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.

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

I have, for many years, been searching and experimenting with recipes for a make -ahead breakfast casserole that is all egg.  The classic breakfast casserole around here is sausage, cheese and bread bound with an egg and milk custard, and I have made many variations of that.  But I wanted something that didn’t include bread or other elements, because so often, a brunch spread includes them in other forms.  Okay, for the big holidays, indulgence is the norm – I have been known to serve a plate of bacon and a sausage casserole, cheesy grits, biscuits and muffins – but that is not always the way to go.  It has been my goal to serve a simple, scrambled egg casserole alongside the bacon and ham and biscuits and preserves, not adding to the overload, just complimenting it.  And most off all, I don’t want to be up early cracking eggs and cooking them to order.

This is the result of trial and error, combining the best bits of all sorts of community cookbook recipes.  My version below is very simple, jazzed up only with a little sharp green onion and some chives, but the brilliance of this is its adaptability.  Add ingredients that suit the rest of your brunch spread – a combination of other fresh herbs, some finely diced peppers or mushrooms, even a little bacon or ham.

Creamy Scrambled Egg Casserole

5 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 ½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese

12 eggs

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons finely chopped chives

salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour until you have a smooth paste.  Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Add the nutmeg and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and smooth, about five minutes. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes and whisk it, bit by bit, into the sauce until it is smooth and melted. Remove from the heat.

Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk thoroughly, until the yolks are broken up and the eggs are well combined.  Whisk in a dash of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.  Pour in the eggs and cook gently to form large, soft curds.  Do not “scramble” the eggs too much, just gently push the cooked egg aside to let the uncooked egg cover the bottom of the pan.  When the eggs are almost cooked, but some uncooked liquid is left, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cream sauce over the top.  Sprinkle over the chopped green onion and chives, then fold the sauce through the eggs.  At this point, you can break up any large egg pieces to distribute evenly through the sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Spread the eggs into a well-greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Leave to cool, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 300° and cook the eggs just until heated through, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6 – 8

Print Friendly

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

My life sometimes requires comfort cooking.  Not comfort food, but comfort cooking, though the two are not mutually exclusive.  Comfort food for me is old classics that bring back happy memories, sometimes bittersweet, or that make a down day worthwhile.  Often, that means food prepared by someone other than me.

Comfort cooking is me, in the kitchen, alone.  Usually silent but for the gentle whirr of the refrigerator, sometimes music in the background.  My favorite kitchen tools around me.  Absolute surety in what I am doing.  No complicated techniques, no ingredients I am hoping to understand better.  No attempt to deconstruct or decipher a dish created by someone more skilled than me.  No worries about how others will perceive the end result. No concerns that it might not turn out how I’d hoped.  Sometimes it’s a dish I want to share with my nearest and dearest, but I may not, just savor it comfortably, happily in splendid seclusion.

Chicken and dressing is comfort cooking for me.  In fact, I rather suspect that when this is seen by others, my friends and family may call to chide that I have never made chicken and dressing for them.  It’s not a dish from my childhood, in fact I may have first had a pallid version in a school cafeteria and later only in meat-and-three joints.  But it has all the elements of comfort cooking and comfort food for me.  Simple tasks – making stock, dicing vegetables, baking cornbread, mincing herbs.  A lot of steps, but none difficult or distracting.  I can stand at my post at the kitchen counter, my favorite spot in my beloved home, and work the knife or stir the stock, the fragrance of real cooking around me, and think.  Just think and feel and be. I don’t watch the clock or worry about what’s next.  Because what’s next is something simple and wonderful. Every step, every element made by me.  I don’t even care that the sinks are full of dishes, or there is cornmeal dusted on the floor.  Problems for another day.

The recipe may seem lengthy, but it can be done in gentle stages.  Your home will fill with the wonderful aroma of the stock simmering, the cornbread baking, the vegetables softening and the whole cooking together.  That alone is worth the effort.

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing with Gravy

The Stock and Chicken

3- 4 pound chicken, giblets removed

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

1 leek

2 bay leaves

1 Tablespoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the chicken and all the stock ingredients in a 7 quart or larger pot and add 12 cups of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, skim off any scum that rises.  Reduce the heat to medium low and cover.  Simmer for 4 hours.  Taste the stock, it should be nice and rich.  Simmer a bit longer if needed.  Remove the chicken to a plate, then strain the broth through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a thin tea towel into a large bowl.  Discard the vegetables.  Pull the meat from the chicken and discard the skin, bones and any unpleasant bits.  Refrigerate the meat and the stock for several hours (I frequently do this the day before).  Skim the fat from the top of the stock. Reserve the chicken and the stock to complete the dish.

The Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Place a 9” cast iron skillet in the oven to heat.

Stir the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl until completely combined.  Add the milk, egg and oil and stir just until the batter comes together and there are no visible dry ingredients.  Remove the skillet from the oven using an oven mitt and carefully spread the batter in the hot pan.  Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the cornbread is golden and dry.  Cool completely in the skillet.

The Dressing

¼ cup ( ½  stick) butter

2 carrots, finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic minced

3 sprigs sage, finely minced

2 stalks rosemary, finely minced

3 sprigs thyme, finely minced

¼ cup minced parsley

the reserved chicken meat

1 cup milk

2 eggs

3 – 4 cups reserved chicken broth

salt and black pepper

Break the cornbread into large chunks in a large bowl.

Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the diced carrot, celery and onion and cook until the vegetables are beginning to soften and the onion is translucent, but not browning. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Add ½ cup of the reserved chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are soft.  Stir in the minced herbs and cook about a minute until fragrant.  Scrape the vegetables into the bowl with the cornbread.  Stir to combine and begin breaking the cornbread into smaller pieces.

Chop the chicken meat into small bite-sized pieces.  The tender meat will fall apart, but I think it is best when there are discernible pieces of chicken in the dressing rather than shreds.  Stir the chicken into the cornbread and vegetables to distribute evenly.

Measure the milk in a 2-cup jug, then add the eggs and beat well.  Stir into the dressing, then add 1 cup of chicken broth and stir until the dressing is evenly moist.  Spread the dressing into a deep 8-inch square baking dish.  Do not press it down, just spread it in a nice, even layer.  (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight).

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°.  Pour 1 ½ cups of stock over the dressing.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake a further 20 minutes until browned on the top.  If the dressing looks dry when you remove the foil, drizzle over a bit more stock.

The Gravy:

¼ cup bacon grease

¼ cup butter

½ cup flour

2 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the bacon grease and butter together in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the flour until it is smooth and combined.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 3 – 5 minutes until the foaming subsides and you have a light toffee brown roux, like a fraternity boy’s khaki pants or a roasted peanut shell. Reduce the heat to medium low and slowly stir in the stock.  Cook until the gravy is smooth.  If you like a thinner gravy, add more stock to reach your preferred consistency. Season to taste with salt and black pepper (I like a lot of pepper).

Serves 6

Southern Cornbread Chicken and Dressing wth Gravy

Print Friendly

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Caramel Frosting

Two of my very favorite Southern ingredients are creamy buttermilk and pig.  So, I just couldn’t resist adding the salty crunch of bacon to a classic, tender buttermilk cookie.  Swirling on a bourbon-y version of classic caramel icing makes this a real Southern overload cookie.

I created this recipe several years ago for a party.  I wanted to combine my favorite flavors for a snazzy, different sweet. And at the time, bacon in dessert was unusual. Since then, bacon has turned up everywhere – in donuts, chocolate, cocktails, potato chips.  I understand there is even an alarm app for your phone and a small attachment that wakes you with the wafting smell of bacon.  Then you can put on some bacon lip balm, grab your bacon – painted purse and meet the world.  So I have had this recipe in my files, thinking maybe I didn’t want to get mixed up with the bacon insanity.  But I had a request and made these again and they are worth sharing.

Buttermilk Bacon Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

8 strips bacon

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

3 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup heavy cream

½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 Tablespoons bourbon

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cook the bacon on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet until very crispy.  Pat dry with paper towels and leave to cool.  Chop 6 strips of the bacon finely with a sturdy knife and set aside. Reserve the remaining bacon for garnish.

Beat the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy, a good three minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.  Add the flour, baking soda and salt alternately with buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl and ending with a buttermilk addition.  Add the chopped bacon and beat until combined.

Line two rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop mounds of dough an inch apart onto the paper. I use a 1 Tablespoon cookie scoop.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top shelf to bottom once, until the cookies are golden around the edges, puffed and firm.  Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Combine the butter, cream, brown sugar and bourbon in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue stirring, and cook for 2 minutes.  Set aside to cool, then beat in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth and spreadable.  Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies.  Break the remaining slices of bacon into small pieces and embed them into the frosting if you’d like.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Print Friendly

Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras is a fun season for food.  Not only can you draw from the great canon of Louisiana cooking, you can play with the bright signature colors of purple, green and gold and be a little silly.  This slaw is simple but the multi-colored vegetables and the tangy dressing make it a special dish.  It is beautiful served beside or on top of a po’ boy, but is also a great starter or side with other favorites like Shrimp Creole or Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits. But this slaw is also beautiful at a summer barbecue or picnic, long after Mardi Gras season has passed.

Mardi Gras Slaw

For the dressing:

1/3 cup creole mustard (I use Zatarain’s)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

a couple of dashes of hot sauce

For the slaw:

½ head purple cabbage

½ head green cabbage

2 yellow bell peppers

For the dressing:

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing is creamy.

For the Slaw:

Cut out the core of each cabbage half.  Slice the cabbage with the slicing blade of a food processor.  You’ll need to do this in batches.  Transfer the sliced cabbage to a very big bowl.  Remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers and finely dice.  Add to the cabbage in the bowl.  Use you clean hands to toss everything around until evenly distributed.  Discard any large cabbage pieces or remnants of hard core.

Give the dressing a last whisk to make sure it is creamy and pour it over the slaw.  Stir and toss to coat everything well.  I like to do this with clean hands as well.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.  This is best served soon after it is made, but will keep for up to a day.

Serve 10 – 12

Print Friendly

Grillades and Grits

Grillades and Grits

I first remember having grillades and grits at brunch at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.  It was family trip, maybe an early vacation or taking my brother to look at college.  My parents made us dress up – would have checked to see that we packed something appropriate, and it would have been our fancy meal of the trip.  And Commander’s was fancy, particularly to a young teen with little experience.  There were white-coated waiters with trolleys doing all sorts of amazing things like flaming bananas foster and café brulot.  What made me order something with the unfamiliar name grillades, I can’t imagine, but I do love veal and those grillades were made with veal.

In truth, grillades and grits are a rustic dish.  Slow simmered meat and vegetables served over simple grits, so it seems funny that they pair with one of my earliest fancy meal memories.  And the Commander’s Palace I see in my minds eye is nothing like the Commander’s of reality that I know to day.  Like how everything at your high school seems smaller and less significant when you return as an alumnae.  So grillades and grits sat in my mind as a vaunted, scared New Orleans restaurant dish (I had it a various places over the years), something only served by waiters.  But I finally decided to see if it was something I could conquer, and lo and behold, it is a pretty simple dish to prepare.  And when you do it yourself, you end up with the dish that evokes the perfect memories and flavors.  Tender veal, the trinity of creole vegetables, piquant sauce and creamy grits.  Now I want to celebrate my early experiences in New Orleans with this dish of memories any time.  Particularly during Mardi Gras season.

Grillades and Grits

1 ½ pounds veal scallopine (about 6 cutlets)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons Creole seasoning

¼ cup bacon grease (plus more if needed)

1 onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

For the Grits:

6 cups chicken broth (plus more if needed)

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 ½ cups stone-ground grits

6 ounces cream cheese, cubed

6 Tablespoons butter

For the Grillades:

Cut the veal pieces in half or thirds, to yield 4-inch squares.  Place the flour and creole seasoning in a large ziptop bag.  Add the veal pieces and shake well to coat.

Heat the bacon grease in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Shake any excess flour off the veal pieces and add to the pan.  Brown lightly, just a few minutes on each side, then remove to a plate.  Do not crowd the pans, do this in batches.  Add the chopped onion to the hot grease and cook until golden brown, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as you go.  Add a touch more bacon grease if the pan starts to dry out.  When the onions are soft and brown. Add the bell pepper and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft.  Add the garlic and cook a few minutes more.  Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the seasoned flour from coating the veal over the vegetables and stir until no flour is visible.  Add the tomatoes and their juice and the beef broth.  Stir, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom of the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Nestle the veal pieces into the sauce, cover the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. If you would like a slightly thicker sauce, uncover the pan, raise the heat and bubble for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened.

For the Grits:

Season the chicken stock with salt and pepper and bring to a boil in a deep pan with high sides.  Pour the grits into the water and stir thoroughly.  Cook, stirring frequently to keep the grits from sticking, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, but with a little bite.  Be careful while you are stirring, grits spit, so stand back aways.  Stir in the cubes of cream cheese until smooth and melted.  Stir in the butter until melted.

The grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth if needed.

Serve the grillades spooned over a mound of grits.

Serves 4

Print Friendly

Cast Iron Collards

Cast Iron Collards

I adhere very solidly to tradition of eating black eyed peas and greens on New Year’s day for luck and prosperity.  I have a wonderful New Year’s Eve tradition, so on New Year’s Day, I usually sleep in, then curl up on the couch with a book while a pot of peas and some collards stew away on the stove – minimal prep and minimal work.  But this cast-iron skillet, bacon-fried version of collards is a quicker method, if you don’t get around to cooking until its almost time for dinner. If you really sleep in after a night out. Or they make an excellent accompaniment to a  bowl of slow-cooked peas.

I think these are collards for people who don’t like collards.  The bacon of courses helps, as does the fact that these are thin strands of greens, rather than a big leaf.  And the sugar slightly caramelizes the greens and the bacon, adding an interesting touch of sweet.  A big bunch of collards wilts down to a small amount – this makes about 2 cups of cooked greens, so its just enough for a small side.  These are really interesting used as a garnish on a big bowl of black eyed peas or hopping john, just place a tangle of the collards on top. They could even add an extra dimension to soft, slow cooked collards.  You can certainly double the recipe or make multiple batches.

Cast Iron Collards

1 large bunch collard greens

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

6 strips bacon

1 garlic clove

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 Tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Cut the leaves of the collards away from the hard center stems.  Stack the leaves up in bunches of about 6, then roll each bunch into a cigar.  Cut the collards into thin ribbons. Place the collard ribbons in a colander, shuffling them around to make sure they are well separated.  Rinse the collards thoroughly and shake as much water of as possible.  Lay the collard ribbons out on a tea towel, then roll them up in the towel to blot off as much water as you can.  A little damp is fine, soaking wet will be a problem when you add them to the bacon grease.

Put the vegetable oil and bacon strips into a large, deep cast iron skillet and cook over medium heat until the bacon is very crispy and the fat has rendered out.  Do not be tempted to raise the heat or the grease will get too hot and scorch the greens.  When the bacon is crispy, remove it to paper towels to drain.  Drop the garlic clove and the red pepper flakes into the pan and cook for just until the garlic starts to brown and is fragrant, about 20 seconds.  Remove the garlic clove.

Carefully add the collards to the pan, standing back because the moisture on the greens will spit.  Stir the collards to coat in the bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until the greens are wilted.  Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and stir well.  Chop the bacon into rough pieces, add them to the greens and stir. Lower the heat, cover the pan and cook the greens for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are tender.  Watch carefully so they do not burn.  The greens will be dark and soft, with a few crispy edges here and there.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pepper vinegar if you’d like.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment 

Print Friendly

Southern Boiled Custard

Southern Boiled Custard

Boiled custard is one of my great childhood Christmas memories.  We spent a lot of Christmases at my grandparents house in Columbia, Tennessee and my grandmother always served boiled custard in Santa Claus mugs and caramel cake for dessert at Christmas lunch.  Boiled Custard was something you bought.  I never really thought of it as something people make. I assumed it was some mystery product that only the professional dairies could ever produce.  Over time, our Christmas traditions changed and some of our gathering don’t have that nostalgic love of boiled custard, but my mom always buys a little carton, even if only a few of us drink it.  But I have over the years gotten more and more interested in making things from scratch, and low and behold, I discovered that lots of Southern cookbooks have recipes for boiled custard.  I am now pretty sure there are some people who think bought boiled custard is an absolute sacrilege.  So, feeling nostalgic, I set out to create a fresh family recipe for an old-time favorite.  And it is delicious.

After my Grandmother died, my cousin claimed the old Santa mugs.  They were so chipped and cracked no one thought they could possibly be useful and every offer to buy her a new set was refused.  I totally understand that.  Those mugs filled with boiled custard are a part of Christmas.  But I bought my own Santa mug, similar to the old ones, just for me, just for boiled custard.

Southern Boiled Custard

This is a rich drink so small servings will do.  If you want to make more, I recommend making it in several batches.  It is very difficult to create a larger double boiler and more liquid takes longer to cook and is likely to produce lumps.

1 quart whole milk

½ of a vanilla bean

5 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ cup heavy cream (If needed)

Set up a double boiler and bring the water in the bottom pot just to a low boil.  If you do not have a double boiler, place a metal or glass bowl over a saucepan.  The bowl should not touch the bottom of the pan or the water in it and must fit securely so steam does not escape.

Pour the milk into the top of the double boiler, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the milk.  Heat the milk until it is hot to the touch and just bubbling.  Do not boil.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined.  Add the sugar and beat until light and the sugar has dissolved.  Slowly add  ½ cup of the hot milk into the eggs and beat thoroughly.  Repeat with another ½ cup milk.  Pour the egg mixture into the milk in the pan and whisk to combine.  Continue whisking as the milk cooks.  Cook until the custard lightly coats the back of a metal spoon, and when you run your finger through the custard on the spoon it leaves a gap.

While the custard is cooking, wash and dry the bowl and place a wire mesh sieve over it.  When the custard is ready, pour it immediately through the sieve.  Leave it to cool for a few minutes, then place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard.  This will present a skin from forming.  Refrigerate the custard until cold, then pour into a pitcher. If the custard is too thick, whisk in about ½ cup heavy cream.

Serves 6 small glasses

Print Friendly

Red Velvet Pound Cake

Red Velvet Pound Cake

Christmas is the perfect time for red velvet.  It’s the festive color of the season, and it is just so fun.  I’ve made Red Velvet Polka Dot Cookies and Red Velvet Surprise Cupcakes, and experiment with even more ideas.  But this may be the most practical.  Pound Cake is such a holiday staple – it’s easy to make, keeps well and freezes beautifully.  Serve hefty slices with whipped cream or ice cream and some festive sprinkles for a dessert, or smaller slices on a buffet. Wrap a loaf in plastic wrap with pretty ribbon and it makes a beautifully fun, festive gift. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it would be lovely baked in those little decorated paper mini loaf pans as a gift.

I’ve added a simple glaze (skip it for freezing or wrapping) because it adds a lovely snowy top, but the cake is rich and lovely without it.  I’ve even sprinkled the glaze with sparkling sanding sugar to give it a real winter wonderland effect.

Red Velvet Pound Cake

½ cup (1 stick) butter,  at room temperature

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 ½ Tablespoons red food coloring

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cocoa powder

a pinch of salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar

½ cup buttermilk

For the Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan or use baking spray like Bakers’ Joy.

Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and food coloring on slow speed.

Sift the flour, salt and cocoa together in a bowl. Dissolve the baking soda in the vinegar and add to the buttermilk in the measuring jug. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter and egg alternately with the buttermilk in three additions, mixing well after each and scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.  Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release air bubbles. Bake for about 50 minutes or until cake is done and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan about 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Glaze:

Whisk together the powdered sugar and buttermilk until you have a runny galze (use a bit more buttermilk if needed.  Pour the galze evenly over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.

Print Friendly

Spiced Dolly Bars

Spiced Dolly Bars

In the kitchen, surrounded by a surfeit of holiday baking supplies, I had a sudden craving for Hello Dolly Bars.  I love Hello Dollies (or Seven Layer Bars or Magic Bars, whatever you call them), but they are not something I generally make, because I have lots of friends for whom it’s their standard recipe for to parties and weekends away.  So I generally rely on others for my dolly fix.  But standing there, with that craving, I suddenly thought I could get a little creative.  I simply substituted warm, spicy speculoos cookies in the crust and added cinnamon chips to the butterscotch.  I left out the coconut, because I don’t love it, but also because I think it takes away from the unique spicy note of this version of the classic.

Spiced Dolly Bars

2 (8.8 ounce) packages Biscoff cookies (about 60 cookies)

½ (1 stick) cup butter, melted and cooled

1 (14 – ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (11-ounce) package butterscotch chips

1 (10-ounce) package cinnamon baking chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with foil, with the edges overhanging.  Use non-stick foil if you can, spray it well with cooking spray if you can’t.

Break the cookies into the bowl of a food processor and girnd to crumbs.  Add the melted butter an process until themixture comes together.  Press the crumbs in a layer on the bottom of the prepared pan, making sure there are no holes.  Pour the condensed milk over the crust, spreading it out evenly.  Sprinkle the butterscotch and cinnamon chops over evenly over the crust, then the walnuts.  Gently press the chips and nuts into the condensed milk.

Bake the bars for 25 minutes, until everything is bubbly.  It will look a little liquid, but will firm up as it cools.  Cool the bars completely, then lift the whole thing out of the pan using the overhanging foil.

Makes 16 bars

Print Friendly

Tennessee Hot Browns

Tennessee Hot Browns

My mother used to make a dish she called Hot Browns on cold nights when we were kids.  I loved hot brown nights. I didn’t know that Hot Browns were a real dish, something with a history and many fanatical supporters and traditionalists, I just thought it was something yummy my mom invented, specific to our house.  I have to admit that my mom’s version was not traditional. It involved sliced turkey, ham and cheddar cheese soup from a can.  My mom always made them in these white porcelain dishes that I think of today as Hot Brown dishes.

As an adult, who cooks the vast majority of the Thanksgiving meal, I have asked my mom to make Hot Browns with the leftover turkey.  So it occurred to me some years ago that I should develop a recipe for this favorite treat.  In researching the idea, I discovered how serious the discussion of the Kentucky Hot Brown is, with fervent camps for versions with sliced tomatoes, and those without.  I even had a Hot Brown in Kentucky that had potato chips piled on top.  But I didn’t necessarily want to share the classic recipe, but to re-create the memory from my childhood.  So I call these Tennessee Hot Browns to stay out of the battle.  I like lots of cheddar cheese, and no tomatoes, but crispy bacon is always a good thing.  The sandwiches are hot and cheesy and comforting and perfect for a long weekend.

Tennessee Hot Browns

½ cup butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

6 Tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (plus a little for sprinkling)

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

8 slices white bread

About 2 pounds sliced roasted turkey

8 strips bacon, cooked until crispy

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour until smooth and pale in color.  Whisk in the milk, cooking until the sauce is thick.  Whisk in the cheese and nutmeg and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler of your oven. Lay a slice of bread in the bottom of each of four oven proof dishes.  If you don’t have individual dishes, lay the bread in a 13 by 9 inch dish.  Layer the turkey on top of the bread, then pour the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle some grated cheese over the top of each sandwich.  Broil the hot browns until the tops are speckled brown and bubbling, about 5 minutes – but watch carefully.  Lay the bacon slices on top of the hot browns and serve immediately.

Makes 4 sandwiches

Print Friendly