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 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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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 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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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
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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/

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/

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/

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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
Available now!

Available now!