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.

Sweet Potato and Country Ham Gratin

Sometimes, the side dishes are the best part of the meal. That’s where this comes from. I had a meal restaurant meal that was generally unremarkable, but for a dish ordered for the table as something of an afterthought. It inspired me. That dish was a slightly overwrought, oddly-shaped plate with a small swipe of béchamel sauce topped with roasted sweet potatoes and a sprinkling of country ham and some gruyere, run under a broiler. But it got the wheels turning in my head though. A creamy sauce with rich roasted potatoes and salty country ham and nutty gruyere works together beautifully. I knew it would make a fantastic gratin, with plenty of each ingredient perfectly balanced.

Give this a try for Thanksgiving, it’s a switch from the cinnamon and brown sugar versions we are used to in the best possible way. And it can be made a day ahead to cut down on turkey day chaos. Every time I have served this, it’s gotten absolute raves. It’s also great beside a roasted chicken or pork loin, and frankly would make a great main dish. I like to use center cut biscuit sliced of country ham which are easy to find.

Sweet Potato and Country Ham Gratin

4 medium sweet potatoes

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

About 6 ounces country ham, to make 1 cup finely diced ham

1 leek, white and light green part

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2 cups whole milk

1 ½ cups grated gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil sprayed with cooking spray.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks about ½ inch square as evenly sized as can be. Place the potato chunks in a ziptop bag and pour over the olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, then toss around to coat all the potato pieces with oil. Spread in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Finely dice the country ham. Remove the pan from the oven and gently turn the potato pieces over with a spatula. Sprinkle the diced ham over the top of the potatoes and return the pan to the oven for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft and the edges are brown and crispy. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

While the potatoes are roasting, cut the white and lightest green part of the leek in half, then into quarters and thinly slice. Place in a colander, rinse well and shake to remove as much water as possible. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a deep skillet and sauté the leeks until they are soft and glassy. Try not to let them brown. Add the remaining two tablespoons butter, and when it is melted, sprinkle over the flour. Stir to coat the leeks in the flour and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the milk and bring to a nice bubble. Stir frequently until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let cool for 10 minutes, then gently stir in the roasted potatoes, making sure they are well coated in sauce

Spread the potatoes in a baking dish, then sprinkle over the gruyere. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the gratin for 20 – 30 minutes, until heated through and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Serves 8

Cane Syrup Pie

In the pantheon of Southern sweeteners, cane syrup ranks high for me. There is this earthy caramel note I adore. Cane syrup is made from a sugar cane breed, ribbon cane, that grows in the South. There are now farmers creating fantastic cane syrups using traditional methods that are well worth seeking out, and the more widely available Steen’s cane syrup is deep and delicious. I am particularly fond of Poirier’s and stock up when each batch is released, but I also find amazing cane syrup at those little country stores and farm markets that sell chow-chow and watermelon rind pickles and all sorts of Southern delicacies. Cane syrup is not tooth-achingly sweet, but has a pure, clean finish that marries beautifully in this simple pie. A hint of lemon is the perfect foil.

The beautiful amber color of the finished pie is perfect for fall, and I find its speckled golden surface reminiscent of beautiful autumn leaves.  I sometimes add a dollop of whipped cream, but the pie is perfect on its own. At the end of the baking process, the center of the pie puffs up like a pan of Jiffy Pop, but it settles nicely into a rich, dense, sweet treat.

Cane Syrup Pie

1 pie crust for a 9-inch pie

1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup cane syrup

4 large eggs

2 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons buttermilk

 

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Fit the pastry into a 9-inch pie plate. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Whisk the sugar, flour and salt together in a large bowl, then beat in the cane syrup. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the melted butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and buttermilk until well blended. Pour into the pie crust, then bake the pie for 50 – 60 minutes until puffed in the center and set. This pie will really puff up!

Cool completely before serving. The pie can be covered and refrigerated, but is best served at room temperature.

Serves 6 – 8

Coca-Cola Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Icing

I love a Coca Cola Cake. The simple use of a bottle of Coke adds depth and complexity to a moist, deep cake for very little effort. I make many a Coca-Cola sheet cake (there’s a Jack and Coke version in The Southern Sympathy Cookbook), but this I developed for a friend’s birthday. This friend, who is not from around these parts, had once commented that she couldn’t understand using soda to make a cake. I wanted to show her how it’s done, so I decided to take the traditional up a notch. This cake is surprisingly elegant, thanks to the simplicity of a Bundt pan, with the sophisticated twist of salted caramel. She was duly impressed and asked for the recipe. I know for a fact she’s made it herself!

There’s a sweet-saltiness to this cake that is reminiscent of the classic Southern treat of putting salted peanuts in a bottle of coke – but I like that this just hints at it rather than smacking you in the face. This seems like a treat from childhood – a Coke was only an occasional treat when I was a kid – but with a refined touch. Use some nice sea salt with sizable flakes for an attractive finish and a little crunch.

Coca Cola Bundt Cake with Salted Caramel Icing

For the Cake:

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1 cup Coca-Cola

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

For the Glaze:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

 

For the Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12 cup Bundt pan with baking spray.

Melt the butter, cocoa powder and Coke together in a small saucepan. Combine the flour and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the Coke mixture and beat to combine. Put the baking soda in the buttermilk. Beat one egg into the batter, then add the buttermilk and the remaining egg and buttermilk mixture until smooth and well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan (it is a thin batter). Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 – 45 minutes. Cool the cake for about 20 minutes, then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Glaze:

The cake must be completely cool, or the glaze will slide right off. Place a piece of foil or paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips and make clean-up easier.

Cut the butter into cubes and place in a large saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt. After everything melts together, bring to a full, rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it reaches that boil, count to 60 Mississippi, then pull it off the heat. Leave the pan to cool for about 3 minutes, then vigorously beat in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, but do so slowly and evenly to cover as much surface as possible. Sprinkle flaky sea salt over the top of the glaze. Leave the glaze to set, then slice and enjoy. Covered tightly, this cake will last a few days.

Serves 10

Barbecue Pimento Cheese

Photo by Jennifer Davick

My third book, Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors was released this week, and its made me a little nostalgic, so here’s a throwback from my first book Pimento Cheese The Cookbook. It’s hard to choose favorite recipes from each book, but this is certainly at the top of my list. I think pimento cheese is the most iconic Southern snack, and I promise it appears in the new book as well!

As a born and raised Memphis girl, my blood runs part barbecue sauce.  So any exploration of Southern foodways for me is likely to loop back around to barbecue. But with the finest barbecue to be had five minutes away in every direction, I have never seen the point of smoking my own pig. I do have my own house barbecue spice that I use on everything from pork chops to popcorn.  And of course, pimento cheese.

Barbecue Pimento Cheese

1 Tablespoon sweet paprika 

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon celery salt 

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼  teaspoon onion powder 

¼  teaspoon chili powder 

¼  teaspoon crushed red pepper 

¼  teaspoon garlic powder 

1/8 teaspoon cayenne 

8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese

8 ounces naturally smoked orange cheddar cheese

4 green onions, white and some green parts, finely diced

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and drained

Mix all the spices together until thoroughly blended.

Grate the cheeses together into a large bowl and toss together to combine.  Add the green onions and toss again.  I find my clean, dry hands the best tool for this.  In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with 2 Tablespoons of the spice mix and stir until completely incorporated.  Stir the mayonnaise into the cheese mixture until everything is well blended and all the cheese is coated.  Stir in the pimentos until they are evenly distributed throughout the mix.  

Chill the pimento cheese, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the flavors meld.  This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes 3 ½ cups

There will be some spice blend leftover.  Keep it in an airtight container and sprinkle it over hamburgers, steak or, my favorite, popcorn.

 

No Churn Peach Ice Cream with Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce

It is hot here. All summer. So ice cream is must. Homemade ice cream is a special treat, but it involves a little effort in the kitchen that I’m not always up to in the heat of summer. I have memories of making ice cream with my family as a child. We had this electric contraption that fit over a basin that went in a bucket filled with rock salt and ice. Making the base and pouring it in the machine was exciting, but for my brother and I, the excitement faded after about 5 minutes of watching the churn do its job, leaving my mother to wait the rest of the time watching and adding ice and salt for the rather lengthy time the whole process took. Technology has advanced and now I have a little electric ice cream maker that has a bowl that stores in the freezer – the problem is I don’t always have room in the freezer. So when I started seeing lots of no churn recipes on the internet, I was intrigued. And it turns out it’s good. The texture is a bit thicker and grainier than the type churned in a machine that whips in air, but to me the ease of preparation fully justifies the denser texture. And the recipe is highly adaptable too. Start with condensed milk and cream, then you can add fruits, herbs and spices to your tastes.

I went for sweet in season peaches, heated lightly to release some juice. I added a little buttermilk here for the tang and creaminess. My favorite part of ice cream is usually a sweet sauce, so I wanted to create a perfect complement for the peaches, which leads me to sweet tea. I’ve been there before, in this Peach Bourbon Cake with Sweet Tea Peaches. This caramel sauce is rich and with the lovely tannic bite of tea and the freshness of mint and lemon. It’s a perfect summer version of caramel sauce that would be lovely on any kind of ice cream or with fresh fruit.

No Churn Peach Ice Cream with Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce
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For the Ice Cream
  1. 3 large peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  4. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  5. Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
For the Caramel
  1. 4 black tea bags
  2. 1 sprig of fresh mint
  3. 2 cups water
  4. 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  5. ½ cup granulated sugar
  6. ½ cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Put the peaches in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until the peaches are soft and some juice begins to run. Set aside to cool.
  2. Pour the heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip until stiff peaks form. Add the condensed milk and whip until the mixture is thick and soft peaks form then add the buttermilk and vanilla beans seeds and beat until completely combined and thick. Stir in the peaches and their juice until evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into a metal loaf pan and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream. Freeze overnight.
For the Caramel
  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then drop in the tea bags and mint sprig. Leave to infuse off the heat for 5 minutes, then remove the tea bags and the mint. Return to the heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the mixture is reduced to one cup of tea, then stir in the lemon juice and sugar until dissolved. Boil until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of maple syrup, stirring frequently. Stir in the heavy cream and continue cooking until the syrup is thickened back to a syrupy consistency – it will thicken a little when it cools. Cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Summer Squash and Leek Gratin

Squash casserole is a Southern summer must. My go to has been a classic version, rich with cheese and sour cream, and I adapted that for a pimento cheese version in my first book, Pimento Cheese the Cookbook. Most southerners deal with an overabundance of summer squash, whether it’s from friends who garden or the irresistible urge to buy the locally grown, beautiful sunshine yellow vegetable at the farmers market.  So we are always looking for new and interesting ways to serve fresh squash. This gratin has the beautifully creaminess we love  in squash casserole, but is lighter and very fresh and bright.  My mom told me this was the best thing I’ve made recently, and what better endorsement could there be.

I like that the leeks in this dish complement the squash without overwhelming – the brilliant sunny taste of the squash shines through. Thyme is my favorite herb with squash, but feel free to branch out with marjoram or oregano. Nutty gruyere cheese and a light hit of breadcrumbs make a rustic topping, but you could also use fontina or swiss.

Summer Squash and Leek Gratin
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 2 large leeks, white and lightest green parts only
  2. 2 pounds yellow summer squash (about 4 medium)
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  4. 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (stripped from the stalks)
  5. 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1 cup milk, heated in the microwave or a small pan until hot to the touch
  9. ¾ cup grated gruyere cheese
  10. ½ cup bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Slice the leeks in in half, then slice the leeks into thin half-moons. Place in a colander and rinse well, then leave to drain for a few minutes. Thinly slice the squash – I use a mandoline, but the slicing blade of a food processor also works, or a knife and a little patience.
  2. Melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a large, deep-sided sauté pan or a Dutch oven (you need room to stir the squash around). Add the leeks with some water clinging to them and stir to coat with the butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft and glassy, do not let them brown, about 15 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat in the butter and combine with the leeks. Cook until the squash is tender and floppy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves, the salt and the pepper and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until there is no dry flour left visible in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the hot milk and bring to a bubble. Cook until the milk has thickened and created a nice sauce for the vegetables, about 5 minutes. Transfer everything to a buttered 2-quart baking dish. If you are making this ahead, leave to cool before proceeding.
  3. Toss the gruyere and breadcrumbs together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the top of the gratin. Cut the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter into small pieces and dot over the top of the gratin. You can cover the cooled dish at this point and refrigerate for several hours, or bake immediately. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake until bubbly and golden on the top, about 20 minutes.
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Buttermilk Coleslaw

Coleslaw is a perfectly refreshing summer side dish, I’m not sure it’s actually allowed to have a summer celebration without it! There are so many delicious versions of coleslaw, and many people have very particular requirements, it can be a somewhat fraught decision about which to serve. But I do like to switch things up, from tangy, vinegary Crispy Picnic Slaw to this creamy iteration that has a very fresh finish perfect in the heat of summer. Some people tell me am a little bit obsessed with buttermilk, and I can’t say they’re wrong. I think it adds such flavor and dimension to everything it touches. In this recipe, buttermilk makes the slaw tangy and fresh with a refreshing creaminess that manages not to be overbearing.

And this coleslaw is versatile. Great with barbecue, hamburgers or hot dogs, or as a part of a cold picnic spread. I grab my vegetables at the farmers market for a local summer treat at the peak of freshness. If you can’t find two kinds of cabbage, one color is perfectly fine, and you can omit the carrots or the radishes, though they add such a lovely, colorful touch. You may want to drain off a little of the dressing before serving, some of the liquid from the cabbage will add to the dressing.

Buttermilk Coleslaw
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 small head of green cabbage
  2. 1 small head of purple cabbage
  3. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  4. 2 carrots
  5. 3 radishes
  6. ½ cup mayonnaise
  7. ½ cup whole buttermilk
  8. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  9. 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  10. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  11. generous grinds of black pepper.
Instructions
  1. Shred the cabbage – you can do this on the food processor, a box grater, or very thinly slice the cabbage with a large knife. You should have about 10 cups of cabbage Place the cabbage in a colander and toss it with the salt. Leave it to drain for at least an hour, tossing it around a few times. Rinse and drain the cabbage. Spread the cabbage on paper-towel lined baking sheet. Grate the carrots and radishes and toss with the cabbage. Leave to dry for about half and hour. You can pat it dry with more paper towels if you prefer.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, sugar, lemon juice and pepper until thoroughly combined. Add the grated vegetables and toss with a fork to coat the slaw with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for several hours at least, but overnight is perfect. Toss well before serving. You may want to drain off some accumulated dressing.
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Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham

 

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes in summer serve cold soups for supper. Mostly vichysoisse from a can and something called consommé madrilène. I didn’t not like this. The idea of cold soup just didn’t square in my adolescent brain. But like most things, my mother was right. Cold soup is such a perfectly refreshing summer meal. And it is a great opportunity to make the most of summer’s delicious produce, like my summer squash Vichysquash, or Cold Vidalia Onion Soup. And my favorite summer produce is unquestionably field peas. Add a touch of buttermilk and I am in chilled soup heaven.

Delicate lady peas are perfect for pureeing into a light and creamy soup. Tangy buttermilk and soft leeks add layers of flavor. The crispy country ham adds the perfect salty note and crunchy texture to finish it off. This soup can be an elegant dinner party starter, and I can also see it as one of those soup shooters serves at a cocktail party, with a pretty shard of country ham balanced on the glass. But I also like it for a simple summer dinner, maybe with some sliced tomatoes on the side, and having some in the fridge over a weekend to sip for lunch or a snack is a treat.

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3)
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 1 pound fresh lady peas
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 2 shallots
  6. 6 – 7 stalks of thyme
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. zest and juice of one large lemon
  9. 1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
  10. 6 ounces thinly sliced country ham
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. Remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not let the leeks brown.
  2. When the leeks are soft, add the lady peas, the celery stalks (broken in half if needed) and the shallots. Pour over 6 cups of water. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and drop in the pot with the bay leaves. Zest and juice the lemon and set aside both. Drop the squeezed out lemon halves in the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the peas are very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Fish out the bay leaves, the thyme bundle and the lemon halves, then cool the soup to room temperature. Transfer the soup to a blender (in batches if needed), add the lemon zest and juice and puree until completely smooth. Season well with salt – it may take quite a bit. Pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer, scraping it through, into the cleaned out pot or a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  4. Cut the country ham into thin slivers and cook in a skillet over medium high heat until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve the soup topped with the slivers of country ham.
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Southern Buttermilk Cobb Salad

Summer entertaining should be easy. It is just too hot to spend hours over a steaming stove. But that doesn’t mean a meal can’t be spectacular. And I am telling you, no one will feel cheated with a salad for dinner when it is this full of delicious, hearty components. I love laying this out on a big rectangular platter – it absolutely produces oohs and ahhs. But a big pretty bowl will work as well. The buttermilk poached chicken is tender with a hint of tang, and the buttermilk vinaigrette walks the line between creamy and light perfectly.

Here’s what I do to make this easy. I marinate and cook the chicken a day ahead and chill in the fridge, and hard boil the eggs keeping them in their shell in the fridge as well and whip up the dressing. Then before serving I put the bacon on a baking sheet in the oven to cook until crispy, then drain it on paper towels. Radishes and cucumbers can be sliced and cubed a few hours ahead. Cut the chicken into chunks, peel and slice the eggs, crumble the bacon and shortly before dinner is to be served, just assemble the salad. Serve with some lovely bread and you’ve got a full meal.

What I list here is a guide: go with whatever beautiful fresh vegetables you find. Avocado is traditional on a cobb salad, but I like refreshing locally grown cucumbers, paired with colorful radishes and bright tomatoes. Blue cheese adds a lot of tang, but goat cheese is wonderful too.

Southern Buttermilk Cobb Salad
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Buttermilk Poached Chicken
  2. 3 ½ cups whole buttermilk
  3. 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
  4. Salt and pepper to taste
  5. 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  6. Buttermilk Vinaigrette
  7. 2 green onions, very finely chopped
  8. 1 clove of garlic, put through a garlic press
  9. 2/3 cup whole buttermilk
  10. 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  11. 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  12. ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Salad
  1. 2 heads of romaine lettuce
  2. 3 hard boiled eggs. sliced
  3. 3 large radishes. Thinly sliced
  4. 6 strips of bacon, cooked crisp
  5. ½ cup blue cheese
  6. ½ of a seedless cucumber, cubed
  7. 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
For the chicken
  1. Stir the buttermilk, hot sauce, and a hearty dose of salt and pepper together in a large saucepan. Add the chicken breasts and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Place the pan over medium low heat and bring the buttermilk just to a simmer – do not boil. Cook just at a bubble until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 – 40 minutes. I like to use a probe thermometer to gauge that the chicken has reached 165 degrees. The buttermilk will separate and look a little curdled, that’s fine. When the chicken is cooked through, remove it and rinse off the curdy buttermilk. Pat the chicken dry, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Vinaigrette
  1. Place all the ingredients in a pint jar and shake well to combined. I like to make this a day ahead so the flavors really meld together and store it in the fridge. Shake well before serving.
Assembly
  1. Layer a large platter or salad bowl with torn romaine leaves, then top with the chicken, vegetables, eggs, bacon and cheese, Drizzle with the vinaigrette.
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Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

I have combined a lot of words I like here. Strawberries and biscuits and chocolate. I’m not sure I can do any better for a strawberry season brunch treat. I think strawberries and chocolate are a timeless pairing, though usually found in desserts and candies. Of course, I’m not saying you can’t eat these for dessert, but they make a really lovely surprise on a breakfast or brunch menu. Classic Southern biscuits get an upgrade with seasonal strawberries and a little sweet sugar. Inspired by my Fresh Corn Buttermilk Biscuits, these pale pink beauties are tender and moist and packed with strawberry flavor. Traditional Southern chocolate gravy is rich and chocolate-y without being cloying or tooth-achingly sweet.

These biscuits are also wonderful for strawberry shortcake, split open and layered with whipped cream and sliced, macerated berries. Or mix up a little strawberry butter to spread on them, or your best homemade strawberry jam. The chocolate gravy is wonderful (and traditional) on plain buttermilk biscuits – but if you make these for breakfast or brunch and have some extra gravy, it is very good on ice cream after dinner!

Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  2. 12 ounces strawberries
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
  5. 4 ½ - 5 cups soft wheat flour (such as White Lily)
  6. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  7. A pinch of salt
For the Gravy
  1. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  2. ¼ cup cocoa powder
  3. 3 Tablespoons flour
  4. 2 cups whole milk
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
For the Biscuits
  1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool. Hull the strawberries, cut into chunks and place about 10 ounces in a blender with 4 Tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup). Puree until very smooth (you can add a drop of cream to get things going if needed). Pour the puree into a 2-cup measuring jug. You should have about 1 cup puree. Puree some more strawberries if needed. Add cream to measure 2 cups of liquid. Return the liquid to the blender, add the melted butter and blend until smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix 3 ½ cups flour, the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar, the baking powder and salt with a fork until blended. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. Using the fork, blend everything together, pulling the flour into the wet ingredients until everything is incorporated. Lightly flour your hands and work in up to another 1 cup of flour until you have a soft, cohesive dough. Don’t treat the dough too rough – you want a tender biscuit. Cut three or four strawberries into small pieces and sprinkle them over the dough. Lightly knead in a little more flour and the strawberry pieces until you have a nice, soft, cohesive dough dotted with berries. Don’t be tempted to use more berries – they can make the dough watery.
  3. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Lightly knead the dough, folding it over on itself, about 6 times, then pat it out into a circle 1-inch thick. Using a floured 2- inch biscuit cutter, cut the biscuits by just pressing down and lifting out – don’t twist the cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, almost touching. You can pat out the dough scraps to cut more biscuits, but they are never quite as pretty. I usually get nine biscuits on the first go, then three more from a second pat out. Refrigerate the biscuit dough for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees/
  5. Brush the tops of the biscuits with cream and sprinkle a light sparkle of sugar over the top. Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes, rotate the pan and cook for a further 2 – 3 minutes until they are firm and cooked through.
For the Gravy
  1. Sift the sugar, cocoa powder and flour together into a medium saucepan. You want the dry ingredients lump free from the start. Add the milk and vanilla extract and cook over medium high heat, whisking frequently until the gravy is smooth and thick (like gravy). Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter a few pieces at a time until it is melted and smooth.
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