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.

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel FrostingNothing is quite so simply satisfying as a good brownie. Even the plainest, unadorned chocolate bite can fulfill the needs of any sweet tooth craving. But the simple brownie can also be a brilliant canvas for creativity, taking on stir-in surprises, creamy frostings or decadent drizzles. Serving a plate of brownies at a party or to family and friends always gets a lively response. So I like to mix it up sometimes – take the simple brownie concept to a new and indulgent level.My penchant for baking with buttermilk comes into play here, making these rich chocolate treats tangy and ultra-moist. I add some Southern flair with a rich frosting of caramel set off with a good kick of bourbon.

These brownies are easy to make – they only use one pan and the 13 by 9 inch size makes sure there are plenty to go around (even a few to squirrel away for yourself). You can use the same pan for the caramel, but I have found that transferring it to a mixer makes for a smoother, fluffier icing over beating it in by hand. The rich, buttery notes of the caramel, enhanced by a generous tot of earthy bourbon, is a revelation. I’m sure I’ll find many uses for it.

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting
Yields 20
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For the Brownies
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  4. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  5. 2 cups granulated sugar
  6. 1 cup all purpose flour
  7. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  8. ½ cup buttermilk
  9. 2 eggs
For the Frosting
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  2. ½ cup heavy cream
  3. 4 Tablespoons bourbon, divided
  4. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
For the brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9 by 13-inch brownie pan with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Place the butter, water, cocoa powder and bourbon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in the sugar until combined, then add the flour and baking soda and stir until thoroughly combined. Measure the buttermilk in a 2-cup jug, then beat in the eggs. Add this to the batter and stir until combined. The batter will be thin. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan.
For the Frosting
  1. Place the butter, cream, 2 Tablespoons of the bourbon and the brown sugar in a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a slow boil and cook for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the cooked caramel into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth, then add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of bourbon, the remaining 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and the salt and beat until smooth. Spread the batter over the cooled brownies and leave to set for at a few hours.
  3. Cut the brownies into generous squares
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Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion Gravy

Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion GravyCountry ham is an important family memory for me. It was always part of any celebration at my grandparents’ home in middle Tennessee and the leftovers of a big ham were an ongoing treat. Mostly though, we enjoyed it just as slices off the whole ham, sometimes tucked into beaten biscuits or as leftovers on simple sandwiches or mixed with sweet butter to spread on crackers. The resurging interest in Southern ingredients and cooking over the last decade has brought about a real revival of country ham as a creative ingredient, used in all kinds of interesting ways. And its popularity has made it more available – you no longer have to drive out to a smokehouse in the country or find a little country market. You can even order some of the best there is online. So I’ve taken to expanding my own country ham repertoire, finding creative ways to include it in all sorts of dishes. This chicken dish is simple to prepare, but has a real touch of elegance. It seems more complicated on the plate than it is to actually make. I give it a Southern twist, using thin sliced country ham instead of a more traditional prosciutto to wrap breasts stuffed with more of the salty, porky goodness and some fresh green onions, then draped it in a creamy, tangy Southern gravy.

My favorite ham for this is the Surryano ham made by Edwards Country Ham in Virginia. Unfortunately, Edwards is recovering from a fire that destroyed their smokehouse, so the thin-sliced high can be a bit hard to come by at the moment. Luckily my local gourmet grocery has country ham at the deli counter that they will slice to order. If you really can’t find country ham, you can use prosciutto, or even thinly sliced bacon.

Country Ham Wrapped Stuffed Chicken with Green Onion Gravy
Serves 4
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For the Chicken
  1. 2 green onions, white and light green parts
  2. 4 ounces thin sliced country ham, at least 6 slices (see note)
  3. 1 Tablespoon parsley leaves
  4. 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  5. ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  6. salt and pepper to taste
  7. 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
For the Gravy
  1. 4 Tablespoons (½ stick) butter
  2. 6 green onion, white, light green and some bright green parts
  3. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 ¼ cups chicken stock
  5. ¾ cups heavy cream
  6. salt and pepper to taste
For the Chicken
  1. Chop the green onions into chunks and drop in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse a few times to break up. Add the parsley and pulse a few times. Add 2 slices (about 1 ounce) of the country ham and pulse to chop. Add the cream cheese, hot sauce a pinch of salt and a few generous grinds of pepper and blend until smooth.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Place the each chicken breast on a cutting board and pat dry with paper towels. Hold the breast down with the palm of your hand and use a sharp knife to cut a slit horizontally into the thick part of the breast, about ¾ of the way through. Open each breast like a book, then divide the cream cheese filling between the breasts, spreading it over the open pocket. Close the top of the chicken breast, making sure you enclose all the filling. Tuck it into the pocket with your fingers if needed. Fold any thin ends on the chicken underneath the breast to ensure even cooking. Wrap each chicken breast in the remaining slices of country ham, covering the whole breast and tucking the ham under the chicken. Transfer the breasts to the prepared pan and bake until cooked through to an internal temperature from 165°, about 20 minutes.
For the Gravy
  1. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Finely dice four green onions, and add them to the butter in the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and translucent. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until smooth and blended with the butter. Cook until pale colored and smooth, then whisk in the chicken broth. Bring to a bubble, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Finely dice the remaining two green onions, including some darker green parts. Whisk in the cream, the green onions and a generous grinds of black pepper and continue stirring and cooking until thickened to a pourable gravy. Taste and season with salt and more pepper as needed. Be liberal with the black pepper, it adds a lot of depth to the gravy.
  2. When the chicken is cooked through, serve it with the warm gravy.
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Buttermilk Grits with Bacon Gravy

Buttermilk Grits with Bacon GravyI have combined in this recipe three of my favorite Southern ingredients. Flavor-packed, stone ground corn grits, creamy, sharp buttermilk and, of course, bacon. The trifecta of flavor elevates the simplicity of each ingredient to a new, sophisticated level. Buttermilk adds an elusive edge of tang and the smoky bacon plays off it beautifully. Another reason I love this recipe is that with the burgeoning local food scene, I find carefully, traditionally and creatively made local versions of each ingredient. Many farmers, restaurants are and markets are curing their own bacon, and small producers are grinding locally grown corn and heritage strains on traditional mills to make hearty, rich grits. And as people rediscover the beauty of buttermilk, local dairies selling rich, whole buttermilk, which makes all the differences in recipes like this. Seek out the best versions of these components you can, and prepare to be wowed.

Of course these grits and gravy are delicious at breakfast, but I generally serve this hearty combination as a supper side dish. It’s wonderful beside a good pork roast, with a little gravy drizzled over the pork as well. And imagine this with a plate of fried chicken!

Buttermilk Grits with Bacon Gravy
Serves 6
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For the Grits
  1. 2 cups whole buttermilk
  2. 2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
  3. ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, cut in pieces
  4. 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  5. 1 cup stone ground yellow grits
For the Gravy
  1. 5 strips of bacon
  2. I medium yellow onion
  3. 3 sprigs of thyme
  4. 2 tablespoons flour
  5. 2 cups pork stock or beef stock
  6. generous grinds of black pepper
For the Grits
  1. Stir the buttermilk, chicken broth, butter and salt together in heavy bottomed large Dutch oven. Cook over medium high heat until the butter is melted and it all comes to a low boil. Stir in the grits and reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. The grits should be tender and the liquid absorbed. You may add a bit more broth if needed. When cooked, the grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth.
For the Gravy
  1. Finely dice the bacon and place in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Finely dice the onion, and when the bacon has released its fat and is beginning to brown, add the onions to the pan. Stir to coat the onions evenly in the bacon grease. Drop in the thyme stalks. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and brown and the bacon is cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.
  2. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour the bacon onion mixture into the strainer. Stir to release as much bacon grease as possible. Discard the thyme stalks. Measure out 2 Tablespoons of bacon grease and return it to the pan. Whisk in the flour and cook until smooth. Slowly whisk in the stock, scraping the lovely browned bits from the bottom of the pot as you go. Simmer until the gravy begins to thicken, stirring frequently, then stir the bacon and onions back in the pot. Simmer until the gravy has thickened to coat the back of a spoon. Season generously with black pepper. The gravy may be made several hours ahead. Reheat over low, stirring in a little extra stock if you think it needs it.
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Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

Carrot and cream cheese is a classic pairing that always makes an appearance around Easter. But the combination is usually in sweet recipes. I love a moist carrot cake with rich cream cheese icing, or a carrot cookie with a drizzle of cream cheese glaze. But I decided to turn that combo around, creating a savory interpretation perfect for an Easter brunch. And what Easter brunch would be complete without biscuits?

Cornmeal adds interest to the texture of these biscuits, and carrots contribute a hint of sweetness. Dill is such a perfect pairing with carrots I just had to add a dose to the recipe. The cream cheese butter is rich and flavorful and perfect with these biscuits, but they are also delicious with a smear of plain butter. Try these next to an Easter ham to make a very interesting sandwich combo.

Carrot Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter
Yields 12
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For the Biscuits
  1. 1 ¼ cup soft wheat flour (I like White Lily)
  2. ¾ cup yellow cornmeal
  3. 3 teaaspoons baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  6. 1 ½ Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  7. ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, cut into small cubes
  8. ½ cup finely grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
  9. ¾ cup whole milk
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  3. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  4. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl using a fork. Add the chopped dill and toss to distribute it evenly. Add the butter cubes, and using a pastry blender or your good clean hands, rub the butter into the flour mixture until you have a fine, sandy texture with a few pea size pieces of butter visible. Add the grated carrots and use your hands to toss them into the flour mixture so there are no clumps of carrot and everything is evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the milk and stir with a spatula just until combined. Knead with your hands in the bowl a few times just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry cloth and dump the biscuit dough on it. Pat the dough into a rectangle, fold it in half, turn it over and pat into a rectangle again. Do this three times, patting the dough into a ½-inch slab, then use a well-floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut biscuits. Place the biscuits vey close together, almost touching, on the prepared baking sheet. Gently fold and pat the scraps of dough and cut more biscuits.
  4. Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until risen, puffed and lightly browned. If you like a burnished top to your biscuits, turn the broiler on for the last 1 – 2 minutes of baking.
  5. Makes at least 12 2-inch biscuits
For the Cream Cheese Butter
  1. Beat all the ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until thoroughly combined and smooth. Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. Bring to room temperature before serving. The cream cheese butter can be keep covered in the fridge for up to a week.
  2. Makes about 1 cup
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Morning Glory Coffee Cake

Morning Glory Coffee CakeI’ve always appreciated Morning Glory Muffins. They are a great morning treat, packed full of delicious ingredients that at least make you feel like you are starting the day right. I’ve made many versions over the years – it used to be a standard treat I took to new moms. It’s such a cheerful and hopeful name. My recipe kind of fell by the wayside though; I guess I just replaced it with other muffin and quick bread ideas. It came back to mind when I found myself with a can of crushed pineapple I accidently purchased and the other ingredients were on hand as well. I decided to turn my recipe into a Bundt cake simply because I have a pretty specialty Bundt pan I don’t use nearly enough.

I replace the usual oil in this recipe with unsweetened applesauce. Sure, that makes this slightly healthier, but I really like the extra hit of apple flavor. Make sure you buy unsweetened applesauce, not one packed with added sugar and flavors. I get those little snack cup sizes that I can keep in the pantry for all sorts of baking projects. You can vary the spice in this cake to your own tastes, adding a little allspice or clove, or going all cinnamon. As a morning treat, I think a light sprinkle of powdered sugar is just enough sweet, but you could make a simple glaze – even one using the juice drained from the can of crushed pineapple.

Morning Glory Coffee Cake
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. ¾ cups granulated sugar
  2. ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  3. 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. 1 cup grated carrots (from about 2 medium)
  10. 1 medium red apple, grated with the peel on
  11. 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  12. ½ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  13. ½ cup chopped pecans
  14. 2/3 cups unsweetened applesauce
  15. ½ cup buttermilk
  16. 3 eggs
  17. confectioners’ sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray an 11 – 12 cup Bundt pan with baking spray (I like Bakers’ Joy).
  2. Mix the sugars, flour, baking soda, spices and salt together in a large bowl. I like to use my good clean hands to break up any lumps of brown sugar. Add the carrot, apple, pineapple, coconut and pecans and stir to combine. Stir in the applesauce. Measure the buttermilk in a 2 – cup jug, then crack in the eggs and beat well. Add the buttermilk and eggs to the bowl and stir just until the batter is combined, making sure there is no dry mixture left.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  4. Sprinkle the top of the cake with confectioners’ sugar.
Notes
  1. If you would like a little extra hit of sweet, make a glaze with powdered sugar and buttermilk and drizzle over the cooled cake.
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Persimmon Pie

Persimmon Pie

Some years ago I came across some American persimmons, which are a little hard to find in this part of the country nowadays. I got a little overexcited and bought quite a few of the rare gems, so I had to go searching for recipes. A friend gave me an old recipe from her family for persimmon pie, and I quickly made it. I appreciated the novelty of it– I’d never even heard of persimmon pie until she gave me the recipe – so I continued to make it with imported Japanese persimmons, which are readily available in the cold of winter here. But at some point, I realized that the original version, loaded with classic pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves really didn’t taste that much like persimmon. In fact, it was pretty close to pumpkin pie. I have tinkered with the basic recipe, reducing the spice to the barest hint of subtle mace and adding a nice dose of complimentary orange that brings out the fruitiness of the persimmons, while highlighting the slightly floral undertones. Now I feel like this is a unique dessert that makes the most of lovely persimmons.

I revisited this recipe recently, because I happened to find some dried persimmon slices in the store, and I couldn’t help but think how pretty they would look as a garnish. A dollop of whipped cream is also a nice touch.

Persimmon Pie
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for one 9-inch pie, homemade or rolled store bought
  2. Zest and juice of one orange
  3. 1 large Hachiya persimmon (about 9 ounces)
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
  6. 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
  7. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  8. 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
  9. ½ teaspoon vanilla
  10. ¼ teaspoon mace
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Line a 9-inch pie plate with pastry, then line with parchment paper and fill with baking weights or tried beans. Blind bake the crust for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently remove the paper and weights. Leave to cool slightly.
  3. Zest the orange into a large mixing bowl, then squeeze the juice into a bowl or measuring cup. Place 2 Tablespoons of the juice in a blender. Cut the stem from the persimmon and cut into pieces and add to the blender. Blend until smooth. You should have one cup of puree. Crack the eggs into the mixing bowl and lightly beat, then stir in the puree, the cream and the butter until well combined. Add the sugars, vanilla and mace and beat until well combined.
  4. Pour the filling into the crust and bake the pie for 50 minutes to an hour until the filling is set and only slightly jiggly in the center. Cool completely, then refrigerate until firm.
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Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache

Valentine’s Day gives us all a chance to indulge, and what better way to treat yourself than a rich chocolate cake that is simple to make and completely decadent. I’ve made some version of Chocolate Pound Cake for years, but I kept thinking “this is good, but it could use more chocolate.” So with some tinkering, I figured out how to pack in some really intense chocolate flavor. A healthy dose of deep chocolate cocoa powder set off by tangy buttermilk, with just a little hit of semisweet chocolate. Using buttermilk in the ganache sets it apart – rich chocolate with tang and zip.

This simple cake makes a wonderful dessert for a family dinner or a thoughtful gift for a friend. And I’m just saying, a leftover piece for breakfast with a dollop of strawberry jam keeps the indulgence going.

Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake with Buttermilk Ganache
Serves 8
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For the Cake
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  2. 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  3. ½ cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  6. ½ cup bittersweet (or semisweet) chocolate chips
  7. 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  8. ¾ cup natural cocoa powder
  9. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  10. ¼ teaspoon salt
  11. 1 cup whole buttermilk, well shaken
For the Ganache
  1. 6 Tablespoons whole buttermilk, well shaken
  2. 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  3. ½ Tablespoon butter, cute into cubes
For the Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a standard 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking spray (like Baker’s Joy).
  2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the egg until completely combined. Beat in the vanilla and the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together into a small bowl. Really do take the time to sift, as cocoa powder tends to clump. Beat the flour mixture into the butter, alternating with the buttermilk, into two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 – 70 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to the rack to cool completely.
For the Ganache
  1. Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper under the rack where the cake has cooled to catch any drips.
  2. Heat the buttermilk in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it begins to bubble. Do not boil. The buttermilk will begin to separate; that’s fine. Drop in the chocolate and turn off the heat. Beat vigorously with a spatula or spoon until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Beat in the cubes of butter until melted and smooth. Because the buttermilk curdles slightly, this ganache is not utterly smooth and silky, but I like it that way – it gives it a homemade look. If you like, you can pour the ganache through a fine strainer into a bowl before spreading it on the cake.
  3. Slowly spread the ganache over the top of the cake. I love to leave most of the ganache on the top, with just a little overflow dripping down. Go slowly and you can do this to. This way you don’t loose too much frosting in drips. Let the ganache cool and firm up for at least an hour, then slice and serve.
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Mardi Gras Potato Salad

Mardi Gras Potato Salad

I recently made a batch of Debris Po’ Boys to photograph and served them to family for dinner. I needed a nice side dish, and though my first thought was New Orleans made spicy potato chips, I happened to be in the produce department and came across bags of little purple and gold mixed potatoes. With Mardi Gras on my mind, I decided I just had to make a thematic potato salad. Okay, it’s a little silly, making a side dish in the purple, green and gold colors traditional in Mardi Gras celebrations, but it was a fun conversation piece as we served ourselves supper. And these roasted potatoes tossed with the trinity of Cajun cooking – onions, green peppers and celery – coated in a tangy creole mustard vinaigrette also happens to be very good.

Purple and yellow potatoes are pretty easy to find in groceries this day, particularly gourmet or natural food markets. If you don’t find the little golf ball sized miniature version, just cut whole potatoes into bite-sized chunks.

Mardi Gras Potato Salad
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ½ pound small purple potatoes
  2. ½ pound small yellow potatoes
  3. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 3 Tablespoons Creole mustard
  6. 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  7. ½ teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  8. 4 green onions, white and some green parts, finely chopped
  9. ½ cup olive oil
  10. 1 stalks celery
  11. 1 green bell pepper
  12. chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Cut the potatoes into bite sized pieces (quarters or eighths, depending on size). Spread the potatoes out on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle over the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and some black pepper. Roast the potatoes until a knife inserted in the center of a piece meets no resistance, about 25 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a large bowl.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, mix the mustard, vinegar, hot sauce and green onions in a mason jar and shake to combine. Add the olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper and shake until fully combined. As soon as you put the hot potatoes in the bowl, pour over the vinaigrette and stir to coat. Leave to cool to room temperature, stirring a few times to distribute the dressing.
  4. Chop the celery into a small dice, then seed and chop the pepper into a small dice. When the potatoes are cool, add the celery and pepper to the bowl and stir to distribute evenly. Waiting until the potatoes have cooled keeps the celery and pepper crisp. Taste and add salt as needed. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
  5. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to serve. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley and serve.
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Debris Po’ Boys

Debris Po BoyMardi Gras is almost upon us, so it’s time to talk Po’ Boys. Traditionally, the story goes, the Debris po’ boy (pronounced DAY-bree in this case) was made from the leftover bits and pieces left behind from carving a roast, soaked in the gravy and meat juices. But I don’t generally have enough leftover roast beef to serve a crowd, and besides, debris is just too good to wait for leftovers. So I make this version in the slow cooker, to get the slow roasted flavor and lots of juices to turn into gravy. It is a very fun celebratory meal, letting everyone assemble their own po boy.

The bread for a po’ boy is obviously a key part of the overall experience. In New Orleans, po’ boy bread is a thing unto itself – made by local bakeries it is soft in the center with a crust that is not overly hard or chewy. Outside Louisiana, it’s a little hard to find real po’ boy bread, so you have to do you’re best. I find typical French bread too chewy so I tend to go for a hoagie roll or Mexican bollilo rolls. If you have a bakery in the area that supplies rolls for a Vietnamese bahn mi place or a Vietnamese grocery, that version of French bread is pretty close. Split the rolls or loaves and lightly toast.

Debris Po Boys
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 4 stalks celery
  2. 3 carrots
  3. 2 onions
  4. 1 green bell pepper
  5. 10 cloves garlic
  6. 3 bay leaves
  7. 3 sprigs thyme
  8. 5 pounds bottom round beef roast (in two pieces is fine)
  9. Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s)
  10. 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (I use Abita Turbo Dog)
  11. 1 cup beef broth
  12. 1 teaspoon corn starch
  13. Creole Spread
  14. ¾ cup mayonnaise
  15. ¼ cup Creole mustard (I like Zatarain’s)
  16. 2 teaspoons honey
  17. 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)
  18. 6 French bread rolls or hoagie rolls
  19. provolone cheese
  20. shredded lettuce
Instructions
  1. Place the celery, carrots and onions in the bottom of an 8-quart slow cooker. Stem and seed the bell pepper and add it to the crock with the garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Generously coat both sides of the beef roast with creole seasoning, rubbing it into the meat. Place the meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour in the beer and beef broth, cover and cook over low heat for eight hours. Remove the meat from the slow cooker to a deep rimmed platter or bowl. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker through a strainer into a large saucepan. Discard the solids. Let the juices settle, then skim off the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, until it is slightly reduced.
  3. While the liquid is boiling, shred the beef. Cut away any fat or gristle, then use two forks to pull the meat into shreds.
  4. Put the cornstarch onto a small bow and whisk in a few tablespoons of cooking liquid and whisk until completely smooth. Whisk the cornstarch mixture back into the juices and continue cooking for 2 -3 more minutes.
  5. Rinse out the slow cooker crock and return the meat to it. Pour over the juices and keep warm until ready to serve.
For the Creole Spread
  1. Whisk together the mayo, mustard, honey and hot sauce. This can be done up to a day ahead, covered and kept in the fridge.
  2. To serve, split the rolls and lightly toast on a cookie sheet in the oven. Spread on side of the bread with the creole spread. Use tongs to pile the beef onto the bread, then top the hot meat with a slice of cheese, then layer with shredded lettuce.
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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.
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