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.

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce

I call this dish a cobbler, but I know that description can be controversial. I served this dish to my family, and as the spoons scraped the plates, a discussion came up about what is a cobbler exactly. We each described different types of dishes, and went through all the other names for similar dishes – grunt, buckle, crumble, slump, betty…When the plates were clean and the remnants of sauce being eaten by the spoonful, I asked if they thought I should give the dish a different name. The general consensus was, when it’s as good as this, who cares what it’s called.

This sauce is rich and delicious, but you could add a scope of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

 

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Blackberry Cobbler
  2. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon salt
  6. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. ½ cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
  8. ¾ cups whole milk
  9. 2 cups blackberries
  10. Bourbon Sauce
  11. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  12. 1 cup light brown sugar
  13. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  14. 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  15. ¼ cup bourbon
For the Cobbler
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blackberries over the surface.
  3. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until puffed and golden around the edges and a tester inserted in the center of the batter comes out clean.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the Sauce
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is cohesive. Pull the pan off the heat and and cool slightly. Slowly whisk the egg yolks into the mixture and whisk until the sauce is combined and slightly thickened. Whisk in the bourbon and return to the heat, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens slightly. The sauce should be the consistency of thick syrup.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Seriously Fresh Blueberry Pie

Seriously Fresh Blueberry PieWhen the summer blueberries are so abundant, I love to feature them in a way that doesn’t mask their sweet-tart and tender beauty.  And this pie is chockfull of blueberries.  A pile of fresh berries is bound together with sweetened berries and just a hint of cornstarch to thicken things up.  I prefer this to the sometimes gelatinous pie fillings you often find.  And it is so easy to make, its perfect for lazy summer weekends. Because I am not going to fault you for using a pre-made rolled pie crust. 

Nutmeg is a wonderful complement to blueberries. The first time I served this pie, I go that wonderful response “what is that flavor – it is so good”.  Nutmeg is mysterious and elusive, but adds such a unique twist to a blueberry dessert.  You can absolutely serve this pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream (try tangy buttermilk whipped cream) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Seriously Fresh Blueberry Pie
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for a 9-inch pie, fully baked and cooled
  2. 4 cups blueberries
  3. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  6. 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  7. 1 Tablespoon butter
Instructions
  1. Place 1 cup blueberries and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Zest the lemon into the blueberries and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Add water to make ½ cup liquid and add to the blueberries. Stir in the nutmeg and cook over medium-high heat until the berries begin to burst. With an immersion blender, or very carefully in a blender, puree the blueberries until smooth. Mix the cornstarch with just enough water to make a smooth paste, then stir it into the blueberry mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in the butter until melted. Leave to cool.
  2. When the mixture is cool, stir in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries and stir to coat. Spread the mixture in the prepared pie crust and chill for several hours.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

When I was a teenager, I loved to entertain (I still do).  I thought I was a real gourmet, because I knew how to cook – no help from my mom.  We used to have other families for dinner, and sometimes I’d have dinner parties for friends.  My favorite meal was flank steak in teriyaki marinade.  I probably served it 100 times, never thinking that the guests might get tired of it.  The recipe came from a cookbook called A Man’s Taste published by the Junior League of Memphis.  My dad and a friend of his spearheaded this project in an effort to show those Junior League ladies that men could cook too.  And the book was a success.  The recipe below is a version of that original, with the grown-up addition of bourbon.  I think flat-iron is a lovely cut to grill, but you could use flank steak if you prefer.

I never bothered with any embellishments to my teenage steak dinners – I thought an actual recipe from an actual cookbook could not be fiddled with or changed, silly me.  Now, however, I love to add a slice or two of compound butter to any grilled steak. It takes a pretty simple preparation and makes it elegant and full of flavor.  And I have to say, this Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter may be my best version yet.  Sweet and tangy with smoke from the bacon and the grill, it melts lusciously over the meat, leaving just a hint of crispy bacon and green onion behind.

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
  2. 1 slice of bacon, cooked until crisp
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  4. 1 Tablespoon bourbon
  5. 1 Tablespoon sorghum
  6. 1 green onion, white part only, finely chopped
  7. generous grinds of black pepper
  8. pinch of salt
  9. Bourbon Steak
  10. ¼ cup soy sauce
  11. ¼ cup cider vinegar
  12. ¼ cup bourbon
  13. 3 Tablespoons honey
  14. 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  15. 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  16. 2 minced garlic cloves
  17. 2 finely chopped green onions
  18. 1 pound flat iron steak
For the Butter
  1. Finely chop the cooked bacon, and place it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Use a fork to thoroughly mash and whip the butter until well combined. Scoop the butter onto the short end of a piece of waved paper and use the paper to roll the butter into a tight log, twisting the ends like a candy. Refrigerate for several hours until firm. The butter will keep for a week in the fridge or can be frozen for a few months.
For the Steak
  1. Combine the soy sauce, bourbon, vinegar, honey and oil together in a bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the ginger, garlic and green onions. Place the steak in a large ziptop bag and pour over the marinade. Seal the bag and squish it around to cover the steak. Place the bag on a plate and put it in the refrigerator. Marinate for several hours, turning the bag over occasionally.
  2. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to grill it. Preheat a grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and wipe any excess off with a paper towel. Place the steak on the grill and cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook until medium rare, about 150°, 5 minutes more. Remove from the grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice in thin strips across the grain of the meat. Serve with thin slices of the Southern Bourbon Bacon Butter melting over the top.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

I was first drawn to this recipe, because, well, who could resist something called sugar cake. It reminds me of the great classic song “Tea for Two”, the Ella Fitzgerald version is on my kitchen playlist. “Day will break and I will wake, and start to bake a sugar cake, for you to take for all the boys to see.” Recipes for Sugar Cake are scattered through community cookbooks, mostly a version called Moravian Sugar Cake, which involves yeast. But I came across this simple version and had to try it. It is dense and tender and beautifully yellow, with that thick, chewy crust so perfect on a moist loaf cake. I sprinkle the top with sugar to create a crackly sweet bite.

Simple cakes like this are the perfect vehicle for summer’s fresh berries. A simple tumble of blueberries with some lightly sweet whipped cream would be lovely, but I love pulling together the fruit and herbs of summer. This basil-scented blueberry compote is not too sweet, and lets the flavor of the berries really shine.

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Sugar Cake
  2. 3 large eggs
  3. 1 ½ cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. ¾ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Blueberry Basil Compote
  10. 1 pint of blueberries, washed and stemmed
  11. 2 Tablespoons honey
  12. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  13. 5 – 6 basil leaves (attached to the stem is easiest)
For the Sugar Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan generously.
  2. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until lemon yellow, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the cream, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until you have a smooth, thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
  3. Bake the cake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cover the top loosely with foil when it starts to brown. Cool the cake in the pan.
For the Compote
  1. Place the blueberries, honey and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, and cook until the berries are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Mash the berries with a fork and cook until the compote is thickened and reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Leave to cool, then remove the basil leaves. Refrigerate the compote until ready to use. It will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs

Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs

I do love a good stuffed egg. They are always stuffed eggs, never devilled eggs in my family. I do, however, like them simple. I push the boat out a little with my fabulous Pimento Cheese Stuffed Eggs, but I really want the primary flavor to be egg. Highlighted by fresh herbs, a little mustard, but never masking rich, lovely, creamy egg yolk. I have recently seen a slew of recipe pages offering 50 devilled egg recipes, everything from buffalo wing to pulled pork to Korean barbecue. Not for me.

This recipe uses softened butter, which highlights the creamy taste and texture of egg yolks. I like to beat this with an electric mixer rather than smashing them with a fork so, with a little touch of mayonnaise, you really get a smooth, velvety filling. A little tang from lemon zest and mustard and mystery from a touch of celery salt all highlight the egg without masking its flavor.

Buttery Lemon Dill Stuffed Eggs
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 12 large eggs
  2. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  3. ¼ cup mayonnaise
  4. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  5. 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  6. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  7. ¼ teaspoon celery salt
  8. salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the eggs in a large pan and cover with water by about an inch. Place over high heat and when the water comes to a boil, cook the eggs for seven minutes. Fill a bowl with ice and cold water and set in the sink. When the seven minutes are up, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon to the ice water. Leave to cool for 45 minutes.
  2. When the eggs are cooled, roll them on the counter to crack the shells all over and peel. Rinse with cool water to remove any stray shell pieces and pat dry.
  3. Cut the eggs in half (wipe your knife on a paper towel before each egg so yolk doesn’t get on the white) and gently scoop the yolks into the bowl of an electric mixer. Place the empty whites on a tray or stuffed egg plate. Add the softened butter and mayonnaise to the yolks and beat until everything is broken up and rough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the dill, lemon zest, nustard and celery salt and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add salt to taste.
  4. Scoop fill the center indentions of the whites with the filling. Cover and refrigerate the eggs. To avoid plastic wrap touching your beautifully filled eggs, store these in a 9 x 13 storage container with a snap on top or a deep baking dish covered with plastic or foil. These are best made the day you are serving, but can be made a day before and kept covered in the fridge.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

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Shrimp Perloo (Low Country Shrimp and Rice)

Shrimp Perloo

I love delving into traditional recipes from the South, learning new things or rediscovering classics.   Perloo (pronounced purlow, and sometimes spelled that way, or pilau, or any number of variations) is a dish I first heard of when my brother returned from a trip to South Carolina and suggested that I figure out how to make it.  He described is as kind of a jambalaya or dirty rice, but somehow different.  So over the years, I have read recipes and fiddled around with the idea, but never really understood it.  Until I traveled to South Carolina and had a version of perloo in Charleston.  Perloo, you see, comes in all shapes and sizes.  Chicken, duck, shrimp, oyster sausage or a combination. The one I ordered had several main ingredients, in a flavorful bed of rice.  I settled on shrimp perloo, because I love the combination of big, juicy shrimp and rich, seasoned rice, plus the shrimp give it a low country feel.

I’ve streamlined more traditional recipes to produce the rich flavor that could be a great party dish or a weeknight meal. If you can get your hands on some Carolina Gold rice, use that for an authentic version, but long grain white works for me.  I find good seafood stock made with shrimp at the grocery, but use a flavorful vegetable stock if you can’t.  Of course, it you have fresh, head on shrimp, you can go full traditional and make your own stock with the heads and shells.

Shrimp Perloo
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup long grain white rice
  2. 1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  3. 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  4. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  5. ½ teaspoon celery salt
  6. ½ teaspoon salt
  7. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  8. dash of cayenne
  9. 6 strips bacon, diced
  10. 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  11. 2 celery stalks, chopped (about ½ cup)
  12. 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (about ½ cup)
  13. 14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  14. 2 cups seafood stock (or vegetable stock)
  15. 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  16. 1 bay leaf
Instructions
  1. Place the rice in a bowl and cover with cool water by about an inch. Leave to soak for ten minutes, then strain the rice through a fine mesh sieve. Rinse the rice with cool water, shaking it around a few times, until the water coming out of the sieve is clear and not cloudy. Don’t skip this step, it will keep the perloo fluffy and not gummy. Set the cleaned rice aside.
  2. Pat the shrimp dry and spread out on a plate. Mix the sweet and smoked paprika, celery salt, salt and pepper together and sprinkle evenly over the shrimp. Keep the shrimp in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid until it is crispy and brown. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Carefully pour off all but 3 Tablespoons of bacon grease and leave it to cool in the pot for a few minutes. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and the onions translucent. Do not brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with the fat. Cook for about 2 minutes until the edges of most of the grains are a little translucent. Add the tomatoes, seafood stock, parsley and bay leaf and stir a few times to combine. Do not stir a lot, just distribute the ingredients. Bring the perloo to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 12 minutes. Quickly peek under the lid to make sure the liquid is absorbed. If it needs another few minutes, cover the pot and keep cooking.
  4. When the liquid is absorbed into the rice, sprinkle the reserved bacon pieces over the top over the, then spread the shrimp out over the rice. It’s okay if there are two layers. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes on low, then turn off the heat and leave for a further five minutes. Take the lid off, and use a spatula to gently fold the rice over the shrimp. Do not stir like crazy or agitate things too much or the rice will get gluey. If the shrimp are not fully cooked, cover the pot and put it back on low heat for a few minutes.
  5. When the shrimp are cooked through, use two forks to gently fluff the rice. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

 

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Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries come into season when the beginnings of spring are arriving.  When it’s time air out the seersucker and the sandals and give the grill a good clean and make sure the big cooler is ready for weekends at the lake and beach.  And though we drink sweet tea all year, the mint is starting to grow and its time for great big glasses full of ice while sitting outside enjoying the weather before it gets too hot or the mosquitoes get too fierce.  It seems only naturally to take the first fruit of spring and combine it with a delicious dressing tinged with the flavors of the South’s favorite beverage.  Sweet, sweet strawberries and mint combine with the sweet and tangy dressing, set off with a hit of vinegar and emulsified to a nice creaminess with oil.  This salad is beautiful on its on, but looks pretty on butter lettuce leaves as well.  The strawberries can also be part of a sweet dish, served along side a cake or over ice cream.

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup sugar
  2. ½ cup water
  3. 2 black tea bags
  4. a generous handful or fresh mint leaves
  5. 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  6. 6 Tablespoons canola oil
  7. 4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Instructions
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, cover the pan and leave to cool. When the syrup is cool, remove the tea bags.
  2. Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Stack about 10 mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Separate the ribbons and toss with the strawberries.
  3. Place 1/3 cup of the sweet tea syrup in a blender. Add about 5 mint leaves and the vinegar and blend until combined and the mint is beginning to break down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a creamy dressing.
  4. Pour the dressing over the berries in the bowl and gently stir to coat. You may not want to use all the dressing. The berries just need to be lightly coated, not drowning.
  5. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. The strawberries can be sliced ahead of time and the dressing can be made ahead, but do not combine until ready to serve.
  2. Leftover dressing can be used on other fruit or a green salad.
  3. Extra sweet tea syrup can be used as a base for sweet tea. Combined with water to taste, or as part of a brine, as in Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

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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

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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

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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

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