Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

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.

Muffaletta Cheese Ball

Madi Gras is fast approaching, and even if you don’t live in a place that has a big Mardi Gras celebration, I have always thought it is a fabulous excuse for a party. We’ve made it through the crazy, busy holidays and had some January downtime. And I don’t mean some sort of wild bacchanalian revel. Just a cozy dinner with friends, full of amazing Louisiana cooking like Shrimp Creole or Debris Po’boys. It’s a great occasion to host a Sunday brunch, or an actual Mardi Gras Tuesday night supper. But whatever you do, go all out – find some cheap beads to decorate, wear purple, green and gold and make all your food New Orleans perfect (you can search my Mardi Gras archive here). Order a king cake or make some snazzy king cake bars for dessert. And start with this fun, flavorful cheese ball inspired by the classic muffaletta sandwich. Its packed with the elements of olive salad, salami and cheese and is perfect for a crowd served with crackers, or more authentic baguette slices.

To be honest, these are ingredients I don’t keep on hand much, I don’t like having half a jar of  olives or peppers lingering in the fridge, so I start at the deli department for this recipe. I buy a mix of olives from the olive bar, just not ones with much marinade or spice and rinse them and pat dry before chopping. Same with the pepperoncini, a couple of whole ones if that’s all they have. Ask the deli counter to cut you a chunk of provolone which makes for easier grating and ask them to cut you just a few thin slices of salami.

Muffaletta Cheese Ball

4 ounces mixed green and black pitted olives

2 ounces sliced pepperoncini from a jar

1 (2-ounce) jar diced pimentos

4 large slices hard salami

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup grated provolone cheese

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon salt

Put the olives in the bowl of a small food processor and pulse to chop very fine, but do not puree. Scrape into a bowl. Do the same to the pepperoncini and add to the bowl. Drain the pimentos and add to the bowl.  Rinse and dry the processor. Cut the salami into small pieces, then pulse to finely chop it, again, don’t make a paste, then add it to the bowl. Sit everything to combine and evenly distribute, using a fork if you need to.

Put the softened cream cheese in the bowl of a mixer and beat to lighten and loosen it up. Add the grated provolone, the Italian seasoning and salt and beat to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl. Add the muffaletta mix and beat to combine, scraping the bowl. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Scrape the cheese in the bowl into a rough ball and transfer it to the plastic wrap. Pull the plastic wrap around the cheese and twist into a tight ball. Place the wrapped ball in a bowl (to help keep the bottom from flattening to much) and refrigerate for 8 hours, or up to three days.

When ready to serve, unwrap the ball and transfer to a platter. Serve with baguette toasts and crackers.

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Roasted Cocoa Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream

We’ve made it through January, and now is the perfect time for a little indulgence. So I’ve doubled up on rich chocolate flavor with these brownies. Sure, they take a little bit more time, but they are perfect for a day of relaxing around the house with the oven warmly humming and the lovely smell of chocolate wafting through the air. And the deeply chocolate flavor of the brownie with the complex caramel flavors of the frosting are an excellent pay-off. And telling people the name of these gets some very appreciative nods for your genius in the kitchen!

I’ve included some tips below for the white chocolate. Once you master the simple technique, you’ll find all sorts of uses for it (watch this space!). The roasted cocoa is so simple, but adds such dimension and depth to a simple brownie it is worth the time investment. Use a quality, natural cocoa powder – I like Penzey’s or Ghiradelli. I recommend a good European style butter for the frosting. You are going all out on the richness here! 

Tips for the caramelized white chocolate:

Make sure you are using actual white chocolate – not chocolate coating or candy melts. Scharffen Berger, Guittard and Ghiraldelli are good brands to try. Look for 30% cocoa butter. Lesser versions have additives that will not caramelize properly.

The time this takes to caramelize will vary, so watch carefully, stirring every 15 minutes or so to spread the chocolate out evenly. It may take 30 minutes, it may take 60.

At some points, the chocolate will look grainy and not very nice, stir to smooth it out.

If the chocolate is nicely caramel colored, but still grainy – don’t panic. Transfer it to a small food processor and process until smooth. Scrape it into a glass bowl or measuring jug to cool.

Roasted Cocoa Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream

For the Frosting:

4 ½ ounces white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter

½ cup (1 stick), unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Brownies:

½ cup cocoa powder

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

¼ cup ( ½ stick) unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons milk

You can cook the chocolate and cocoa powder at the same time.

Preheat the oven to 250°

Break the white chocolate into small pieces and spread in an even layer in a square glass baking dish. Place in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, stir and spread the chocolate to smooth it out to an even layer, then bake for 15 minutes. Stir and scrape the chocolate and spread it back into as even a layer as you can. The chocolate will progressively turn a golden caramel color. It may look grainy at some point, just stir it smooth. Keep baking, stirring and scraping every 15 minutes, until the chocolate is the color of rich caramel and it has smoothed out.

For the Roasted Cocoa

Preheat the oven to 250°. Spread the cocoa powder out in a thin, even layer in on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 2 hours, stirring and spreading out the cocoa every 15 minutes. You want to move the powder around so it doesn’t get scorched in one place. The cocoa will turn darker and look a little lumpy. You can do this while you are making the caramelized white chocolate, though the cocoa takes longer. 

For the Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 inch square pan with non-stick foil with overhanging edges.

Put the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl or measuring jug and microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring well after each, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until pale and smooth. Beat in the chocolate and butter mixture and beat until combined. Add the roasted cocoa, flour and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the milk to smooth out the batter, then scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth the top making sure the batter fills the pan. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging. The top should be shiny, but not jiggly. Cool completely in the pan. Remove the brownie slab from the pan with the foil for frosting.

For the Frosting:

Beat the caramelized white chocolate and butter together in the cleaned out bowl of the mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat until smooth, then add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until completely combined and spreadable.

Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies, smoothing the top and reaching all the edges. Refrigerate the brownies for about 30 minutes to firm up the frosting. You can store the brownies in the fridge or on the counter in an airtight container. Cut into squares before serving.

Makes 16

Bubbling Beer and Bacon Cheese Dip

I am reposting this classic Oktoberfest recipe because it is perfect for Super Bowl parties. Enjoy!

Cooking with beer is an October tradition.  While it is just cool enough to have one last outdoor event, it is fun to put together an Oktoberfest celebration. The weather is beautiful and the food is comforting, perfect for a gathering of friends.  Warm sweaters and warm colors, leaves turning, a nip in the air and of course, plenty of beer.

This recipe was born because it combines some of my favorite words.  Beer, bacon and cheese. Put a pot of this in front of your friends and prepare for a stampede.  Warm, creamy and tangy, with just a touch of salty, smoky bacon, this is perfect party food. If you have a fondue pot or chafing dish, it would be perfect to keep this warm and creamy.  But I love it just off the stove.  People are generally hovering around waiting to dive in.  Salty pretzel rods are a classic pairing, but tart, crisp apples are wonderful delight as well.  I have also toasted little triangles of pumpernickel bread to serve on the side or thick potato chips.

Bubbling Beer and Bacon Cheese Dip

8 strips of bacon

2 Tablespoons bacon grease

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

¾ cup beer (I prefer lager)

½ teaspoon mustard powder

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Pretzel rods, apples, toast fingers for dipping

Cook the bacon in a skillet until very crispy.  Remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Reserve 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease.

Heat the reserved 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly until you have a smooth, loose paste and it is just bubbling.  Measure the milk and beer in the same measuring jug, then slowly whisk it into the flour.  Cook, whisking constantly and scraping the sides and bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes, until smooth and thickened.  Whisk in the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to melt each addition before adding the next.  When all the cheese is combined with the sauce, reduce the heat to low.

Chop the bacon into very small pieces and stir into the cheese dip.  Serve immediately with pretzel rods and sliced apples.

The dip may be made about an hour ahead of and gently reheated over low, stirring in a drop or two more beer if needed.  You may reheat the dip over medium low-heat once during serving, but if you reheat it too many times, it will curdle.

Makes 2 cups

Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

Don’t laugh. I really like cocktail weenies. I know, they seem a little outré, like those memes of horrible recipes from the past that go around. But I have made many versions of glazed cocktail sausages for parties, particularly at Christmas, and people’s eyes light up and they are devoured. Now, I say I love these, but I have also seen them go horribly wrong. I mean, I’m sorry, but grape jelly has no place here. I have tried to make them a little bit more sophisticated and a little less kitsch, and this seasonally appropriate pomegranate version is perfect for Christmas cocktail gatherings.

This makes a great big batch perfect for parties. Like I said, they do get devoured. Pomegranate molasses is sort of an amazing ingredient that is more and more available, and always available online. Search recipes for it, or just drizzle it over hummus for a treat. If you don’t have it, you can substitute regular molasses or maple syrup. I serve these in a chafing dish, but if you don’t have one, serve them in an attractive stove to table pot and just rewarm over low heat occasionally. Serve with plenty of cocktail napkins and toothpicks, and remember to put out a bowl or dish for used toothpicks!

Pomegranate Glazed Cocktail Sausages

2 cups 100% pomegranate juice

½ cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter

3 (12—ounce) packages beef cocktail sausages

Pour the juice into a 3-quart pot, then whisk in the sugar, mustards and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a low boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently then reduce to a simmer and cook until the glaze is reduced by half and thickened and slightly syrupy, about 15 minutes. Watch carefully and do not turn the heat to high – you do not want this to overboil. Turn off the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth and melted. Add the sausages and stir to coat. Turn the heat back on to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausages are nicely burnished with the glaze and heated through, about 20 minutes. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausages to a chafing dish and cover it with foil to keep the sausages warm. Bring the glaze in the pot to a hard boil, stirring constantly, until the glaze has thickened a bit. Spoon some of the glaze over the sausages and gently stir to coat. You may not use all of the glaze – remember people will be eating these with toothpicks, so you don’t want them too drippy.

Serve in a chafing dish with toothpicks.

Serves a crowd!

Mulled Wine Brownies

Mulled Wine Brownies

I love all the silly sweets at Christmas. This rice crispie treat wreaths, cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, those little pretzel reindeer. It’s the kind of fun the holidays are all about. But sometimes it’s nice to present something a bit more grown-up. As the children in my life are turning into adults (faster than I like), I find more reason to try out those sophisticated things a bit more. That’s where these brownies come in. They are deep and rich and chocolatey with a complexity from the red wine and a perfectly seasonal twist from the spices. I usually serve these cut into small squares – they make a fabulous take along to a holiday party. But they would work equally as well cut into large squares served with ice cream or a swirl of whipped cream on a plate, maybe with a little drizzle of chocolate sauce. These would also make a lovely gift.

Don’t use best wine – but this is great for the tail end of a bottle. Check the bulk spice section at a grocery store to buy small amounts of these spices if you don’t keep them on hand. You could also use them to make mulled wine to drink. Or simply put them in a pot of water bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let the lovely spicy smell fill your kitchen.

Mulled Wine Brownies

1 ¼ cup red wine

¼ teaspoon allspice berries

¼ teaspoon whole cloves

¼ teaspoon whole coriander

½ cinnamon stick

1 star anise pod

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ baking soda

¼ kosher salt

Pour the wine in a small saucepan. Tie the allspice, cloves and coriander in a small cheesecloth bundle (or use a mesh tea ball). Add to the wine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and bubble it away until it is reduced to exactly ½ cup. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13 inch brownie pan with parchment paper or nonstick foil, with some overhang to lift out the brownies when cooked.

Make a double boiler with a large glass or metal mixing bowl set over a pan with an inch or so of water, not touching the bottom of the bowl. Put the chocolate and the butter in the bowl and heat over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until both are melted and smooth and well combined. Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar until completely combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and stir until very well combined. Stir in the reduced wine until combined – it will be very loose. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda and salt and stir just until the batter is combined and there are no streaks of dry ingredients visible.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan smoothing the top and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging. These are nice and fudgy, so don’t worry if they’re a touch soft. Cool and cut into squares.

Makes 16