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.

Squash Blossom Pasta Butter

I adore squash blossoms. A few local farmers market vendors sell them here, and I always buy as many as they have for sale. I make pesto, risotto, quesadillas, soup, and sometimes just lightly batter and fry them. I admit I have a little problem. I cannot resist buying them, and buying them in bulk. At the height of summer, I am in full canning mode, so I tend to bring home huge amounts of produce to put up. I often find that my love for summer finds outstrips reality. That is to say, I buy more than I have the time or energy to deal with. On one of those occasions when I found myself a little worn out after canning the bounty, but I still had a quantity of freshly picked squash blossoms. I knew I needed to use them, but felt a little overwhelmed by the idea of one more project. Inspiration struck suddenly for a way to make the most of the fresh flowers, but also save them for later use, a simple composed butter. That sparked my memory of one of my favorite summer simple tricks – pasta butter balls.

The end result of this buttery pasta dish reminds me of another favorite – cacio e pepe, simple linguine is tossed with butter, pecorino cheese, salt and lots of pepper. But this version has a special touch added by the squash blossoms, which also lends a lovely orangey-yellow color. And of course, you can use this butter any way you want – melted over a grilled chicken breast, tossed with vegetables (squash is an obvious choice) or spread on toasted bread.

Squash Blossom Pasta Butter
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cloves garlic
  2. 12 squash blossoms
  3. 2 Tablespoons Italian parsley leaves
  4. ½ cup grated Parmegiano-Regianno cheese
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  6. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Drop the garlic cloves into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to finely chop. Pull the yellow petals off the squash blossoms and tear them into pieces and drop in the bowl. Discard any green leaves and the stamens. Add the parsley, then pulse a few times to finely chop. Add the cheese and pulse to combine, then add the butter, cut into pieces. Pulse until the butter is well combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Add salt and grinds of black pepper to taste. Be generous with the pepper.
  2. Scoop the butter into a bowl, or roll it up in logs in waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use. The butter logs can also be frozen for several months.
  3. To use the butter, cook your favorite pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve about a cup of the cooking water than drain the pasta. Melt some of the butter in a large skillet and whisk in enough of the pasta cooking water to coat the pasta. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy, then toss in the cooked pasta.
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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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Creamy Gorgonzola One Pot Pasta

The one pot pasta trend has been all over the internet for a while now. The idea is appealing – just one pot to clean with a complex pasta result. I’ve had some hits and misses, but landed on this as a delicious, creamy treat packed with tangy flavor. These recipes are often touted as quick, hands off meal. I don’t find that to be particularly true. You need to stir the pasta frequently, or it sticks into a gummy mush on the bottom of the pot. It’s still remarkably easy, but it does need some attention.

The combination of cheeses in my version creates the perfect balance of tangy, creamy and salty. And I think sage is the perfect foil for blue cheese of any kind. I find all the cheeses at the counter of a large grocery store, and ask the folks at the counter to cut pieces to size. Any little extra bits can be added to the top of the pasta or served as a snack beforehand. I have also made this recipe using bits of cheese leftover from a party cheese board, which makes a great post party meal.

Creamy Gorgonzola One Pot Pasta
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 9 ounces short pasta, like cavatappi
  2. 3 ½ ounces gorgonzola cheese, plus some extra for topping
  3. 2 ounces creamy goat cheese
  4. 3 ½ ounce emmental cheese, grated (or Jarlsberg)
  5. 5 ¼ ounces mascarpone
  6. 1 large clove garlic, minced
  7. 1 sprig fresh sage leaves
  8. 1 Tablespoon snipped fresh chives
  9. 2 teaspoons salt
  10. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  11. 1 cup white wine
  12. 2 ¼ cups water
  13. chopped fresh sage for topping
Instructions
  1. Place pasta, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper in a large saucepan in the order listed, then pour over the wine and water. Bring to a bubble over medium heat, stirring frequently, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is al dente and coated with a creamy sauce. Stir a lot at first to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the sage sprig and leaves. Season to taste with extra salt and pepper. Serve immediately topped with crumbled gorgonzola and chopped fresh sage.
  2. Serve 4 as a side, 2 as a main
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Fennel and Italian Sausage Pappardelle

Fennel and Italian Sausage Pappardelle

I love recipes like this. Quick and simple, but full of flavor. There’s a little twist here – the ingredients are few and straightforward, but a little out of the ordinary. Pork and fennel are a classic combination, frequently in slow-cooked roasts and braises, and fennel seed is a key ingredient in Italian sausage, so using the fresh fennel just amps up the flavor. But this recipe weeknight cooking at its best. Fennel is such a bright flavor that shines next to the rich pork sausage. This takes no more time to make than a basic meat sauce (a little less in fact) but is a makes for an interesting change-up in the pasta dinner rotation. That being said, it is perfectly suitable for company, and can be doubled or tripled as needed.

I like to use a good, fresh Italian sausage from a local producer, but any version made with fennel seed works. Pappardelle noodles are wide and hearty and really stand up to the sauce. I find it pretty regularly at the grocery, but if you can’t, any wide noodle will do, even those curly ones in the bag.

Fennel and Italian Sausage Pappardelle
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium fennel bulbs, the bulbs weighing about 10 ounces, with some fronds reserved
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 10 ounces Italian sausage, bulk or links with casings removed
  4. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh fennel fronds
  5. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  6. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  7. ½ teaspoon fennel seed
  8. 1 cup chicken broth
  9. ½ cup whipping cream
  10. 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  11. salt to taste
  12. 8 ounces papardelle pasta
Instructions
  1. Remove the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulbs and set aside. Cut the fennel bulbs in half and cut out the tough center core. Very finely slice the fennel bulb, using a mandolin or a sharp knife.
  2. Coat a sauté pan with the oil, then add the fennel and the sausage meat. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the sausage with a spatula, until the fennel is soft and the sausage is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped fennel fronds, oregano and rosemary and cook a few more minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a bubble, then cover the pan and cook until the fennel is soft and the broth has evaporated, about 6 – 8 minutes, stirring a few times.
  3. While the fennel and sausage is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pappardelle according to the package directions. Right before the pasta is al dente, stir the cream into the sausage mixture and bring to a low bubble, just until heated through. Grate over the lemon zest, taste and add salt as needed. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce, tossing to coat.
  4. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Italian Chicken, Pasta and Tomato Bake

Italian Chicken, Pasta and Tomato Bake

I’m not presenting here a recipe that is going to change lives or set the culinary world on fire. But this is the time of year for basics, as we move from the easy days of summer to the frantic start of a new school year and as the fresh summer produce fades before the autumn bounty begins. It’s a great time to gather around the table for a satisfying meal, but not such a great time to spend hours in the kitchen or doing the dishes. A cutting board, a pot and a baker is all you need to put a meal on the table that anyone can enjoy. Fresh with spinach and herbs, hearty with pasta and chicken, rich with tomatoes and cheesy with mozzarella, this is a great, lighter make-ahead meal.

You could easily substitute Italian sausage for the chicken, or add more herbs or some red pepper flakes for a little kick. Whole wheat pasta works well and frozen chopped onions are a simple way to cut a little work from the recipe. Keep these ingredients handy and your close to a cozy family dinner anytime.

Italian Chicken, Pasta and Tomato Bake
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces cavatappi or fusilli pasta
  2. 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  3. 3 chicken breasts
  4. 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  5. 1 small white onion, diced
  6. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  7. 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  8. 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  9. ¼ cup finely chopped basil
  10. 2 Tablespoons finely chopped oregano
  11. salt and pepper
  12. 1 (about 4 ½ ounce) ball fresh mozzarella
  13. 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted water according to the package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander, then stir through 1 Tablespoon olive oil to keep the past from sticking together.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, cut the chicken into small bite sized pieces. Put the thawed spinach in a clean tea towel and ring out most of the moisture. When the pasta is done, return the pot to medium heat and pour in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, and when it begins to soften and turn glossy, add the chicken and cook, stirring, until it begins to turn opaque. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes, then pour in the tomatoes and add the tomato paste, spinach, basil and oregano. Stir until everything is combined and well distributed (pay particular attention to the spinach – it tends to clump together). Cover the pot and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the drained pasta, about 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and generous grinds of black pepper until the noodles are coated and everything is well distributed. Spread the pasta in a well-greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish and leave to cool slightly.
  3. When the pasta has cooled, tear the mozzarella into small pieces and tuck it down into the pasta evenly throughout the casserole and leave some peeking out of the top. Sprinkle over the grated parmesan. The casserole can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point up to one day.
  4. When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.
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/

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/

Tomato Gorgonzola Butter Pasta Sauce

Tomato Gorgonzola Butter Sauce

I love a recipe that combines weeknight elegance and weeknight easy. And this sauce takes very little time to whip up with results that are unique and packed with flavor. The combination of tomatoes and blue cheese for that tang of cheese and sweet- tart edge of tomato is an absolute winner. Pasta enrobed in this rich sauce makes a great family meal, or an impressive dish to serve to company. You can even make the sauce a little ahead, and toss it all together right before serving.

Blending the cheese with butter adds a silky richness to the sauce that sets it apart, like the finest French sauces finished with butter. Use a pasta with crevices to catch the wonderful sauce. A salad with a light vinaigrette and nice, crusty loaf of bread round out the meal.

Tomato Gorgonzola Butter Pasta Sauce
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  2. 6 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. ½ cup chopped onion
  5. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  6. 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  7. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano
  8. salt and pepper to taste
  9. 16 ounces short pasta like penne or cavatappi
Instructions
  1. Mash the butter and Gorgonzola together in a small bowl using a fork and set aside.
  2. Sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for a further minute, just until fragrant. Pour in the tomatoes, then swish out the can with ¼ cup of water and add it to the sauce. Stir in the chopped marjoram and cook until the sauce is quite thick, about 10 - 12 minutes.
  3. You can prepare the recipe up to this point about an hour ahead.
  4. When ready to serve, cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package instructions. Drain well. While the pasta is cooking, bring the tomato sauce up to a low simmer, then whisk in the gorgonzola butter bit by bit until melted and smooth. Return the pasta to the cooking pot and toss with the sauce until well coated.
  5. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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/

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad is a great summer picnic dish. And it is a classic of the Southern table, from church suppers to days outdoors. I have been served a lot of macaroni salad and read a lot of traditional recipes in Southern community cookbooks that include, like many a southern dish, pickle relish. I am not a fan of pickle relish so I haven’t always been a fan of macaroni salad. So I set out to create a tasty macaroni salad that met my particular tastes, but would appeal to the family and friends I was sure to serve it to. I want tangy and creamy with interesting flavor contrasts and textures, but nothing too out there.

Adding vinegar to the cooking water and tossing it with the cooked pasta helps to season the salad without adding buckets of salt. A touch of bacon grease keeps the pasta from sticking together. I like to keep this pretty simple, with the herby ranch style dressing creamy with buttermilk, tossed with sharp cheese and crispy bacon. This salad will appeal to all ages and leave no picky eaters passing it by because they are concerned about all the bits and pieces in the dish. If you’d like, you can add to it. A little finely chopped celery or bell pepper or onion could add texture and flavor.

Buttermilk Bacon Cheddar Macaroni Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon
  2. 2 cups elbow macaroni
  3. 3 Tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
  4. 4 green onions, white and light green parts only
  5. 3 Tablespoons chopped chives
  6. 3 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  8. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  9. ¾ cup buttermilk
  10. ¾ cup sour cream
  11. 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Instructions
  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until very crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain and reserve 1 Tablespoon of the bacon grease.
  2. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water with 1 Tablespoon vinegar according to the package instructions until cooked through. Drain the pasta and rinse with cool water and drain well again. Return the pasta to the pot and add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar and the tablespoon of bacon grease. Stir to coat the pasta well and leave to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Place 3 of the green onions, the herbs, salt, pepper, buttermilk and sour cream in a food processor or blender (I like the mini-food processor for this) and blend until smooth and combined. Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir gently to coat. Add the grated cheese and bacon and stir to distribute. Finely chop the remaining green onion and add to the salad, stirring to combine. The dressing will absorb and thicken as it chills, so don’t worry if it looks a little loose. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover the salad and refrigerate until chilled. The salad will keep for 3 days covered and refrigerated. You can stir in a little more buttermilk to loosen the salad up before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/