The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Southern Buttermilk Cobb Salad

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

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

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

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

Fresh Strawberry Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy

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

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

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

Buttermilk Braised Pork Roast

Comfort food is universal. Well flavored, simple dishes transcend cultures, regions and time. No matter where you are, you recognize the dishes that reach into your memories and experiences. This dish is like that for me. It had an immediate familiarity, though I’d never had it before. It’s that sense of slow-cooked flavor and rich, creamy sauce and tender pork I recognized. I first tasted a version of it in Italy, and it resonated. Braising pork in milk is a classic Italian preparation that creates moist and tender meat and a creamy, rich sauce. I have made it a number of times with great results, particularly after my month-long culinary sojourn in Italy a few summers ago. I discussed methods and techniques with chef-instructors at cooking classes, waiters in restaurants, and a driver/guide. My obsession with buttermilk naturally led me to try a Southernized version of the classic and I love it even more.

It’s really amazing how this incredibly simple preparation produces such a complex dish. The pork is tender and infused with the garlic and sage flavor, and the sauce is buttery – I mean really buttery. The low and slow cooking really imbues the pork with flavor, and buttermilk is always a wonderful tenderizer. The addition of cream helps hold everything together and prevents too much curdling (though there may be some). I like to give it a little whirl with the immersion blender to smooth it out, then spoon it over the beautifully tender meat.

Buttermilk Braised Pork Loin
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pound boneless pork lion
  2. Salt and pepper
  3. 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 ½ cups whole buttermilk
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
  6. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  7. 6 cloves of garlic
  8. 3 -4 leafy sprigs of sage
Instructions
  1. Season the pork loin well with salt and pepper all over. Heat the oil in the bottom of a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid that fits the loin snugly over medium-high heat. Brown the pork loin on all sides, including the ends, then remove it to a plate. Let the pot cool slightly and wipe out the remaining oil. Return the pork to the pot and pour in the buttermilk and cream. Add the nutmeg to the liquid, then tuck the garlic cloves and sage leaves around the loin. Bring the buttermilk to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for two hours, turning the pork over every 30 minutes. After one hour, leave the pot lid slightly ajar.
  2. Remove the pork to a plate, cover with foil and bring the liquid left in the pot to a hearty boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened and reduces, about 10 minutes. I like to remove the sage stalks and give the sauce a quick whir with an immersion blender to blend in the garlic and smooth it out.
  3. Slice the pork and serve with the sauce ladled over.
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Shrimp Sauce Piquant

Somewhere between an etouffee and a gumbo lies sauce piquant, a rich, roux-based stew with a little kick. The layered flavors of a caramel dark roux, the trinity of Louisiana cooking, rich tomatoes and the added kick of Creole seasoning and chiles is everything you want in a Cajun meal. It’s a perfect winter dish, warm and comforting and spicy, a slow simmered stew packed with flavor. What could be better for a February Mardi Gras?

You can make this with crawfish, chicken or catfish (or heck, alligator if you want) cut into pieces, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Traditionally, this is served over rice, but I think it also makes a delicious topping for grits. Serve it in deep bowls with some hot sauce to shake over the top. Make it a Mardi Gras meal with some Cafe Brulot Brownies or Bananas Foster Pound Cake.

Shrimp Sauce Piquant
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 stalks celery
  2. 1 green bell pepper
  3. 1 medium white onion
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 1 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 Tablespoon creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere's)
  8. 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  9. 1 (10-ounce) ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  10. 1 (4-ounce can) diced green chiles
  11. 4 cups chicken broth
  12. 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (thawed if frozen)
  13. Hot sauce to taste
  14. Salt and pepper to taste
  15. Cooked rice
Instructions
  1. Finely dice the celery, bell pepper and onion. Finely mince the garlic and have it all near the stove.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 5 quart) heavy pan (I like 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 garlic and creole seasoning and give it a good stir. Now add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green chiles and chicken broth, stirring constantly as you pour them in. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the shrimp to the sauce, cover the pot, and cook for about 10 minutes, just until the shrimp are pink, curled and cooked through. Serve over cooked white rice.
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Good Luck Gumbo

Enjoy this repost one of my favorite New Years’ Day recipes from 2011.

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

1 small bunch collard greens

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze. I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups

Sweet Potato Pralines

I aspire to be, but am not much of a candy maker. I get a little nervous about the candy thermometer and the exactitude. In fact, I first started making pralines when I learned how to do them in the microwave. But I have been experimenting and expanding for awhile, and have come to discover making candy is not nearly as intimidating as I had feared. Sure, it takes some organization and patience, but the reward is so great, it’s utterly worth it.

As with a great deal of cooking, what really gets me interested and motivated is old community cookbooks, those treasure troves of local knowledge that always inspire and excite me. Many of these gems have whole chapters on candy making, everything from fudge to toffee to divinity and parlaines. And that is where I found this recipe for “yam” pralines. The idea intrigued me so, I had to try it. With a little tweaking and modernization and some interpretation from a clearly expert praline maker to a real novice, I got this version just right.

These pralines are incredibly autumnal, as sweet and luscious as the original, but with this lovely earthy undertone from the sweet potatoes. And they are celebratory – everyone is impressed with homemade candy. Wrap these individually in little cellophane bags tied with ribbon for a sophisticated Halloween treat, stack them up in a Mason jar as a hostess gift for friendsgiving, or lay them out on a pretty silver tray for the Thanksgiving dessert display.

Sweet Potato Pralines
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups granulated white sugar
  2. 1 cup heavy cream
  3. 1 ¼ cup cooked, mashed sweet potato*
  4. pinch of kosher salt
  5. 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  6. 2 cups chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set near the stove.
  2. Combine the white sugar, heavy cream, sweet potato and salt in a large, heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side. Stir to blend thoroughly, then cook over medium heat until the thermometer reaches 234 degrees (sift-ball stage. Stir occasionally. Meanwhile, melt the brown sugar in a heavy saucepan. When the sweet potato mixture reaches 234, quickly stir in the melted brown sugar and the pecans until thoroughly combined. Remove the pot from the heat, then quickly drop large tablespoons of mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave to cool for several hours until firm and dry. These will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.
  3. Makes about 2 dozen
Notes
  1. * You can cook about 2 sweet potatoes by pricking them all over with a sharp knife and microwaving for 10 minutes until soft when pressed. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, but still warm, cut in half and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Process until you have a smooth puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Leave the puree to cool. I have, however, also used a canned sweet potato puree – just sweet potatoes, not candied yams. I find these at better grocery stores.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Honey Black Pepper Cornmeal Dinner Rolls

I’ve spoken many times before about my desire to produce perfect baked breads and rolls, and my all-to-frequent failures with yeast, kneading and patience. But my quest for easy, no fuss, no fail breads and dinner rolls is an on-going adventure. Sometimes I hit, sometimes I miss, but this recipe is definitely a hit. Instant yeast and the stand mixer make idiot proof rolls like these possible. Really, if I can produce soft, light and fluffy pillowy rolls like these, so can you.

The flavor combination here is inspired by the simplest of corn bread muffins I’ve made for years, a basic recipe jazzed up with a good dose of black pepper and a nice hint of honey. But these light and airy rolls take it to a whole new level. The cornmeal adds a little texture and depth, and the sweet hit of honey plays beautifully with the bite of black pepper. Don’t’ skimp on the pepper, it really elevates these rolls. Butter melting into these rolls is delicious, but a little honey butter could take these up a notch. An extra benefit of this recipe is that it makes a big batch of rolls, perfect for entertaining or big family suppers.

Honey Black Pepper Cornmeal Dinner Rolls
Serves 24
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups whole milk
  2. 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal, plus a little for sprinkling
  3. 1/3 cup honey
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  5. 1 ½ Tablespoons instant yeast
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  8. 3 large eggs
  9. 5 – 6 cups all purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat just until it is warm through and bubbles form around the edges. Stir in the cornmeal and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbling. Scrape the cornmeal mush into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and leave to cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes. Beat in the honey, butter and yeast until smooth, then add the salt, pepper and eggs and beat until well combined and smooth. Beat in the flour, a cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pull the dough off the hook if needed to combine the flour and liquid. You are looking for a wet, shaggy dough, but it should cling together in a ball. You may not need all the flour. Beat the dough for 2 – 3 minutes on medium speed.
  2. Gather up all the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  3. Line a 12 by 17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough, then roll it into 24 equal balls, each about the size of a golf ball and place on the baking sheet close but not touching. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled, about an hour. Sprinkle a little cornmeal evenly over the top of the rolls.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375.
  5. Bake the rolls until golden and baked through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.
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Chocolate Chocolate Chess Pie

You may not forgive me for this one. It is the very definition of decadence. Chess pie, in all its forms, has always been a favorite of mine, from the traditional to my Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie. Add in some chocolate, and I am a really happy girl. I recently made a classic chocolate chess for a lake weekend with friends (and a traditional chess, just to be safe) and though I licked my plate, and got rave reviews, I couldn’t help but think what I could do to snazz up the original, as I am wont to do. And it came to me – chocolate overload. Swap out a standard pie crust for one made with a hit of cocoa, and you have got something special.

The crust can be a little ticky to work with, just be patient and patch any holes with scraps of dough when you fit it in the plate. You can, of course, pour this filling into a standard butter pie crust, but really. The center of the pie needs to be firm, but with a tiny little wiggle. It will fall a little on cooling and some cracks may appear, but those just reveal the gooey chocolate center. I think this pie is amazing on its own, but a little dollop of whipped cream is never a bad thing.

Chocolate Chocolate Chess Pie
Serves 6
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For the Chocolate Crust
  1. 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  2. 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  4. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  5. ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
  6. 3 – 4 Tablespoons ice water
For the Filling
  1. ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  2. 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  3. ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. a pinch of kosher salt
  5. 3 eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 Tablespoon cornmeal
For the Crust
  1. Place the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend completely.  Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into the food processor. Process until you have a crumbly mixture with the butter distributed evenly. With the motor running, add the water a little at a time, just until the dough starts to come together. Dump the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and knead a few times into a cohesive ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is fine.
  2. When ready to assemble the pie, remove the dough from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a round large enough to fit into a 9-inch pie plate (about 12 inches around). Spray the pie plate with cooking spray. Carefully drape the crust over the rolling pin and transfer it to the pie plate. Press the crust into the plate and crimp the edges. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
For the Filling
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the sugar, cocoa powder and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, melted butter and vanilla and stir until completely combined and smooth. Stir in the cornmeal until combined. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the pie is firm, with just a teeny jiggle and the top has formed a crust.  Cool the pie completely.  The pie can be wrapped in plastic wrap and kept on the counter for one day, or refrigerated for two days, or wrapped in plastic and then foil and frozen for up to two months. Thaw in the fridge before serving.
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Creamy Butter Bean Casserole

My mother tells me, often now, that when I was a child, I would no more have eaten a butter bean or a field pea than a piece of shoe leather. She marvels every time I serve, write about or just generally express appreciation for the glories I now see in them. But she never turns down a dish that I make. And this one has become a family favorite. I mean, juicy butter beans, creamy sauce, gooey cheesy, a dash of lemon – what’s not to love.

Though I am always looking for new and interesting ways to cook with these jewels, I tend to lean in the direction of simmering beans and peas with cured pork. But I love the difference here, the sauce that coats the butterbeans is rich and creamy, but really fresh because of the lemon. The crispy bread crumb topping adds a great textural contrast as well. And it can easily be made ahead to serve hot and bubbly at the table. I put lots of fresh butter beans up in the freezer in summer and use them in this dish year round.

Creamy Butter Bean Casserole
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound fresh butter beans
  2. ½ cup butter
  3. ¼ cup flour
  4. 2 cups milk
  5. Zest and juice of one lemon
  6. Salt and pepper
  7. 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  8. 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  9. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  10. 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Soak the butter beans in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Skim off any floaters and pick out any damaged beans. Drain the beans and put into a large saucepan. Cover with fresh water by about ½ an inch, bring to a boil and skim off any foam that rises. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes until the beans are tender, but with a little bite to them. You can cook a bit longer if needed. Drain the beans.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet, then whisk in the flour until smooth and white. Pour in the milk slowly, whisking constantly until smooth. Whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest, about 1 teaspoon salt and several generous grinds of black pepper. Cook, whisking, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and gently fold in the cooked butter beans. Taste the beans, and add salt if needed. These beans can take quite a bit of salt. Layer one half of the creamy beans in a greased 8 by 8 inch casserole. Sprinkle over the cheese, the gently spread the remaining beans over the cheese.
  3. Mix the bread crumbs, parsley a dash of salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until combined. Spread the breadcrumbs over the top of the casserole.
  4. The beans can be cooled, covered and refrigerated overnight if needed. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole until it is hot through, bubbling around the edges and browned on the top, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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Caramelized Corn Pudding

I talk often here about how I come about recipes, and this one has a story with it too. A friend and I were eating at a popular local restaurant and I told her about the amazing creamed corn dish they sometimes make (sadly not on the menu that day). This led to a larger discussion of corn preparations, and she told me her husband couldn’t stop raving about a corn pudding he had at a restaurant on a business trip that had “some kind of sugary topping.” She asked if I had ever heard about this and I told her I hadn’t but it sure did sound good. Low and behold, a few days later I was flipping through my collection of community cookbooks and came across a recipe for “The Best Corn Pudding Ever” that involved sprinkling the top with brown sugar. Well, I just couldn’t wait to give it a try and am I ever glad I did. I served it to my family as part of a full dinner of summer produce and they absolutely raved. They did indeed think it was the best corn pudding ever.

The second time I made this, I admit I accidently let the butter brown a little, but it was a serendipitous mistake, because it added even more depth to the final result. Adding a hint of sugar to the mix brings out the sweetness of good summer corn, and the lightly caramelized top is a revelation, providing a perfect sweet-salty balance.

Caramelized Corn Pudding
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ears fresh corn
  2. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, divided
  3. 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  4. 2 Tablespoons flour
  5. ½ cup heavy cream
  6. 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  7. 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 2 Tablespoons light brown sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 2 quart baking dish. Cut the kernels from the corn into a large bowl.
  2. Melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat in a deep skillet. When the butter starts to foam and little flecks of brown appear, about 3 minutes, stir in the granulated sugar and stir until smooth and the butter has browned a little more, about 3 minutes, then stir in the flour until smooth. Remove from the heat and slowly stir in the cream until well combined. The mixture may look a little odd or curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come right in the end. Stir in the corn kernels to combine, then add the beaten eggs, baking powder and salt and stir until everything is mixed together. You may see some lumps of the cream mixture, but that’s okay.
  3. Spread the corn in the prepared baking dish, evening out the top. (You can make the dish to this point up to a few hours ahead, keep it loosely covered with a towel on the counter). Bake the corn pudding for 45 minutes, until firm and golden around the edges. Melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter in a measuring jug with a spout (I use the microwave), then stir in the brown sugar until smooth. Drizzle the butter and brown sugar mix over the top of the corn pudding, gently spreading it out with a heat proof spatula or the back of a spoon. Cook for a further 5 minutes and serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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