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.

Farro and Herb Minestrone

There are one million and one delicious versions of an Italian style bean soup that it is almost impossible to narrow down a favorite. So the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to start from scratch, and that is what I’ve done here. I don’t really know if this is technically a minestrone, a pasta e fagioli or what, all I do know is that it is really delicious. I have become a huge fan of farro as I work to add whole grains to my diet, and decided it would be an interesting replacement for pasta in a brothy soup. The nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture make it hearty and interesting.

Let me explain my process. Cooking the farro separately keeps the soup from becoming thick or pasty. I love the herbal flavor of this soup – I think that’s what makes it more than broth with beans – but I find chopped rosemary can be too woody in a soup, so I like to simply infuse the broth with rosemary (and crisp celery leaves) then add the other freshly chopped soft herbs at the end so they are bright. I read for years about using a parmigiana cheese rind in soup and thought it was some sort of trendy, over the top silliness, but turns out it is really a great idea. It adds some depth and saltiness, and a hint of nuttiness that goes so well with the farro. Buy a wedge of real parmigiana for the fricos and cut off the rind. But you can (and should) save the rind of any wedge in a Ziploc in the freezer, though I have now found that the better cheese counters at the grocery now sell rinds. I love Italian borlotti beans, and sometimes find them at stores or online, most easily at Hispanic markets where they are labeled Roman beans. If you can’t find them, lovely white cannellini are perfect. Topping this soup with crispy cheese fricos is pretty and interesting, but feel free to just grate some cheese directly over the bowl.

Farro and Herb Minestrone
Serves 6
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For the Soup
  1. ½ cup farro
  2. 1 ½ cups water
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 carrot, finely diced
  5. 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  6. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  7. ¼ cup vermouth
  8. 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  9. 5 cups of chicken stock
  10. 3 – 4 stalks fresh rosemary
  11. 5- 6 celery leaves
  12. 1 (2-inch) piece of rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional but worth it)
  13. 1 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  14. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  15. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  16. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  17. 1 ( 15.5 ounce can) borlotti beans or cannellini beans
For the Fricos
  1. 12 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano -Reggiano cheese
  2. freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup
  1. Put the farro and water in a small saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see that the farro is cooked through, but still has a little bite to it (yes, al dente). If there is still some water left, drain it off, though the grains may absorb all the water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium and add the carrot, celery and onion. Stir to coat with olive oil, then cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, then splash in a 1/4 cup of vermouth or water and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Continue cooking until the vegetables are a light amber color, soft and glassy, another 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic to the pot, stir well and cook 1 – 2 minutes – don’t let the garlic brown. Pour in the chicken stock, then drop in the cheese rind. Tie the rosemary stalks and celery leaves in a piece of cheesecloth or place in a mesh tea ball and add to the pot. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the herb bundle and the cheese rind and give the broth a go with an immersion blender. You don’t want to completely puree, but it gives the broth a little more body, so just 4 -5 whirs around the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the chopped herbs. Stir in the farro. Rinse and drain the beans then stir them into the soup. Keep the pot on the heat just until the beans and farro are heated through.
For the Fricos
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place 1 Tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Grind over a little black pepper. Neaten up the edges, slightly flatten the tops and cook for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. The fricos will crisp as they cool.
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Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus

Slow Cooker soups are one of winters greatest treats. For very little effort, you get big results, with the added bonus of a house that smells deliciously of warmth and comfort. And in the middle of winter, this black bean version has a tropical, sunny profile that perks things up considerably. Add some colorful toppings and everything will seem brighter. This soup is hearty and fresh all at the same time.

I love the Caribbean profile of this version of black bean soup – a little Cuba, a little Jamaica, a little Mexico – but all flavor. A nice dose of rum adds a good punch and tangy citrus brightens the rich soup up considerably. I like to serve some lime wedges for squirting on the top and add a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, but you can mic a little sour cream with some of the citrus juice and float dollops of that, or top with some diced avocado or red onion. I think this would be great beside a Cuban sandwich or a piece of avocado toast. If you like things spicy, add a finely diced jalapeno or two with the vegetables or serve with some hot sauce on the side.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large yellow onion
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 green bell pepper
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, well rinsed and drained
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  7. ½ cup dark rum
  8. 4 cups vegetable stock
  9. 1 orange
  10. 1 lemon
  11. 1 lime
  12. 2 bay leaves
  13. 1/4 cup citrus juice
  14. 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onion, carrot and bell pepper. You want very small pieces. Finely mince the garlic and place them all in the crock of a slow cooker. Add the beans, cumin, rum and vegetable stock and one cup of water. Stir well.
  2. Peel a thin strip from the skin of each of the orange, lemon and lime using a vegetable peeler. Place the citrus strips and bay leaves on top of the soup, cover and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or on low for 7 – 8 hours.
  3. Thirty minutes before the cooking time is completed, squeeze the juice from the orange, lemon and lime. Remove the strips of peel and the bay leaves from the soup, then measure out ½ cup of juice and pour it into the soup. Add the chopped cilantro and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to a blender and give it a whirl. Finish cooking the soup until it is warm through.
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Camembert and Apple Soup

One of my favorite sandwich combos is creamy brie or camembert with sliced apples or pears. There a couple of places around town that serve these – toasted or pressed or cold, on brioche, ciabatta or baguette. I can’t resist ordering when I see it on the menu, but of course I also make them for myself occasionally. When I was planning out soup month on The Spoon, I was at first trying to think of a soup I could serve with a brie and apple sandwich. Then it struck me to flip the script and use these two great ingredients in a soup. I decided to use camembert instead of brie (though you could switch), for its more distinct, earthy flavor. I am remarkably pleased with the rich, creamy results.

This soup is sophisticated enough to serve in delicate china cups at a dinner party, but also makes a wonderful rustic meal, served with a classic jambon beurre, a baguette layered with butter and ham or an open faced toasted ham tartine. You could also float a thin toasted baguette slice on the top of the soup. Use a lighter colored apple juice or cider, such as honeycrisp, as the darker or unfiltered versions will muddy the lovely pale color of the soup.

Camembert and Apple Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounce wheel camembert
  2. 4 Tablespoons butter
  3. 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  4. 2 tart green apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  5. 1 yellow onion, chopped
  6. 1 Tablespoon marjoram leaves
  7. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  8. 4 cups chicken stock
  9. 1 cup apple juice or cider, such as honeycrisp
  10. salt
Instructions
  1. Remove the camembert from its packaging and cut away as much of the rind as possible. You don’t have to be too meticulous, just remove the thickest parts. Cut the cheese into cubes and set aside. It is easier to do all this while the cheese is cold and firm, but you want it to come closer to room temperature before adding it to the soup.
  2. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped celery, apple and onion and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is soft and the apples are beginning to break down. Try not to let anything brown. Sprinkle over the marjoram leaves and a generous pinch of salt and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the broth and the apple juice and stir to combine. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then cover the pot, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes, until everything is completely tender. Stir in the camembert, a little at a time, stirring until each addition is melted before adding the next.
  3. Leave the soup to cool for 10 – 15 minutes, then transfer to blender and puree until smooth. Be careful if the soup is still hot, vent the blender lid and hold it down with a tea towel. You may need to do this in two batches. Blend until completely smooth. Wipe out the pot to remove any stray pieces, then pour the soup through a strainer back into the pot. Heat through on low heat season to taste and serve
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Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup

One of my favorite grocery innovations of the last few years is the ready availability of pre-cut butternut squash. I love butternut, but peeling and seeding it myself for a quick weeknight meal more trouble than I am generally willing to undertake. So butternut squash dishes used to be a special occasion food for me. But now, so many stores offer peeled and ready to use pieces, it’s a regular menu item in my kitchen. And this soup is in frequent rotation in my kitchen, because for very little effort, the result is surprisingly complex and deep.

Roasting both the squash and the onion brings out the sweetness and adds an almost smoky note. Don’t be shy – the onions should get a little black in places and deeply browned in others. Just make sure it is very soft all the way through. Keep an eye on the squash – the size of the pieces you start with will determine how long it will take to get nice brown edges and a soft center. I like to pour everything through a strainer to produce a silkier result, but it is not a deal breaker. Top this soup however suits your fancy. A dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkling of toasted nuts, or simple croutons floating in the bowl.

Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium yellow onions
  2. 2 pounds peeled butternut squash pieces
  3. olive oil
  4. kosher salt and black pepper
  5. 6 cups chicken broth
  6. ¼ cup sage leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil to make clean up simple.
  2. Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Leave the stem end intact to hold the quarters together. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the onions. I use my hands to spread just a light coat of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the onions for 1 hour, or until charred in places and soft so that a knife slips right through.
  3. Place the squash cubes on the second baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, again, just enough to barely coat the pieces. Toss them around with your hands to coat with the oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, just until lightly browned in places and very soft. The time this takes will depend on the size of the squash pieces, so check frequently and remove from the oven when done.
  4. Let the onions and the squash cool slightly, then begin pureeing with a few cups of broth and the sage leaves. You will probably need to do this in several batches – use about 2 cups of broth with each batch. Pour the puree through a strainer into a large Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper as needed and heat through. You can add a bit of water to thin the soup out if you would like.
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Good Luck Gumbo

Enjoy this repost one of my favorite New Years’ Day recipes from 2011.

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

1 small bunch collard greens

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze. I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups

Curried Corn Soup with Toasted Corn Kernels

Fresh corn and curry are a favorite combination of mine, and for years I have made a quick blender soup using frozen corn and boxed stock. It’s such a treat for me, that I figured I ought to work out a proper recipe using a full complement of the beautiful summer corn I find at the farmers market. And I love this version even more. Softened with leeks, redolent with corn flavor and a healthy dose of curry powder, this beautiful yellow soup is a perfect summer bowl. Just a few ingredients create a remarkably complex and rich flavor.

I love the base of fresh corn stock, and it is easy to make. You could use vegetable broth for a shortcut, but make sure you use one that is light in color so you don’t muddy the final result. The chewy, toasty corn kernels make a wonderful topping, but get as creative as you want. I could see toasted coconut shards or roasted, salted cashews as a nice contrast. You could add a dollop of yogurt as well. This soup freezes really well, so make a big batch (or several) with in-season corn to stock up for the winter. I love this soup warm, but it is lovely served chilled in the heat of summer.

Curried Corn Soup with Toasted Corn Kernels
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ears corn
  2. 2 large or 3 medium leeks
  3. 4 green onions
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 3 teaspoons curry powder
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon garam masala
Instructions
  1. Fill a large bowl or the sink with cold water and ice. Bring a large stockpot full of water to a boil. Blanch the corn in the boiling water for 30 seconds and remove it immediately to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs into a large bowl. Scrap the cobs to release any juices. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator.
  2. Cut the corn cobs in half and place in a large stockpot (if you use the pot you blanched in, rinse it well to remove corn silks) and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring the stock to a boil, skim off any scum that rise, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours. The liquid should reduce by about half. Pour the stock through a strainer and discard the solids.
  3. Cut the white and pale green parts of the leeks in half, then into thin half-moons. Rinse the pieces thoroughly with cold water to remove any dirt or grits. Rinse out the stockpot and add the olive oil. Cook the leeks, with a little water clinging to them, over medium heat until soft and glossy, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently and do not let the leeks brown. Add the garlic and cook a further minute, then sprinkle over the curry powder, salt and garam masala. Cook, stirring well, for a few minutes until the spices are toasty and fragrant. Measure out 1/2 cup of corn kernels and set aside, then add the rest or the corn and any accumulated liquid to the pot. Stir to combine the leeks and corn, then pour in 4 cups of the corn cob stock and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes, until the kernels are very soft. Leave the soup to cool a little, then carefully puree it in batches in a blender. Pour each batch through a fine mesh sieve set over a large, pressing the liquid through. Rinse out the pot again, and return the smooth soup to it. At this point, you can refrigerate the soup for up to 2 days.
  4. Toast the reserved in a dry skillet until browned and beginning to make a popping noise. When toasted evenly, transfer to a plate so the kernels don’t continue cooking.
  5. The soup can be served chilled, or warmed through over medium heat. Serve topped with toasted corn.
Notes
  1. Corn stock is a wonderful thing to have around, it pumps up the flavor of a winter chowder made with frozen corn or any vegetable soup. Make big batches and freeze. I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and add a striped cob everytime I use corn. When I have about a dozen cobs, I make stock.
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Creamy Roasted Onion Soup

I absolutely love soup, particularly during the grey days of winter. For me it can be a meal in itself, a side for a sandwich or salad or a starter. Soup is also a great pantry and fridge cleaner, because even the humblest ingredients can be transformed into something special, with a minimum of effort.

This recipe is a perfect example, as it was born from an excess of onions. I have a tendency to buy an onion or two every time I’m in the grocery, and every once in awhile I end up with a backlog I need to use up. I had read a recipe in a cookbook for a roasted onion bisque, but couldn’t find it or remember exactly what it called for, but the idea stuck with me. Roasting brings out the sweetness of any vegetable and mellows the flavor of onions, taming some of the bite. I love that this recipe has the hint of familiarity of a French onion soup with the added comfort of a creamy, rich texture. Any number of toppings can be added – crispy croutons, salty bacon, crumbly cheese, chopped herbs. Thyme is a perfect pairing for onions, but you could also use marjoram or rosemary. I like to puree it until very smooth, but leave a little texture if you prefer. Push the puree through a strainer for an extra velvety soup.

Creamy Roasted Onion Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 – 2 ¼ pounds sweet yellow onions (about 2 large)
  2. 10 cloves of garlic
  3. olive oil
  4. kosher salt and ground black pepper
  5. 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 32-ounce box)
  6. 4 Tablespoons sherry, divided
  7. 6 – 7 full sprigs of thyme
  8. ½ cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or no stick foil. Peel all the papery skin from the onions and cut each onion into eight wedges, held together by the root end. Place the onion pieces on the baking sheet and spray or brush all sides of the onions with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Peel the garlic coves and place them on a small piece of foil and coat lightly with olive oil. Wrap the cloves tightly into a little foil packet and place on a corner of the baking sheet. Roast the onions and garlic for 30 minutes, then use tongs to carefully turn the onions and roast another 30 minutes, until the onions are soft and lightly browned in places. Transfer the onions to a Dutch oven. Unwrap the garlic cloves and add them to the pot. Pour in the chicken broth and stir in 3 Tablespoons of the sherry. Drop in the thyme sprigs and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes. Fish out the woody thyme stems then transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree until smooth. Vent and hold down the top of the blender with a tea towel to be safe. Return the soup to the wiped out pot and add the remaining 1 Tablespoons sherry and the heavy cream and stir until combined. When heated through, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
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Turkey, Pumpkin and White Bean Chili with Cranberry Relish

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

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

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

Queso Fundido SoupCinco de Mayo approaches and with it, thoughts of the completely Americanized restaurant specialty, queso, or cheese dip as we used to call it. I, and pretty much anyone from in Memphis, grew up on a thin, cold cheese dip created by the area’s first Mexican restaurant. It is still a favorite and available at local groceries in a plastic tub, and a true guilty pleasure for me. Next came Ro-tel dip, melted Velveeta cheese mixed with canned tomato and green chile mix. No teenage party was complete without it. Then a restaurant opened in town serving the first incarnation of what was considered “authentic” Mexican food. It was the first place in town to serve fajitas. And with it came queso fundido (they title their version queso flameado). Spicy chorizo sausage covered in melty cheese, served in a hot skillet. The restaurant has been opened over 25 years, but that dip was a game changer at the time, adding such zip and interest to an old standby.

I was thinking about that dip, and other delicious versions of queso fundido I’ve sought out over the years, when I created this soup. It’s a flavorful and fun meal-in-a-bowl with lots of toppings and flavor addition possibilities. Start the meal with chips and salsa or guacamole and mix up a pitcher of margaritas and celebrate the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.

Queso Fundido Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 9 ounces Mexican pork chorizo sausage
  2. 1 cup finely diced onion
  3. 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. ½ teaspoon mild chili powder
  6. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  7. 4 cups chicken broth
  8. 1 ½ cups whole milk
  9. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  10. 8 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated
  11. 2 small plum tomatoes
  12. fresh cilantro
  13. tortilla chips or strips
Instructions
  1. Sauté the chorizo in a Dutch oven, breaking the meat up with a spatula as you go. When the chorizo releases some of its fat, add the onion, green chiles and garlic and stir well. Cook until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions and chiles are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug and whisk in the flour until smooth and completely dissolved. Stir the milk mixture into the soup and cook at a low bubble – not a boil – until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low. Reserve about a half cup of the cheese to top the soup, then stir in the remaining cheese, ½ cup at a time, making sure each addition is melted and smooth before adding the next.
  3. Serve the soup in large bowl topped with chopped tomato, minced cilantro, a little grated cheese and some tortilla strips.
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Classic Shrimp Bisque

Classic Shrimp BisqueSome years ago, I attended a lovely luncheon given for a friend’s birthday. The hostess laid tables on beautiful linens with her best silver and crystal and magnificent flowers. All the ladies in attendance were dressed in their spring best. It was a very sophisticated event that made me feel like a true grown-up in the best possible way. The first course was a fresh shrimp bisque, served in antique soup cups, and given the occasion and surroundings it seemed like an impossibly chic dish. The hostess told me that her grandmother used to serve shrimp bisque at luncheons, and though she had tried to duplicate that version, she just had to take shortcuts, using bottled and boxed stocks. Ever since, I have wanted to make a refined shrimp bisque from start-to-finish, but just didn’t have the patience.

For a good shrimp bisque, you need to use shrimp shells to produce a rich stock that creates layers of flavor. But peeling shrimp is a kitchen task I just hate. I can’t explain why, it is hardly the worst kitchen task, and many people I know do it without thinking. I simply do not like it. You can buy raw, peeled shrimp, of course, but then you don’t get the shells. I recently discovered, however, that the fish counter at a good market will peel and devein shrimp for you, and if you ask, they’ll save the shells for you. I should have figured this out years ago, but there you go. I soon went to work on a shrimp bisque recipe and this is where I landed.

The pale pink you and delicate shrimp flavor make this a sophisticated dish for entertaining, ladies luncheon or grown-up dinner party. And curled, blushing shrimp balanced on the top of the soup make a beautiful presentation. But I also find this a comforting soup meal, with some crusty bread or corn muffins.

Classic Shrimp Bisque
Serves 6
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For the Stock
  1. 1 ½ pounds shrimp
  2. 3 celery stalks
  3. 1 carrot
  4. ½ yellow onion
  5. 3 gloves garlic
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 3 sprigs of marjoram or thyme
  8. ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. ½ teaspoon salt
For the Bisque
  1. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  2. ½ yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 celery stalk, diced
  4. 1 carrot, diced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 3 cups shrimp stock
  7. Reserved shrimp meat
  8. ½ cup cognac
  9. 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  10. ¼ cup butter
  11. ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  12. ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  13. 2 cups whole milk
  14. salt to taste
For the stock
  1. Shell and devein the shrimp. Place the shells and 4 of the shrimp in a 5-quart Dutch oven. Return the remaining shrimp meat to the refrigerator. Add the remaining ingredients into the pot, then pour over 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and strain the stock through it. Discard the solids. Rinse and wipe out the pot and the strainer, then line the strainer with a piece of damp cheesecloth or a thin tea towel. Pour the stock back through the strainer into the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, until the stock is reduced by about ¼ and it is very fragrant. Pour the stock into a clean bowl or 4 – cup measuring cup. You should have at least 3 cups of stock. You can make this a few hours ahead of time if you’d like.
For the Bisque
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onions are glossy. Add the reserved shrimp meat to the pot and cook, stirring, until the shrimp begin to turn pink. Pour in the cognac and bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are completely cooked and the cognac has boiled away. Reserve 6 whole shrimp for serving. Place the remaining shrimp and vegetables in the bowl of a food processor. Add the tomato paste and ½ teaspoon salt and puree to a rough paste. Slowly add 2 cups of the shrimp stock until you have a smooth paste.
  2. Thoroughly clean the soup pot, making sure to wipe out any dark or brown residue. Melt the butter in the pot over medium heat, then whisk in the flour and the paprika until smooth. Cook until the paste is thick and completely smooth, then add the milk, stirring constantly until it is thickened and smooth. Scrape in the shrimp puree and stir well to combine. Add the remaining 1 cup of shrimp stock and stir until heated through. If you prefer, you can use an immersion blender to give the soup some extra smoothness, or push it through a strainer.
  3. Season with salt to taste and serve with the remaining cooked shrimp.
Notes
  1. Ask the fish counter at your local high end or natural market if they will clean the shrimp for you and save you the shells.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/