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.

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

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

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/

Tomato Blue Cheese Soup

Tomato Blue Cheese Soup

I have some friends who have been waiting on this recipe for a long time. But I really wanted to make sure I had it perfected. And I really think I do. You see, there is a café here that has served a tomato blue cheese soup for years, and it is a favorite in the city. The rest of the menu has had its ups and downs, there have been some changes of management and staff, but the soup has always been on the menu. I’ve made quickie versions of this over the years, and half-hearted attempts to recreate the recipe, but they never quite hit the mark, and after all, I could always just go order the soup, right? But there was a little hiccup a while ago, when I had some fear that the café was going to close, or totally reorganize. So I set out to make my own recipe just in case.

One of the great things about recreating a favorite recipe is that, no matter how much you like the original, you can always tweek that one little thing that wasn’t exactly perfect for your taste. In this case, I make the soup a little smoother rather than chunky. I am generally loathe to use out of season tomatoes, but I find that plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are still fleshy and flavorful year round, and roasting them intensifies the flavor, which stands up well to a rich blue cheese. This soup freezes well, so you can always have some on hand, but it is so easy to make it can be dinner any night. I love this with a grilled cheese sandwich of course, but at the original café, they offer it with a slice of quiche, which is a nice pairing too.

Tomato Blue Cheese Soup
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds plum tomatoes
  2. 10 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes
  3. 3 medium leeks, white and light green part
  4. 1 small red onion
  5. 5 -6 sprigs thyme
  6. olive oil
  7. 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
  8. 5 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  9. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Half the plum tomatoes and spread on a baking sheet. Tumble in the cherry tomatoes, then slice the leeks in halves, rinse them under running water and add them to the pan. Peel and quarter the onion and add to the pan. Drizzle a tablespoon or so of olive oil and use your hands to toss the vegetables around so they are lightly coated with oil. Sprinkle lightly with some salt and put in the pan in the oven. After 30 minutes, shake the pan to loosen the vegetables and place the thyme sprigs over the top. Roast for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the tomatoes and vegetables are soft and charred in places.
  3. Pick out the thyme stems (there will be some leaves left behind) and transfer everything, including any juices that have accumulated in the pan, to a Dutch oven. Pour in the broth and place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. While the soup is simmering, take the blue cheese out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or let it cool slightly and blend carefully in batches in a blender and return to the soup pot. Whisk the blue cheese into the hot soup until smooth and melted. Season as needed with salt and black pepper.
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/

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

Habitant Pea SoupLast fall, over a year ago now its hard to believe, I set out on a book tour to share Pimento Cheese The Cookbook (available at your local bookstore or online now) throughout the South, tasting all sorts of local specialties along the way. I drove myself for the whole tour, so I spent a lot of time in the car listening to public radio and a few podcasts. One program I was listening to had a Canadian chef expounding the virtues of Habitant Pea Soup, a traditional Canadian dish I’d never heard of before. Maybe I was in the mood for some home cooked food, or the weather was turning cold or just the enthusiasm of the chef, but the story piqued my interest. And the story of this chef exploring the origins of the soup as a piece of Canadian heritage was fascinating. (If I remembered where I heard it I’d post a link!). He deduced that this was a dish made by the original European explorers out of their meager stores, and that it had remained in the Canadian culinary canon. When I got I home, I did a little research and came up with my own version of the soup, cooked in the slow cooker for simplicity.

Habitant Pea Soup is as comforting and homey as I thought it would be. The split peas, an ingredient I had only used in Indian cooking before, add a nice richness and creaminess to the soup, and the use of a ham hock and a little salt pork keep the soup from being plain or boring. In my research, I found a couple of different ideas. I settle on this version for ease of preparation, but one recipe suggested shredding the ham meat and crisping in a skillet and serving on top of the soup, rather than stirred through. I like that. Some suggested topping the soup with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche. I like that too. I can definitely imagine this warming up the original explorers on a cold Canadian night.

Habitant Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 16 ounces yellow split peas
  2. 1 ham hock (about 14 ounces)
  3. 6 ounces salt pork
  4. 1 medium onion, finely diced
  5. 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  6. 1 carrot, finely diced
  7. 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  8. 6 -7 sprigs of thyme
  9. 2 bay leaves
Instructions
  1. Spread the split peas on the bottom of a 7- 8 quart slow cooker. Place the ham hock and salt pork on top, then the onion, celery and carrot. Pour over the chicken broth. Do not stir. Drop in the thyme sprigs (count how many stems so you can remove them later) and the bay leaves. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 7 hours.
  2. Remove the salt pork, thyme stems and bay leaves and discard. Remove the ham hock to a plate and pull the meat off the bone using two forks. If needed, dice the hock meat into bite size pieces. Return the meat to the slow cooker, cover and cook a further 30 minutes.
  3. Serve warm, topped with sour cream of crème fraiche if you like.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gumbo Z’Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z’Herbes, or green gumbo, is a very traditional Creole dish that you do not find all that often. The magnificent Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is famous for hers, and she serves it primarily the traditional way – on Holy Thursday (before Good Friday). Gumbo Z’herbes is said to bring luck and strengthen the body, and that for each type of green you put in the pot, you will make one new friend in the coming year. The traditional number seems to be nine, with eleven greens being a real bonus, and odd numbers are said to bring even more luck.

I have only had professionally made Gumbo Z’Herbes once in new Orleans, but it is a tradition and a dish that has always intrigued me, so I set out to do some research. I read recipes I found in some old Louisiana cookbooks and online. And the variations are endless. So I took all that information onboard and created this recipe. I generally don’t use as many as nine greens, because I can’t usually track that many down. And some of the recipes used very regional ingredients like pickled pork that I just don’t have access to. Some versions take all day to prepare and cook, some take shortcuts. Some have up to seven different kinds of meat, from pork shoulder to boudin while some insist this should be a vegetarian dish for lent. I am not claiming this is the definitive version of Gumbo Z’Herbes, but it’s mine.

Though traditionally a dish for Lent, I think it is perfect for New Years Day, when eating greens is said to bring prosperity and eating pork is said to be a symbol of progress in the New Year. I say the more greens and pork the better!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of mixed greens: Mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, flat leaf parsley, watercress, chard, dandelion (see note)
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 2 cups finely diced yellow onion (about 1 onion)
  5. 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
  6. 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  7. 1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  8. 1 ham hock
  9. 10 cups hot water
  10. 1 pound Andouille sausage
Instructions
  1. Strip any thick stalks from the greens (particularly collards, mustard, turnip and kale) and place all the greens in a sink or large bowl full of water. Swish them around a couple of times and let them soak about 5 minutes. Lift the greens out of the water into a large colander. Dirt and silt from the greens will settle at the bottom of the sink, so gently lift them out to prevent the dirt getting back on the greens. Shake the greens to drain. Chop piles of the greens into bite size pieces and return them to the colander.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 7 quart) heavy pan (I like cast iron or enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the creole seasoning. Now slowly pour in the hot water (hottest from the tap is fine, or bring some to a simmer in a pot), stirring constantly. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Add the ham hock, then all the greens, a handful at a time, stirring them down to fit in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer the gumbo for 1 ½ hours.
  3. Scoop about a third of the greens into a food processor or blender with a nice dose of potlikker, at least a cup, and puree until smooth. Return the pureed greens to the pot. Remove the ham hock and carefully pull the meat of the bones. If needed, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the gumbo. Slice the andouille into thin half moons about 1/8 inch thick and add to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Serve in big bowls. The gumbo on its own is a little soupy. Serve it over rice to soak up some of that potlikker if you’d like, or with nice hunks of French bread or cornbread to sop it up.
Notes
  1. Head to a good Southern market, farmers market or an Asian grocery to track down all the greens. Many recipes use carrot tops as one of the greens, so if you can find those. Same goes for beet tops and radish tops. Green chard, cabbage, arugula and romaine will also work. Just weigh out 3 pounds.
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/

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh corn straight off the cob is one of the great joys of summer. This soup is the freshest of fresh corn flavor, maximizing both the juicy sweet kernels and extracting every last drop of flavor from the cobs to make a broth redolent of summer. There are a few steps involved, but the velvety texture and bright flavor are worth the effort. I really want the corn flavor to shine, so I do not add much else to the basic soup.

Beautifully simple on its own, this bisque is brought alive by toppings. Here, I used a playful, fun sprinkling of popcorn seasoned with thyme-infused butter. You could season some popcorn with any flavor you like (Old Bay Seasoning is particularly good with corn). Or try a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Chopped bacon or garlic buttered croutons. A swirl of olive oil infused with chives or basil.

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ears of yellow or yellow and white corn
  2. 1 stalk celery
  3. 5 sprigs of thyme
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 1 large yellow onion, halved
  6. kosher salt
  7. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  8. ½ cup whole milk
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. Toss the kernels with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 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). Add the celery, thyme, bay leaf and half of the onion 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. Rinse out the stockpot and add the olive oil. Chop the remaining onion half (you need one cup chopped onion) and cook in the olive oil over medium heat until soft and glossy. Stir frequently and do not let the onions brown. Add the reserved corn kernels and any accumulated liquid. Stir to combine the onions and corn, then pour in 4 cups of the corn cob stock. 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. When ready to serve, whisk in the milk. Gently warm through on low heat.
For the Thyme Buttered Popcorn
  1. For 1 cup of popped corn, strip 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt on a chopping board. Chop very finely. Really go to town, rocking your knife back and forth over the herbs until you have thyme salt. Stir the thyme salt into 3 Tablespoons of hot melted butter. Stir very well, pour over the popcorn and toss to coat.
Notes
  1. Note: 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.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

I adore chilled soups during the hot summer months and often wonder why restaurants don’t serve more of them, or people make them more often. Nothing could be more refreshing, and filling. Make a big batch of cold soup and keep it in the fridge for quick lunches, cooling snack or part of a simple salad or sandwich supper.

I often make a big pot of classic white potato and leek vichyssoise for myself and dip out of it all week. So I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to a sweet potato version. Though normally thought of as a cold-weather food, my favorite Southern tuber is a natural match for the cold soup treatment, as we sure do know a lot about hot weather down here. This soup is very simple with the earthy sweetness of the potatoes is balanced by leeks. Herbaceous rosemary and bay and exotic clove add an extra layer of flavor and a wonderful, mysterious aroma. Don’t be tempted to leave them out.

The vibrant orange color of this creamy soup makes it a showstopper on the table. I have served it at seated dinner parties and casual gatherings. If you are so inclined, it would make an interesting soup shot passed as an hors d’oeuvres. I love to sprinkle each bowl with some chopped honey roasted peanuts for a little texture and a sweet-salty finish, plush some chives for color and to complement the leeks.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, to make 4 cups chopped
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 cup white wine
  4. 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
  5. 4 cups vegetable stock
  6. 3 cups water
  7. 2 stalks fresh rosemary
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  10. ½ cup heavy cream
  11. finely chopped honey roasted peanuts for garnish
  12. finely chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half moons. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Then remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until the leeks begin to soften, then pour in the wine, cover the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, until the leeks are soft. Uncover the pot and cook for a few minutes to reduce the wine until it barely coats the leeks. Do no let the leeks brown. While the leeks are softening, chop the peeled sweet potatoes into small chunks. Add to the softened leeks with the water, broth and a good sprinkling of salt. Tie the rosemary, bay leaves and cloves up into a little cheesecloth package or place in a tea strainer ball and drop in the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium - low, cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Remove the herb package.
  2. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender about half-full each time. Pour each pureed batch into a bowl. When all the soup is pureed, whisk in the cream. Cover the bowl loosely and refrigerate for at least two hours but preferably overnight. Taste for salt and season before serving, garnished with chopped honey roasted peanuts and chives.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/