ring around the tart pan. Serve the quiche warm with the shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes on top.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

When I was a teenager, I loved to entertain (I still do). I thought I was a real gourmet, because I knew how to cook – no help from my mom. We used to have other families for dinner, and sometimes I’d have dinner parties for friends. My favorite meal was flank steak in teriyaki marinade. I probably served it 100 times, never thinking that the guests might get tired of it. The recipe came from a cookbook called A Man’s Taste published by the Junior League of Memphis. My dad and a friend of his spearheaded this project in an effort to show those Junior League ladies that men could cook too. And the book was a success. The recipe below is a version of that original, with the grown-up addition of bourbon. I think flat-iron is a lovely cut to grill, but you could use flank steak if you prefer.

I never bothered with any embellishments to my teenage steak dinners – I thought an actual recipe from an actual cookbook could not be fiddled with or changed, silly me. Now, however, I love to add a slice or two of compound butter to any grilled steak. It takes a pretty simple preparation and makes it elegant and full of flavor. And I have to say, this Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter may be my best version yet. Sweet and tangy with smoke from the bacon and the grill, it melts lusciously over the meat, leaving just a hint of crispy bacon and green onion behind.

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
  2. 1 slice of bacon, cooked until crisp
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  4. 1 Tablespoon bourbon
  5. 1 Tablespoon sorghum
  6. 1 green onion, white part only, finely chopped
  7. generous grinds of black pepper
  8. pinch of salt
  9. Bourbon Steak
  10. ¼ cup soy sauce
  11. ¼ cup cider vinegar
  12. ¼ cup bourbon
  13. 3 Tablespoons honey
  14. 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  15. 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  16. 2 minced garlic cloves
  17. 2 finely chopped green onions
  18. 1 pound flat iron steak
For the Butter
  1. Finely chop the cooked bacon, and place it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Use a fork to thoroughly mash and whip the butter until well combined. Scoop the butter onto the short end of a piece of waved paper and use the paper to roll the butter into a tight log, twisting the ends like a candy. Refrigerate for several hours until firm. The butter will keep for a week in the fridge or can be frozen for a few months.
For the Steak
  1. Combine the soy sauce, bourbon, vinegar, honey and oil together in a bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the ginger, garlic and green onions. Place the steak in a large ziptop bag and pour over the marinade. Seal the bag and squish it around to cover the steak. Place the bag on a plate and put it in the refrigerator. Marinate for several hours, turning the bag over occasionally.
  2. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to grill it. Preheat a grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and wipe any excess off with a paper towel. Place the steak on the grill and cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook until medium rare, about 150°, 5 minutes more. Remove from the grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice in thin strips across the grain of the meat. Serve with thin slices of the Southern Bourbon Bacon Butter melting over the top.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole

I love a good honey-glazed, spiral sliced ham, but I rarely get to enjoy one, because they are just so darn big. But my parents received a whole ham as a gift, and as my mother defines eternity as two people and a ham, we served it for Thanksgiving. I managed to get away with most of the still-copious leftovers and went to work on recipe ideas (and enjoyed a number of ham-sandwich combinations). I enjoyed the leftovers so much, I ordered a ham for Easter.

I took the idea of a simple noodle casserole up a notch with a mustardy sauce and the depth of smoked cheddar cheese (or can use plain if you prefer). A little crunchy bite of pecan adds and extra dimension as well. This casserole is a great way to use leftovers from a holiday ham, but also makes an easy week night meal if you use cooked ham from the deli counter, sliced thick then diced. Serve this as a whole meal with a salad or as a side dish.

Mustardy Ham and Noodle Casserole
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups uncooked pasta, such as shells or elbows
  2. 3 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 small white onion, chopped
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 2 ½ cups milk
  7. 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
  12. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  13. 8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese (unsmoked if you prefer)
  14. 6 ounces cooked ham, finely diced
  15. ½ cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but subtracting one minute from the recommended time. Drain and rinse well.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent and just beginning to brown, about 10 – 12 minutes. Pour in ½ cup of water and cook until the water is evaporated and the onions are a nice light bourbon color. Stir in the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes until the flour has disappeared into the onions and butter. Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly, and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Set aside 1 cup of the grated cheese, then stir the rest in a handful at a time, making sure each addition is melted before adding the next. Stir in the yellow mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, ground mustard and nutmeg and stir until the everything is well combined.
  3. Add the diced ham and pecans and stir to coat in the sauce. Add the pasta and stir gently to coat each noodle in sauce. Season with more salt if needed. Scrape the pasta into a 3-quart casserole and smooth the top. Spread the remaining cheese over the top of the casserole.
  4. At this point, you can cool and cover the casserole and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, or bake it right away.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.
  6. Serve warm.
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Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon

It’s hard not to start cooking with Guinness around St. Patrick’s Day.  It is a very versatile brew, lending itself to sweet and savory recipes. And as the old ads say, it makes you stronger!  I love this simple glaze and think thick slices of Irish bacon are the perfect vehicle for it.  Irish bacon is similar to Canadian bacon and more like ham than our “streaky” bacon, so a couple of slices makes for a nice change at dinner, or breakfast. I find it at natural food and upscale markets, but sliced Canadian bacon or thickly sliced ham will work as well.

Serve this sticky bacon with a large portion of Colcannon, which is traditionally served with a large pat of butter, but a drizzle of this glaze over the top is pretty good too.  Or pair it with Champ, if cabbage is not your thing.

This recipe makes more glaze than you will need, but it will keep, cooled in an airtight jar, for a week or so and can be used to glaze grilled chicken, burgers or a meatloaf, so it’s nice to have around to extend the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon

1 (12-ounce) bottle Guinness stout

1 ¼   up light brown sugar

¼ cup honey

½ teaspoon English mustard powder

8 ounces sliced Irish bacon or Canadian bacon (about 8 slices)

Pour the Guinness into a high-sided saucepan and leave until the foam settles.  Stir in the brown sugar, honey and mustard powder and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Watch carefully and stir frequently as this can easily boil over.  Just when it hits the boil, reduce the heat to medium -low and cook, stirring often, until the glaze is reduced by half., about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove from the heat. It will thicken a little as it cools.

Cook the bacon slices in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until just beginning to brown, flip and brown the opposite side.  Spoon about 1 Tablespoon of glaze over each slice and cook a few more minutes until the bacon is nicely glazed and syrupy.  Serve immediately, with a little extra glaze spooned over if you like.

Serves 4

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon and Colcannon

Guinness Glazed Irish Bacon and Colcannon

 

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Grillades and Grits

Grillades and Grits

I first remember having grillades and grits at brunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.  It was family trip, maybe an early vacation or taking my brother to look at college.  My parents made us dress up – would have checked to see that we packed something appropriate, and it would have been our fancy meal of the trip.  And Commander’s was fancy, particularly to a young teen with little experience.  There were white-coated waiters with trolleys doing all sorts of amazing things like flaming bananas foster and café brulot.  What made me order something with the unfamiliar name grillades, I can’t imagine, but I do love veal and those grillades were made with veal.

In truth, grillades and grits are a rustic dish.  Slow simmered meat and vegetables served over simple grits, so it seems funny that they pair with one of my earliest fancy meal memories.  And the Commander’s Palace I see in my minds eye is nothing like the Commander’s of reality that I know to day.  Like how everything at your high school seems smaller and less significant when you return as an alumnae.  So grillades and grits sat in my mind as a vaunted, scared New Orleans restaurant dish (I had it a various places over the years), something only served by waiters.  But I finally decided to see if it was something I could conquer, and lo and behold, it is a pretty simple dish to prepare.  And when you do it yourself, you end up with the dish that evokes the perfect memories and flavors.  Tender veal, the trinity of creole vegetables, piquant sauce and creamy grits.  Now I want to celebrate my early experiences in New Orleans with this dish of memories any time.  Particularly during Mardi Gras season.

Grillades and Grits

1 ½ pounds veal scallopine (about 6 cutlets)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

¼ cup bacon grease (plus more if needed)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

For the Grits:

6 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 ½ cups stone-ground grits

6 ounces cream cheese, cubed

6 Tablespoons butter

For the Grillades:

Cut the veal pieces in half or thirds, to yield 4-inch squares.  Place the flour and creole seasoning in a large ziptop bag.  Add the veal pieces and shake well to coat.

Heat the bacon grease in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Shake any excess flour off the veal pieces and add to the pan.  Brown lightly, just a few minutes on each side, then remove to a plate.  Do not crowd the pans, do this in batches.  Add the chopped onion to the hot grease and cook until golden brown, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as you go.  Add a touch more bacon grease if the pan starts to dry out.  When the onions are soft and brown. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft.  Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the seasoned flour from coating the veal over the vegetables and stir until no flour is visible.  Add the tomatoes and their juice and the beef broth.  Stir, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Nestle the veal pieces into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. If you would like a slightly thicker sauce, uncover the pan, raise the heat and bubble for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.

For the Grits:

Season the chicken stock with salt and pepper and bring to a boil in a deep pan with high sides.  Pour the grits into the water and stir thoroughly.  Cook, stirring frequently to keep the grits from sticking, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, but with a little bite.  Be careful while you are stirring, grits spit, so stand back aways.  Stir in the cubes of cream cheese until smooth and melted.  Stir in the butter until melted.

The grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth if needed.

Serve the grillades spooned over a mound of grits.

Serves 4

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Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

An easy weeknight treat is a great recipe to have on hand. I love this version of a a classic pizza casserole, updated my way with no jarred sauces or chemical laden boxed mixes.  This is a real family pleaser, better than greasy delivery and easier than making or rolling out dough.  A mix of beef and Italian sausage with fun bites of pepperoni up the pizza factor.

If your dinners will stand it, you can sauté some shredded carrots, bell peppers and onion with the meat to add a little touch of vegetables.  Or sprinkle a little red pepper in with the filling if you like spice.  You could even use ground turkey and turkey or chicken Italian sausage.

Upside Down Pizza Pie Bake

½ pound ground beef

½ pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with casing removed)

2 cloves minced garlic

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce

½ cup diced pepperoni*

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 Tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Break the beef and sausage into a large skillet and cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces as you go.   When the meat is cooked, stir in the garlic and the oregano and stir to combine. Stir in the pepperoni.  Add the tomato sauce and 2 Tablespoons flour and stir until thoroughly combined and thick.

Spread the meat mixture a well-greased 8-inch square baking dish.  Leave to cool slightly, then spread the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top.

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Beat the eggs, milk and olive oil together in a small bowl, then add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the batter over the top of the meat and cheese and spread to cover the top completely.  Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.

Bake the pizza for 35 – 40 minutes until puffy, golden and the cheese has melted. Let the dish sit for 5 minutes. Loosen the sides of the pizza with a thin knife, then invert it onto a platter.  Cut into squares and serve immediately.

Serves 4

* The last time I made this, I found some “mini” pepperoni rounds at the grocery.  They are perfect for this recipe, and cute to boot!

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