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.

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing

I am a late in life lover of chicken salad. As a child, I had an aversion to this type of mixed up dish coated in dressing – I felt they were primarily tools my mom used to hide things I didn’t want to eat. I was always concerned that chicken salad or casseroles were stealthy ways to get me to eat my vegetables. But I got over that as an adult, in part because I reached a stage in life where you simply couldn’t stomp your feet and refuse to eat something and still be accepted in polite society. And then I realized how very good a well-made chicken salad truly is. So, all those years, my chicken salad – loving mother was right.

Over the years, I have created Lemon Dill Chicken Salad to appeal to my mother and a fall appropriate Maple Mustard version. I have made chicken salads with Moroccan flavors and with an Asian flair. These are dressed primarily with mayonnaise with additions of buttermilk and yogurt. But over the years, as I have perused my ever-growing collection of community cookbooks, I kept running across recipes for “Cooked Dressing for Chicken Salad.” Rarely is there an actual recipe for chicken salad, just the dressing, but after seeing do many recipes, I had to give it a try. And I am glad I did. The dressing is creamy and tangy with a sweet-and-sour edge from the sugar and vinegar. I kept the recipe simple here, with crunchy celery and almonds and a nice herbal note from parsley, but this salad will absolutely work with a variety of additions, so get creative. By the way, my mom loves this version.

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 chicken breasts
  2. 1 cup chicken broth
  3. 1 lemon
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2/3 cup sugar
  8. 2 Tablespoons flour
  9. ½ cup white wine vinegar
  10. ½ cup water
  11. ½ teaspoon salt
  12. 2 Tablespoons butter
  13. ½ cup slivered almonds
  14. 3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan that fits the breasts in one layer and pour over the broth. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot, then drop in the juiced skin. Break up one celery stalk and add it to the pan with the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover the chicken breasts if needed, then place over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (165° internal temperature), about 10 -12 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate to cool.
  2. Make the dressing while the chicken is cooling. Beat the eggs in a medium sized saucepan, then beat in the sugar. Stir the flour into the water to make a paste, then add it to the eggs. Add the vinegar and salt and stir to fully combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the dressing thickens to the consistency of runny pudding. Pull the pot of the heat, and stir in the butter, a small piece at a time, until each piece is melted before adding the next. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Finely chop the remaining two stalks of celery and place in a large bowl. Dice the chicken into small pieces and add the bowl with the almonds and parsley and stir to combine. Spoon in the dressing a bit at a time and stir to coat the chicken until you have a consistency that suits you. You may personally not want to use all the dressing.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and chill until ready to serve. The salad will keep for two days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Chicken, Cheddar and Pecan Pie

Chicken, Cheddar and Pecan PieChicken, Cheddar Pecan Pie

The British have a brilliant tradition of savory pies that hasn’t quite translated to the American menu. Sure, we have chicken pot pie and the occasional quiche, but the traditional British pies of flaky pastry double crusts filled with meat and vegetables and rich sauces aren’t too common here. And it’s a shame. Because a savory pie makes a great meal. Now, I say all of this in praise of the supper pie, not because this is a traditional British style pie. I’ve gone pretty full on Southern here. The crumb crust and topping is reminiscent of our classic cheese straws, while the hearty chicken filling is studded with pecans, green onions and cheese – a few of our favorite things.

I love this pie as a homey dinner served with a lovely salad or a cup of creamy soup, but it also makes a nice brunch dish. The pie is best served warm, but is fine a room temperature for serving on a buffet or making ahead of time.

Chicken, Cheddar and Pecan Pie
Serves 6
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For the Crust
  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  3. ½ cup chopped pecans
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon paprika
  6. 6 Tablespoon vegetable oil
For the Filling
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 cup sour cream
  3. ½ cup chicken broth
  4. ¼ cup mayonnaise
  5. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  8. a dash of hot sauce (or more to taste)
  9. 2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
  10. 2 green onions, finely diced
  11. ¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
  12. ¼ cup chopped pecans
  13. pecan halves for decoration
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a deep 9-inch pie plate or tart pan.
For the Crust
  1. Pulse the flour, cheese, pecans, salt and paprika together in the bowl of a food processor until well combined. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until the mixture is sticky, with the texture of wet sand. Remove ¾ cups of the crumbs and set aside.
  2. Press the remaining crumbs over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan to form a crust. Make sure there are no gaps. Bake the crust for 10 minutes then leave to cool.
For the filling
  1. Beat the eggs in a bowl, then whisk in the sour cream, chicken broth and mayonnaise until smooth. Add the Worcestershire, salt, pepper and hot sauce and whisk until combined. Fold in the chicken, green onions, cheese and pecans until everything is combined and well coated with the creamy mixture. Spoon the filling into the crust, making sure the chicken is distributed evenly. Sprinkle the reserved ¾ cup of crumbs evenly across the top of the filling. If you’d like, decoratively arrange some pecan halves on top of the pie.
  2. Bake the pie for 50 minutes to one hour minute until the filling is set and the top is golden. Let the pie sit for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing and serving warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Greek Lemon and Rice Soup

Greek Lemon Rice Soup

My area is sorely lacking in Greek restaurants, but we do have a wonderful Greek Festival every year, and they have a lovely roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary on the menu that is a once a year treat. But about a year ago, a restaurant opened up (you may have one in your town too) that serves a Greek lemon and rice soup with the same sunny flavors. It is the reason I go there, and the soup I always want when I am feeling puny. But nobody brings me soup when I’m sick, so I decided I better learn to make it myself.

And this is completely from scratch. I start with plump chicken breasts to make a stock flavored with lemon and herbs, then I pull the tender white meat from the bones. The finished soup has a healthy dose of lemon juice for zing and soft, comforting rice. I love this soup and my family does too. I’m not saying I’ll never have it at that café again, but I think I’ve hit the nail on the head – and maybe improved it! I also have it on my list to try this with dill instead of rosemary and oregano; I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Greek Lemon and Rice Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Stock
  2. 2 bone-in, skin-on whole chicken breasts
  3. 4 cloves garlic
  4. 2 celery stalks
  5. 2 carrots
  6. 1 onion
  7. 4 sprigs thyme
  8. 4 sprigs oregano
  9. 4 spirgs rosemary
  10. 1 lemon
For the Soup
  1. 8 cups chicken stock
  2. ¾ cup basmati rice
  3. ¾ cup lemon juice (from 5 – 6 lemons)
  4. 2 cups diced, cooked chicken
  5. 1 carrot
  6. 1 teaspoon chopped oregano
  7. 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  8. salt to taste
For the Stock
  1. Place everything but the lemon is a large stock pot and cover with 12 cups of water. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and reserve for finishing the soup. Drop the juiced lemon skins in the pot and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer for 4 hours. Remove the chicken and set aside.
  2. Strain the stock through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth. Skim any fat from the surface of the stock. The stock can be made up to one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate (if you do this before straining the fat, it will solidify and be easier to remove before proceeding). Pull the chicken meat from the bones, discarding the skin, and refrigerate as well.
For the Soup
  1. Measure out 1½ cups of the chicken stock and pour it into a small pan. Pour the rice into a small fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Add the rice to the stock in the small and bring to a boil. When most of the liquid has cooked away and there are just a few bubbles and air pockets on the rice, remove the pot from the heat, cover with a tea towel and a tight fitting lid. Leave for 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  2. Pour the remaining broth into a large soup pot (there should be between 7 – 8 cups). Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Stir in the lemon juice. Add the diced chicken. Peel the carrot and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. Add it to the soup with the oregano, rosemary and cooked rice. Simmer until everything is heated through, taste and add salt as needed.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken

Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken

I spend most of my time creating and testing recipes. And I get caught in the cycle of always trying to think of something new and different. How can I add a twist to this recipe, or update an old stand-by? And I love every minute of it. But I realize that sometimes this means I discount or overlook wonderful recipes, or maybe just ideas in my head, that are standard, simple dishes. Because I assume there is nothing special or unique about them. I think of them as something I whip up for myself or for family. The things I no longer need to look at a recipe for, or a procedure that is etched in my mind and doesn’t need any thought. At some point though, I realize that the reason I keep returning to these dishes is because they are good. Not fancy, not innovative, just plain good. This is one of those recipes. Simple and quick, no fancy tricks or exotic ingredients. Just good food. I never thought to post this, because it is so simple, but the last time I made it, everyone was just plain happy to have it for dinner. And that’s the kind of recipe I want to share. Food that makes people happy. So here’s to simple and delicious!

Crispy Buttermilk Baked Chicken
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  2. 2 cups buttermilk
  3. 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  4. 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  5. 2 ½ sleeves buttery cracker (such as Ritz), about 75 crackers
  6. salt and black pepper to taste
  7. ¼ cup butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a bowl or a ziptop bag set on a plate. Mix the buttermilk, Worcestershire and hot sauce together and pour over the chicken. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate for several hours or overnight. The longer the better, and it can be up to 24 hours.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Slice 2 Tablespoons the butter in a baking dish that will fit all the chicken pieces and place in the oven to melt.
  3. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in the microwave or a small saucepan. Place the crackers in a ziptop bag and crush finely with a rolling pin. Mix in some salt and black pepper (I like a lot of black pepper). Spread the cracker crumbs out on a plate or baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the fridge. Shake any excess buttermilk off the chicken, then roll each breast in the cracker crumbs, coating well, and set aside. When you’ve coated all the chicken pieces, remove the hot dish from the oven and place the chicken breasts in the melted butter. Drizzle over the melted butter and return the dish to the oven. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour until the chicken is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°. You can turn on the broiler for a few minutes at the end to brown the tops if you would like.
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Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise

I do love a good chicken salad, and I am always working on new and different versions. This Asian inspired iteration relies on the wonderful sesame mayonnaise, a recipe I used for years when I first started entertaining, as a dip for asparagus spears or snap peas. I started making it when Asian ingredients like sesame oil and rice vinegar weren’t as readily available as they are now, so it always struck a note of the exotic. I’ve kept that recipe on one of those personalized recipe cards that used to be such popular hostess gifts. I returned to the mayonnaise recipe recently and realized how incredibly versatile it is. I whipped up a little cold chicken supper with leftovers from the fridge, and it was such a good idea, I had to turn it into a summery chicken salad recipe.

Serve this chicken salad in lettuce cups with lime wedges to squeeze over it. I also like it scooped up with rice crackers.

This will make more mayonnaise than you need. Toss it with cold rice or ramen noodles for a lovely side dish, spread it on a bahn-mi style sandwich. It’s a different twist for a burger or a chicken sandwich. Try it with roasted asparagus or steamed snap peas. I’ve even served this as a dip for grilled shrimp.

Asian Inspired Chicken Salad with Sesame Mayonnaise
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Sesame Mayonnaise
  2. 1 whole egg
  3. 2 egg yolks
  4. 2 ½ Tablespoon soy sauce
  5. 2 ½ Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  6. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  7. ½ teaspoon salt
  8. ¼ cup sesame oil
  9. 1 ¾ cups vegetable oil, like grapeseed or canola
  10. Chicken Salad
  11. 3 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  12. 1 cup shredded carrots
  13. 4 green onions, finely chopped
  14. ½ cup roasted and salted peanuts, chopped
  15. ¼ cup finely chopped mint
  16. ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
For the Mayonnaise
  1. Place the egg, egg yolks, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until the ingredients are combined. With the motor running, drizzle in the sesame and vegetable oils in a slow, steady stream. Process until the mixture is creamy, thick and emulsified. You will actually hear the food processor change sounds from smooth blending to a wet slapping sound.
  2. When the mayonnaise is thick, scrape it into a container, cover it tightly and refrigerate for at least two hours to firm up and allow the flavors to meld.
For the Salad
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly salt the chicken breasts and place on a baking tray. Roast for about 20 – 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (internal temperature of 165°). Let the chicken cool to room temperature, then pull of the skin, pull the meat from the bones and shred into a bowl, either using two forks or your fingers.
  2. Add the carrots, green onions, peanuts, cilantro and mint to the chicken in the bowl and toss to combine. Add 1 cup of the sesame mayonnaise and stir to coat.
  3. The chicken salad will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days. The mayonnaise will keep, covered, for 4 days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

My life sometimes requires comfort cooking.  Not comfort food, but comfort cooking, though the two are not mutually exclusive.  Comfort food for me is old classics that bring back happy memories, sometimes bittersweet, or that make a down day worthwhile.  Often, that means food prepared by someone other than me.

Comfort cooking is me, in the kitchen, alone.  Usually silent but for the gentle whirr of the refrigerator, sometimes music in the background.  My favorite kitchen tools around me.  Absolute surety in what I am doing.  No complicated techniques, no ingredients I am hoping to understand better.  No attempt to deconstruct or decipher a dish created by someone more skilled than me.  No worries about how others will perceive the end result. No concerns that it might not turn out how I’d hoped.  Sometimes it’s a dish I want to share with my nearest and dearest, but I may not, just savor it comfortably, happily in splendid seclusion.

Chicken and dressing is comfort cooking for me.  In fact, I rather suspect that when this is seen by others, my friends and family may call to chide that I have never made chicken and dressing for them.  It’s not a dish from my childhood, in fact I may have first had a pallid version in a school cafeteria and later only in meat-and-three joints.  But it has all the elements of comfort cooking and comfort food for me.  Simple tasks – making stock, dicing vegetables, baking cornbread, mincing herbs.  A lot of steps, but none difficult or distracting.  I can stand at my post at the kitchen counter, my favorite spot in my beloved home, and work the knife or stir the stock, the fragrance of real cooking around me, and think.  Just think and feel and be. I don’t watch the clock or worry about what’s next.  Because what’s next is something simple and wonderful. Every step, every element made by me.  I don’t even care that the sinks are full of dishes, or there is cornmeal dusted on the floor.  Problems for another day.

The recipe may seem lengthy, but it can be done in gentle stages.  Your home will fill with the wonderful aroma of the stock simmering, the cornbread baking, the vegetables softening and the whole cooking together.  That alone is worth the effort.

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

The Stock and Chicken

3- 4 pound chicken, giblets removed

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

1 leek

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the chicken and all the stock ingredients in a 7 quart or larger pot and add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, skim off any scum that rises.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cover.  Simmer for 4 hours.  Taste the stock, it should be nice and rich.  Simmer a bit longer if needed.  Remove the chicken to a plate, then strain the broth through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a thin tea towel into a large bowl.  Discard the vegetables.  Pull the meat from the chicken and discard the skin, bones and any unpleasant bits.  Refrigerate the meat and the stock for several hours (I frequently do this the day before).  Skim the fat from the top of the stock. Reserve the chicken and the stock to complete the dish.

The Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place a 9” cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.

Stir the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl until completely combined.  Add the milk, egg and oil and stir just until the batter comes together and there are no visible dry ingredients.  Remove the skillet from the oven using an oven mitt and carefully spread the batter in the hot pan.  Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cornbread is golden and dry.  Cool completely in the skillet.

The Dressing

¼ cup ( ½  stick) butter

2 carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 sprigs sage, finely minced

2 stalks rosemary, finely minced

3 sprigs thyme, finely minced

¼ cup minced parsley

the reserved chicken meat

1 cup milk

2 eggs

3 – 4 cups reserved chicken broth

salt and black pepper

Break the cornbread into large chunks in a large bowl.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the diced carrot, celery and onion and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften and the onion is translucent, but not browning. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Add ½ cup of the reserved chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the minced herbs and cook about a minute until fragrant.  Scrape the vegetables into the bowl with the cornbread.  Stir to combine and begin breaking the cornbread into smaller pieces.

Chop the chicken meat into small bite-sized pieces.  The tender meat will fall apart, but I think it is best when there are discernible pieces of chicken in the dressing rather than shreds.  Stir the chicken into the cornbread and vegetables to distribute evenly.

Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug, then add the eggs and beat well.  Stir into the dressing, then add 1 cup of chicken broth and stir until the dressing is evenly moist.  Spread the dressing into a deep 8-inch square baking dish.  Do not press it down, just spread it in a nice, even layer.  (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight).

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  Pour 1 ½ cups of stock over the dressing.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake a further 20 minutes until browned on the top.  If the dressing looks dry when you remove the foil, drizzle over a bit more stock.

The Gravy:

¼ cup bacon grease

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the bacon grease and butter together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour until it is smooth and combined.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes until the foaming subsides and you have a light toffee brown roux, like a fraternity boy’s khaki pants or a roasted peanut shell. Reduce the heat to medium low and slowly stir in the stock.  Cook until the gravy is smooth.  If you like a thinner gravy, add more stock to reach your preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I like a lot of pepper).

Serves 6

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing wth Gravy

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Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Cock-A-Leekie Soup

January 25 is Burns Night, which celebrates the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns.  Suppers are held across Scotland and by many Scottish societies and clubs around the world.  I was challenged by a friend some years ago to host a Burns Night supper and so I did.  I put plaid fabric down the table as a runner and had florist make up arrangements of thistle and heather.  I tied place cards to miniature bottles of Scotch with plaid ribbon and wore my Scottish family motto kilt pin and pendant (I outgrow the hereditary kilt as a child).  I printed out the Burns blessing and forced the challenging friend to read it aloud.  I may have even had a recording of bagpipes.

The only difficulty was coming up with a menu, as about the only ting I knew of as Scottish food was haggis, and I wasn’t going there.  I made a Scottish dessert of oats and cream and raspberries called Cranachan, and beef tenderloin doused in Drambuie and Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes).  But the real culinary discovery was Cock-a-Leekie Soup.  I can’t remember where I dug up the original recipe, but I have since made it my own, because it is so simple and warming.  It is a unique twist on chicken noodle, full of gentle leek flavor and homey barley.  So now, Burns Night or nay, I make Cock-a-Leekie for pure comfort. And I recommend you do to, because a big, steaming bowl will warm you inside and out.  I may be crossing too many cultural lines here, but it is very good with a hunk of buttered Simple Soda Bread.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

For the Broth:

1 whole chicken, giblets removed

2 leeks

2 carrots

1 celery stalk

1 small white onion

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon black peppercorns

1 Tablespoons salt

For the Soup:

2 Tablespoons butter

3 leeks

½ cup pearled barley

Place all the broth ingredients into a large Dutch oven or stock pot and cover with 10 – 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and skim off any scummy foam that rises.  Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 4 hours.  Taste the stock; it should be nice and rich.  Simmer a bit longer if you’d prefer.

Strain the stock into a big bowl through a colander lined with damp cheesecloth or a tea towel.  Pull out all the chicken meat and discard the skin, bones, fat and vegetables.  Leave the broth to cool and settle, then skim off as much fat as possible.  I generally make the stock a day before and leave it in the fridge overnight.  It is then easy to remove the fat from the top of the stock.  Refrigerate the meat also if you are leaving the soup overnight.

When ready to cook, place the barley in a bowl and cover with 1 cup of water.  Leave to soak for at least an hour or until much of the water is absorbed.  Quarter the leeks then cut into thin slivers.  Place in a colander and rinse very well.  Shred and chop about 2 cups of chicken meat.  Remember, you’ll be eating this with a spoon so you want spoon-sized pieces.

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and  add the leeks.   Cook the leeks over medium heat until they are soft and wilted, then add 8 cups of chicken stock.  Add the soaked barley and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, then add the chopped chicken meat.  Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for about 20 – 30 minutes until the barley is tender and toothsome.

Season with salt and serve nice and warm.  You’ll have some extra broth and some extra chicken.  Lucky you!

Serves 4

The Burns Blessing

 Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

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Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

Creamy Turkey and WIld Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing  Croutons

Thanksgiving leftovers for me are generally of the sandwich variety.  I love leftover turkey sandwiches.  With cranberry sauce and a slice of dressing.  I make extra dressing, bind it with eggs and cram it into a loaf pan.  Baked off, it makes perfect slices to fit a sandwich.  I even make some sweet-savory jams and chutneys during the summer for use on the post-Thanksgiving concoctions.  My family gathers and plows through the leftovers in a laid-back feed, usually at someone else’s home (lucky me). After preparing the bulk of the Thanksgiving feast, I don’t usually have the energy to deal with another cooking project.  Frankly, I don’t’ always have it in me to make stock from the turkey carcass.  Mostly, it means more dirty dishes.

But last year, I put my mind to creating a hearty, warming meal using the leftover turkey with minimal work and lots of flavor.  And this is my result.  There are several ways to speed up this process.  When you are chopping vegetables for the big meal, put some aside in a Ziploc in the fridge to use for this.  Or buy a bag of frozen chopped mire-poix or soup starter when you do the big shop. I always overbuy on sage, the classic Thanksgiving herb, but use what you have on hand. I find quick-cooking wild rice easily, so look out for that and save yourself a step (though it is an easy one) of cooking the rice.   I don’t always have eight cups of turkey stock leftover after I make gravy and dressing, so I make up the difference with boxed stock.  Cream cheese adds a little body and tang to the final creamy product. The soup is lovely as is, but some toasted pieces of leftover dressing on top add a nice contrast.

Creamy Turkey and Wild Rice Chowder with Toasted Dressing Croutons

2 cups finely diced onion

1 cup finely diced carrot

1 cup finely diced celery

2 Tablespoons olive oil

8 cups turkey or chicken stock, or a combination

2 finely minced garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

1 yellow potato, finely diced

1 ½ cups quick-cooking wild rice, or 1 ½ cups wild rice cooked according to package instructions

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups diced cooked turkey

Sauté the onion, carrot and celery in a 5-quart Dutch oven in the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle over 1 Tablespoon of the sage and stir well.  When the vegetables are soft, add ½ cup stock and cook until the liquid is evaporated.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minutes.  Pour in the remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Add the remaining sage and the potato, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 1o minutes until the potatoes are becoming tender.  If using quick cooking wild rice, add it now, cover the pot and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes until the rice is tender.  Bring the soup to a low bubble (not boiling, but bubbling). Cut the cream cheese into small chunks and whisk a few at a time into the soup adding more as it melts.  Don’t worry if it looks odd and separated at some point, just keep whisking away until the soup is smooth and creamy. Stir in the diced turkey (and cooked wild rice if that is what you are using) and cook, stirring, until heated through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Because of the potatoes and rice, you may need to be generous with the salt.

Serve immediately.  Leftovers can be gently reheated until warm.

Serves 6

For the Croutons: Cut leftover dressing into cubes or rough pieces.  Melt a Tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and toast the cubes until brown and crispy.

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Moroccan Chicken Salad

Moroccan Chicken Salad

As the weather really starts to heat up, a cool summer supper salad is a great thing to have in the fridge.  Chicken salad is perfect picnic or party food, great for a weekend at the lake or lunch by the pool.  I love a good chicken salad and make many different versions depending on the occasion and the mood.  I like chunky chicken, crunch, texture and color – something interesting and intriguing, so this recipe has become a favorite.

This savory – sweet recipe is unique and distinctive and will spice up your regular summer menu.  It’s lighter and healthier with Greek yogurt, which still adds richness and tang and the fresh herbs give it zing and brightness.  Traditional Moroccan spices are what set this iteration apart, and the herbs, apricots and carrots make this a colorful addition to any summer table.

Moroccan Chicken Salad

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 lemons

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

6 dried apricots, finely chopped

¼ cup shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Squeeze half of one lemon into a baking dish that just fits the chicken.  Lay the chicken on top, and squeeze the other half of the juice over it.  Tuck the spent lemon halves in between the chicken.  Slice the other lemon into thin slices and lay over the chicken breasts. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake until the chicken is cooked through, with an internal temperature of 165°, about 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish and leave the chicken in the liquid until cool.  Chop the chicken into small, bite size cubes.

Mix the yogurt and spices together in a large bowl. Stir in the mint and parsley until thoroughly combined.  Add the chicken, almonds, apricots and carrots and gently fold everything together until the yogurt evenly coats all the chicken and the ingredients are evenly distributed.  Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.  The chicken salad will keep covered in the fridge for two days.

Serves 4

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Country Captain with Coconut Rice

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 of 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.

Country Captain with Coconut Rice

For the Country Captain:

1 Tablespoon curry powder

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ Tablespoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

6 strips of bacon

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

3 stalks celery, finely diced

1 green bell pepper finely diced

2 galric cloves, minced

¼ cup Madeira

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup golden raisins

3 stalks thyme

½ cup slivered almonds

For the Coconut Rice:

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

1 (13 – 14- ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk

2 cups water

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

Serves 4

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