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.

Country Captain with Coconut Rice

Country Captain is an old Low Country dish that dates from the days when Charleston and Savannah were important stops on the spice route, and the British influence on trade with India held sway. Early dishes from the Southern repertoire include lots of interesting spices, and the older the recipe, the more exotic it may seem. Recipes for Country Captain appear in all sorts of Southern community cook books, the same concept with slight variations from cook to cook. It is served at fine restaurants and fine homes, was a favorite of FDR and General Patton and because of that, made its way into the Army’s meals-ready-to-eat program. It has the best qualities of a Southern recipe: ancient tradition, a storied history, the special touches of generations of cooks – all with a contemporary feel in any decade.

Almost every recipe for Country Captain I have read or eaten uses bone-in, skin on chicken pieces, or just a quartered chicken. But I find that awkward to eat, and you really don’t get enough of the deep, spiced sauce for my liking. So I altered my recipe to be more like a chicken stew, with hearty chunks of boneless thighs and breast. I’ve upped the spice factor too and added a little sweet sophistication with a dash of Madeira (a very popular tipple at the time this dish was born). Country Captain is generally served with rice, once a staple grown in the Low Country, but I say why go plain when you can boost the flavor with some coconut.

Repost from 2013

Country Captain with Coconut Rice
Serves 4
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For the Country Captain
  1. 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  2. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  3. ½ Tablespoon garam masala
  4. ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  5. ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  6. 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  7. 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  8. 6 strips of bacon
  9. 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  10. 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  11. 1 green bell pepper finely diced
  12. 2 galric cloves, minced
  13. ¼ cup Madeira
  14. 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  15. 1 cup chicken broth
  16. ½ cup golden raisins
  17. 3 stalks thyme
  18. ½ cup slivered almonds
For the Coconut Rice
  1. 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
  2. 1 (13 – 14- ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
  3. 2 cups water
  4. 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Mix the curry powder, salt, garam masala, ginger and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Trim the chicken of extra fat and cut into chunks, about 2 inches. Place the chicken on a plate and sprinkle ½ the spice mixture over the top. Leave to sit for about 15 – 30 minutes, while you get on chopping the other ingredients.
  2. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until just crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain using a slotted spoon. Carefully pour the bacon grease into a heat proof bowl of measuring jug. Return 2 Tablespoons of fat to the pan, then add the chicken pieces in one layer. You’ll need to do this in batches, don’t crowd the pot. Cook the chicken pieces until lightly brown and sealed, flip over and do the same to the other side. Remove to a plate and finish all the chicken. If you need to, add a bit more bacon grease as you go. When all the chicken is seared, add 2 more Tablespoons grease to the pot. If you run out of grease, use vegetable oil. Stir in the onion, celery and green pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook a further minute, then sprinkle over the remaining spice blend, stir and cook until you get a beautiful waft of fragrance from the pot. Pour in the Madeira and stir, scraping up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the liquid is evaporated.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a nice bubble. Add the raisins, half of the cook bacon and the thyme stalks. Return the chicken to the sauce, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, until the chicken is cooked through. Give it a stir occasionally to make sure nothing on the bottom burns. Remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes until the sauce thickens a little, stirring frequently.
  4. The Country Captain can be made up to a day ahead at this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently, adding a bit more chicken broth if needed.
  5. Remove the thyme stems from the stew and serve in a big bowl over coconut rice. Sprinkle with the remaining bacon pieces and the slivered almonds.
For the Rice
  1. Stir the rice, coconut milk, water sugar and salt together in a medium saucepan with a tightfitting lid. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost evaporated and little steam vents form on the surface of the rice. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it with a tea towel then the pot lid. Leave for about 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.
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Cranberry Turkey Casserole

Cranberry Turkey CasseroleLeftovers, leftovers, leftovers. One of the most important Thanksgiving traditions. And I love them. I purposely make a bigger turkey than we will ever eat so I have lots of extra for sandwiches and soups and all manner of things. Truthfully, I make extra everything, and though I share a great deal of it with family, I always make sure plenty stays in my fridge. I’m not one to venture forth from the house on Thanksgiving weekend – I just like to spend it with a good book, a few movies and lot of leftovers. When you move into the week after the holiday and life has gotten back to normal, it is nice to have a good weeknight casserole that uses up some of that turkey, Or this is a great casserole for a post-feast meal with friends in relatives that stayed the weekend. It’s easy to put together but extends the holiday flavor.

Planning leftovers is part of my pre-Thanksgiving shopping list I love them so much. Grab an extra bag of cranberries and packet of sage with your shopping to make this, and you can make the breadcrumbs from leftover rolls or sandwich bread.

Cranberry Turkey Casserole
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Tablespoons butter
  2. 2 cups fresh cranberries
  3. ½ cup diced onion
  4. 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  5. 2 Tablespoons fresh sage
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 ½ cups milk
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (I prefer Bell’s)
  10. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  11. 2 cups soft breadcrumbs
  12. 3 cups chopped cooked turkey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Place the butter in the bottom of a 3 quart baking dish and put the dish in the oven for a few minutes until the butter melts. Remove the dish from the oven and swirl to cover the bottom with butter.
  2. Spread the cranberries and diced onion over the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle over the sugar and the chopped sage.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. Stir in the salt, poultry seasoning and pepper, then fold in the bread crumbs and the chopped turkey. Spread this over the cranberries in the dish.
  4. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes
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Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean Chili with Cranberry Relish

Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean ChiliOne of my stand-by kitchen recipes, one I make for friends, family and just for myself on a regular basis is my Tuxedo Chili, made with chicken, black and white beans and warming spices. It even won a recipe contest! It’s a perfect one bowl meal, filling and comforting and perfect for the first chilly nights. With Halloween and Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to give my standard a little seasonal twist. So I’ve combined all the comforting flavors of fall into a delicious, hearty treat.

I swapped out chicken in the recipe for the more seasonally-loved turkey, and added rich pumpkin for depth of flavor and a nice, creamy dose of white beans. Once I had the chili sorted, I couldn’t resist a sweet and tangy cranberry and cilantro relish to top it off, adding another layer of autumn. All in all, this makes for the kind of meal I love to serve family and friends. Make a big pot of chili, put out the various toppings and some good bread and let everyone build their own bowl. For an even more thematic meal, make a batch of Pumpkin Cornbread to serve alongside. I think this is the perfect meal to warm up post trick-or-treating or a trip to the corn maze!

Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean Chili with Cranberry Relish
Serves 4
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For the Chili
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 pound ground turkey
  5. 2 teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  11. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  12. 2 cups (16-ounce cans) pumpkin puree
  13. 1 (15.5 ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained
  14. 1 ½ cups chicken broth
For the Relish
  1. ½ cup dried cranberries
  2. 4 green onions, white and some green parts
  3. ¼ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
  4. juice of ½ a small lime
To serve
  1. Sour cream
  2. Lime wedges
For the Chili
  1. Pour the oil into a large pot, add the onions and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft and wilted. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon or spatula, until it begins to brown.
  2. Mix the oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cinnamon and paprika together in a small bowl and sprinkle over the meat in the pot and stir to distribute the spices evenly. Scrape in the pumpkin puree and stir well, then pour in the chicken broth and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the drained beans. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and cook until the chili is thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. The chili can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to two days and freezes beautifully. Add a little broth when reheating if needed.
For the Relish
  1. Place the cranberries in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to break them up. Cut the green onion into pieces and add to the bowl with the cilantro. Pulse until you have a loose relish. Stir in the lime juice.
  2. Serve the chili with a spoonful of the relish and a dollop of sour cream, with some lime wedges to squeeze over.
Notes
  1. Easily doubled!
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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.
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Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion Gravy

Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion GravyCountry ham is an important family memory for me. It was always part of any celebration at my grandparents’ home in middle Tennessee and the leftovers of a big ham were an ongoing treat. Mostly though, we enjoyed it just as slices off the whole ham, sometimes tucked into beaten biscuits or as leftovers on simple sandwiches or mixed with sweet butter to spread on crackers. The resurging interest in Southern ingredients and cooking over the last decade has brought about a real revival of country ham as a creative ingredient, used in all kinds of interesting ways. And its popularity has made it more available – you no longer have to drive out to a smokehouse in the country or find a little country market. You can even order some of the best there is online. So I’ve taken to expanding my own country ham repertoire, finding creative ways to include it in all sorts of dishes. This chicken dish is simple to prepare, but has a real touch of elegance. It seems more complicated on the plate than it is to actually make. I give it a Southern twist, using thin sliced country ham instead of a more traditional prosciutto to wrap breasts stuffed with more of the salty, porky goodness and some fresh green onions, then draped it in a creamy, tangy Southern gravy.

My favorite ham for this is the Surryano ham made by Edwards Country Ham in Virginia. Unfortunately, Edwards is recovering from a fire that destroyed their smokehouse, so the thin-sliced high can be a bit hard to come by at the moment. Luckily my local gourmet grocery has country ham at the deli counter that they will slice to order. If you really can’t find country ham, you can use prosciutto, or even thinly sliced bacon.

Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion Gravy
Serves 4
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For the Chicken
  1. 2 green onions, white and light green parts
  2. 4 ounces thin sliced country ham, at least 6 slices (see note)
  3. 1 Tablespoon parsley leaves
  4. 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  5. ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the Gravy
  1. 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  2. 6 green onion, white, light green and some bright green parts
  3. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 ¼ cups chicken stock
  5. ¾ cups heavy cream
  6. salt and pepper to taste
For the Chicken
  1. Chop the green onions into chunks and drop in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse a few times to break up. Add the parsley and pulse a few times. Add 2 slices (about 1 ounce) of the country ham and pulse to chop. Add the cream cheese, hot sauce a pinch of salt and a few generous grinds of pepper and blend until smooth.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place the each chicken breast on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels. Hold the breast down with the palm of your hand and use a sharp knife to cut a slit horizontally into the thick part of the breast, about ¾ of the way through. Open each breast like a book, then divide the cream cheese filling between the breasts, spreading it over the open pocket. Close the top of the chicken breast, making sure you enclose all the filling. Tuck it into the pocket with your fingers if needed. Fold any thin ends on the chicken underneath the breast to ensure even cooking. Wrap each chicken breast in the remaining slices of country ham, covering the whole breast and tucking the ham under the chicken. Transfer the breasts to the prepared pan and bake until cooked through to an internal temperature from 165°, about 20 minutes.
For the Gravy
  1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Finely dice four green onions, and add them to the butter in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until smooth and blended with the butter. Cook until pale colored and smooth, then whisk in the chicken broth. Bring to a bubble, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Finely dice the remaining two green onions, including some darker green parts. Whisk in the cream, the green onions and a generous grinds of black pepper and continue stirring and cooking until thickened to a pourable gravy. Taste and season with salt and more pepper as needed. Be liberal with the black pepper, it adds a lot of depth to the gravy.
  2. When the chicken is cooked through, serve it with the warm gravy.
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Celery Seed Chicken

Celery Seed ChickenI spend the vast majority of my time working out recipes – devising, experimenting, cooking, refining, writing. And I have a lot of failures, or at least misfires. I have as many kitchen disasters as anyone, if fact, probably more because I cook more than many. But every once in awhile, a kitchen hiccup becomes something lovely in it’s own right, and this is one of those recipes.

I roasted a couple of chickens one weekend with a plan in mind, but as is so often the case, the plan fell apart, so I found myself with a lot of leftover chicken meat. I decided to whip up one of my classic leftover chicken dishes – poppy seed chicken – because it is a simple recipe, I usually have all the ingredients on hand and can by now make it with out really thinking too much. I chopped the leftover chicken up, put the butter in the skillet to melt, measured out the flour and then poured the milk into the measuring jug. Only I didn’t have enough. I substituted some of the required amount with buttermilk. The sauce curdled ever so slightly, but smoothed out and thickened as required. That hurdle passed, I had everything ready to go with only the poppy seeds left to stir in. Only I didn’t have any poppy seeds. I did, however, have an abundance of celery seed so I decided it was too late to turn back, so in they went. The final result was a delight. I never really got the point of poppy seeds in the chicken anyway, they don’t add much but color to it, but celery seeds have a lovely brisk flavor, and combined with the little hit of buttermilk, this simple casserole become a tangy, creamy treat.

I think of this casserole as a weeknight wonder, because it is so easy to put together. Use any leftover chicken you have, or some pulled from a rotisserie bird. You could add a handful of frozen peas if you like, or some herbs to the sauce, but I like to keep it simple and serve it with a good salad. And of course, if you prefer, you can use poppy seeds instead.

Celery Seed Chicken
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup ( ½ stick) butter
  2. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 ½ cups whole milk
  4. ¾ cup buttermilk
  5. 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  6. ¼ cup sour cream
  7. 1 Tablespoons celery seed
  8. 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  9. salt and balck pepper to taste
  10. 1 cup crushed buttery crackers (I like Ritz)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a deep skillet large enough to hold the chicken. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Add the milk, whisking constantly, then the buttermilk, and bring to a low bubble. Cook, whisking, until thickened. The sauce may appear a little curdled, but that’s just fine. Stir in the chicken, the sour cream and the vinegar until combined, then stir in the celery seeds. Taste asn add salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Scrape the chicken into the prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Spread the cracker crumbs in an even layer over the casserole. At this point, the dish can be cooked covered and refrigerated for up to a day before baking.
  4. Bake the casserole until hot through and bubbling around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Notes
  1. Note: You can cook three chicken breasts to make this casserole. Place them in a baking dish and cover with foil, Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
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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 cups 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.
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Creamy Chicken Tarragon Soup

Creamy Chicken Tarragon SoupPerhaps it is the cold and dreary winters, but the English have a way with soup. Restaurants and cafes serve an impressive roster, I’ve found some wonderful recipes in cookbooks and magazines and the grocery stores are stocked with lots of creative, seasonal soups in chiller cases ready to heat and serve. One such offering I see over and over again at stores and on menus is Chicken Tarragon. I’ve bought it and ordered it and generally found it very appealing. Rich and creamy with this not-to-familiar flavor. The tarragon. I think tarragon is not as popular in the States, maybe we are just not as familiar with it, and our natural palate gravitates towards the more common herbs like rosemary, basil and oregano. I see it mostly in French recipes. It has a lovely, peppery undertone with a warm anise-like flavor. The fragrance is distinct and sharp, with the lightest whiff of licorice and green. I did a little research, and it seems to me that Chicken Tarragon is a pretty standard British soup offering now, with lots of recipes available online and in books, from quick and easy to more intensive. I developed my own version here, really highlighting the evocative tarragon in the stock and the finished bowl.

This soup is somehow homey, but elegant. Equally good in a big bowl with some country bread or served in delicate china. I spend a little time with it, making the tarragon infused stock to add the layers of flavor that set this apart from a typical creamy chicken soup. It can be done over a couple of days, and is largely hands off, so it may seem like some work, but its really just patience. I like to use whole white meat breasts; the bones and skin add flavor and the tender meat adds to the creamy elegance of the finished product. This is definitely a new favorite comfort food for me.

Creamy Chicken Tarragon Soup
Serves 6
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For the Stock
  1. 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  2. 2 leeks, white and light green parts
  3. 2 carrots
  4. 2 celery stalks
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1 bunch of tarragon (I use a whole clamshell package)
  7. 1 Tablespoon salt
  8. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  10. 12 cups water
For the soup
  1. 1 leek, white and light green part, finely diced
  2. ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
  3. 1 cup white wine
  4. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  5. 8 cups stock
  6. 1 cup heavy cream
  7. 1 ½ Tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  8. 2 cups reserved cooked, chopped chicken
For the stock
  1. Place everything in a large Dutch oven and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 2 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken to a plate. Place a colander over a large bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard the vegetables. Rinse out the pot, making sure there is nothing stuck to the bottom or sides. Rinse out the colander, then line it with a piece of damp cheesecloth or a damp cotton tea towel. Place it over the pot and pour the stock through it again.
  3. Return the pot to the stove over medium-high heat and bring the stock to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes, until the stock is reduced by about one-quarter. Skim off any fat that rises to the surface. At this point, you can cool, cover and refrigerate the stock for up to two days.
  4. Remove the skin from the chicken and pull the meat from the bones. Discard any fat or questionable bits. Place the meat on a chopping board and finely chop. The small shreds and pieces of chicken in the soup add to its elegance. You can transfer the chicken pieces to a ziptop bag and refrigerate until ready to finish the soup.
For the Soup
  1. Rinse the finely diced leeks in a colander and shake well to remove most of the water. Melt the butter in the clean Dutch oven over medium high heat, then add the leeks and stir. Sauté for a few minutes until the leeks begin to wilt, then pour in the wine and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is evaporated and the soft leeks are coated in a slick of wine-y butter. Sprinkle over the flour and stir, then add about 1 cup of the stock and stir until smooth. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring constantly, then when all the stock is added, bring the soup to a low simmer. Stir in the heavy cream and 1 Tablespoon of chopped tarragon. Bring back to a low bubble and cook for 10 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in the chicken, lower the heat and cook until warmed through. Right before serving, stir in the remaining ½ Tablespoon tarragon.
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Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder

Leftovers are as much a part of Thanksgiving as the feast itself. I have been known to make extra of some favorite dishes (I’m looking at you dressing) and stash them away just to be sure I have some for the weekend. But I know that after cooking the big meal, getting back in the kitchen to cook again is not always an appealing thought. That’s why soup is such a great way to use the leftovers – it’s pretty easy to throw things in the pot and still end up with a delicious, warming meal to share.

Make sure you buy an extra sweet potato and set aside. The same goes for the other ingredients – it’s a shame to be craving some leftover soup and not have what you need. That being said, I take no issue with using bought, pre-diced onions or bell pepper. You could also whip up some dressing croutons to go with this soup. And a little cranberry sauce dollop on top is a festive touch.

Turkey, Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 strips of bacon
  2. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and finely diced
  4. 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage, divided
  7. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
  8. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  9. 6 cups turkey broth or chicken broth
  10. 1 cup water
  11. 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  12. 3 cups diced cooked turkey
  13. 1 ½ cups milk
Instructions
  1. Chop the bacon into small pieces and place in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook until the bacon pieces are crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Carefully drain off the drippings and let cool for a few minutes. Return 3 Tablespoons of drippings back to the pot, then add the onions and cook for a few minutes until they are beginning to soften. Add the diced sweet potatoes, the bell pepper, 1 Tablespoon of the sage and the marjoram and stir to coat in the grease. Cook until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Pour in the turkey stock and the water, raise the heat and bring to the boil. Add the corn and the turkey, reduce the heat to a medium low, cover and simmer for ten minutes.
  2. Stir in the milk, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sage and about ¾ of the bacon (reserving some to top the bowls of chowder. Cook until warmed through.
  3. The soup will keep covered in the fridge for 2 days. Reheat gently before serving.
Notes
  1. I like to dice the sweet potato into pretty small cubes so it is easy to eat with a spoon.
  2. Seek out a light colored turkey or chicken broth. Dark stacks give the soup a muddy hue.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Nancie’s Asian Chicken Salad

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad

Years ago, when I first thought about becoming a full-time food writer, I attended the wonderful and much missed Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier Hotel. It was amazing and inspiring and really made me understand that food writing is real and vibrant field, and it set me on the path to doing something I truly love. One of the first people I met was the astounding Nancie McDermott. Nancie is a food writer from North Carolina who has written amazing books about Chinese and Thai cooking that make those cuisines possible for American home cooks. She is also the author of two books that should absolutely be in every Southern cooks library, Southern Cakes and Southern Pies. But more than her prolific talents in the kitchen, Nancie is a kind and generous person who has been a friend and mentor to me. Just when I start to hit some sort of wall, I always seem to get a surprise email from Nancie just asking how I’m doing, and that always pushes me past the block.

A few years ago I was waiting in a doctor’s office, flipping through one of the magazines they offered (I can’t remember which one) and I came across this recipe for Asian Chicken Salad. It looked so delicious, that I asked the receptionist if she would make a copy for me. She seemed a little surprised someone had asked and told me to just rip it out of the magazine, so I took the whole page home with me. After I had made the delicious salad a few times, I flipped the page over to see the other recipes. Then I noticed the article was written by none other than Nancie McDermott. It didn’t surprise me at all that a recipe I found so appealing was written by such an amazing friend.

Nancie’s most recent book is Simply Vegetarian Thai, and it reminded me of this favorite Nancie recipe, and I knew I needed to share it. This salad is spectacularly fresh and light. The herbs really make it sing. I love to keep a bowl of this in the fridge to snack on or make a quick meal. It is great eaten on its own, but I have also scooped it up with rice crackers or served it in a lettuce cup. I have even used it to fill a rice paper roll served with one of Nancie’s delicious dipping sauces. Make a bowl of this refreshing salad, and I’m sure you’ll love Nancie too. And I can’t wait for her next book, Southern Soups and Stews!

Nancie's Asian Chicken Salad
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For the dressing
  1. 3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  2. 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
  4. 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon sugar
  6. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Salad
  1. ½ cup very thinly sliced red onion
  2. 3/4 cup purchased julienned carrots
  3. 3 cups cooked shredded chicken (from 2 boneless, skinless breast halves)
  4. 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
  5. 3/4 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed fresh mint
  6. 1/3 cup coarsely chopped loosely packed cilantro
  7. 1/4 cup coarsely chopped salted roasted peanuts
For the Dressing
  1. Place all the ingredients in a jar, screw on the lid and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved.
For the Salad
  1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with water. Leave for 30 minutes. This takes some of the sting and burn from raw onion. Drain completely.
  2. Toss carrots, chicken, cabbage and onion in a large bowl using your good clean hands. Add mint, cilantro and peanuts and toss to combine. Give the dressing a good shake to combine, then pour over and toss to coat every strand. I like to use clean hands again, but you can use a fork if you prefer. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
Adapted from Nancie McDermott
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/