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.

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

I adore lady peas. They are as lovely as their sweet name suggests. These tiny little gems are creamy and pack a flavor punch for their diminutive size. And during the summer, when the lady peas are abundant, I use them in whatever way I can, braised in butter or in a beautiful Sunshine Succotash. This fresh salad is perfect for a late summer supper, featuring the stars of a Southern summer farmers’ market in a fresh basil vinaigrette. It is light and fresh and looks beautifully colorful. I have served this several times this summer, with a cold fried chicken supper and as part of a fresh summer vegetable meal alongside seasonal green beans, sliced tomatoes and watermelon. It’s a great salad to keep in the fridge over a summer weekend to go with sandwiches or to serve in a dainty lettuce cup.

Sometimes I find tiny “currant” tomatoes that are about the size of pearls. I love to use those in this salad when I can. Otherwise, look for small tomatoes and cut any larger ones in half. Red onions add a nice pop of color and bite, but diced green onions would work just as well.

Lady Pea, Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. For the Vinaigrette
  2. 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  4. ½ teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  6. ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  7. ¾ cups olive oil
  8. For the Salad
  9. 2 cups fresh lady peas
  10. 5 ears fresh corn, husked and cut from the cob
  11. ¼ cup finely diced red onion
  12. 1 ½ cups small cherry tomatoes
For the Vinaigrette
  1. Place the lemon juice, mustard, salt and basil leaves in the bowl of a small food processor or blender. Pules to chop up the basil, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vinegar and pulse to combine. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you have a nice emulsified dressing. Store the vinaigrette covered in the fridge for up to three days.
For the Salad
  1. Rinse the lady peas, then place in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water (you’ll add the corn later, so there needs to be room). Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook for 20 – 30 minutes, just until the peas are tender, but still have a little bite. Add the corn kernels, stir, cover the pot and cook a further five minutes. Drain the peas and corn and rinse with cold water. Leave to drain completely, then place in a large bowl, add the onion and stir to combine.
  2. You can prepare the salad up to this point, cover and refrigerate for one day.
  3. About an hour before serving, add the cherry tomatoes and toss to combine. Pour over the dressing and stir to coat everything and evenly distribute the dressing. Taste and add salt as needed.
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Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob

Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob

Beautifully fresh, sweet and juicy corn on the cob is one of the great glories of a Southern summertime. There something sentimental about it – a throwback to summer camp and family cookouts, spreading butter over the hot cobs and sprinkling them with salt, juicy kernels bursting at every bite and the butter dripping down your fingers, even when you use the little plastic corn-shaped picks. I always come home with more corn from the farmers market than I intend to. Corn with evocative names like Silver Queen, Bread and Butter and Peaches and Cream, yellow and white and particolored. I enjoy it straight, or cut from the cob, and I put up little baggies of kernels in the freezer for a taste of summer in the winter. I love the squeaky sound of the husk being pulled back from the cob, because I know the reward that comes makes the effort worth it.

When I invite friends over for a summer cookout, or head to a lake house for a water weekend, I always want to serve fresh corn with the burgers and hot dogs. Seasoned butter is a special treat for corn, and this version could not be a better companion to Southern corn. Salty country ham, tangy green onions and a little kick of mustard add dimension to a perfect cob. This butter is also delicious melted into simply cooked field peas, or frankly spread on a warm biscuit.

Country Ham Butter for Corn on the Cob
Yields 3
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Ingredients
  1. 2 ounces country ham, center cut (1/2 a large slice or a few biscuit slices)
  2. 4 small green onions
  3. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  5. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Pulse the ham and green onions in a food processor (I like to use a mini version) until you have a rough paste. Add the pepper, butter, and mustard and blend until smooth. Scoop the butter onto a length of waxed paper and shape into a log. Refrigerate until firm.
  2. Slice of pieces of the butter to melt over warm corn on the cob.
Cooking Corn on the Cob
  1. Go traditional and boil the husked ears of corn in a large stock pot which will fit your corn, standing on end is fine, covered with an inch or so of water. Bring salted water to a boil and drop in the husked cobs. Cook for 5- 8 minutes, on the low end for just picked fresh corn, a little longer if you’ve had it for a day or two.
  2. For corn on the grill, I use two different methods. One is to husk the corn and microwave 3 cobs at a time on a microwave safe plate for 3 minutes to soften the kernels, then place the cobs directly on the grill for about 10 minutes until lightly charred. The alternative is to peel pack the husks, but do not remove them. Remove the silks, lightly brush the kernels with olive oil and fold the husks back up over the cobs. Place on a medium-heat grill for about 15 minutes until the husks are charred.
  3. I’ve also tried the microwave trick – cut about an inch of the top of each silk end to expose the cobs and microwave for 4 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then slip the corn out of the husk. This does make the corn easy to husk, but I think the corn can come out a little tough, and you do need to do it one cob at a time.
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Fresh Fig Mousse

Fresh Fig MousseI adore figs, and during their short growing season here, I really try to make the most of them. I make jars and jars of Fig, Bourbon and Vanilla Bean Jam. It is one of my signature preserves now, one people always ask me for. My Fresh Fig Cake with Buttermilk Glaze is a summer favorite as well – it’s a wonderful way to incorporate figs into baking. And of course, I eat the figs on their own, maybe with a little country ham wrapped around them, sometimes then thrown on the grill.

I saw a recipe for a simple fig mousse in an old community cookbook and honestly couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of the idea before. I tweeked and modernized the recipe a little, so it is now a very simple and refreshing summer dessert with a real touch of elegance and panache, with the added bonus that it needs to made ahead so it is ready and waiting. Figs in their natural state are so pretty, that a simple slice of pink flesh with delicate purple tinge makes an absolutely beautiful garnish on the soft pink, marbled mousse. This mouse can be served frozen, or just chilled until firm – I like equally either way. I prefer to use darker purple figs for the rich color, but if brown are all you have access to, they are delicious as well.

Fresh Fig Mousse
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup halved fresh figs (about 8) plus more for garnish
  2. 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  5. 1 cup heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Place the fig pieces, lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar in a blender and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe as needed.
  2. Whip the cream in an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Gently fold the puree into the cream a little at a time, making sure the cream and puree are combined. Spoon the mousse into eight small or six larger glass bowls or ramekins and smooth the tops.
  3. You can freeze the mousse, each covered with plastic wrap, for up to two days and serve frozen or slightly softened, or you can cover the dishes with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until firm, about 4 hours or up to one day ahead.
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Peach Julep Jam

Peach Julep JamThe joy of summer peaches! There is nothing like a fresh, local, juicy peach. I eat them up during their season.I bake with them and But they are just so good, I try to preserve them as well for a fresh taste of summer any time of year, spiced, pickled and jammed. My obsession with the peach and bourbon pairing is well documented, from Peach Butterbourbon Sauce to Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Peach Bourbon Sauce, so it had to make it into my jam repertoire as well.

I didn’t make a batch of this jam last peach season, and I regretted it all winter, so it was the first peach preserve I made this season. It’s a rich, deeply flavorful jam packed with fresh peach flavor and garden mint with a hit of bourbon for depth and kick. I have already made my way through a jar, even thought he peach season is going strong, I just can’t resist. I love this spread on English muffins, but it is also delicious with tangy goat cheese on a cheese plate or on a bruschetta. This even works well as a glaze for a pork roast or tenderloin.

For a step-by-step guide to canning, click here. This makes 5 – 6 half pint jars. I always like to have an extra jar or two sterilized and ready justin case.

Peach Julep Jam
Yields 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds peaches, to make six cups when peeled, pitted and chopped
  2. 1/3 cup lemon juice
  3. 3 cups brown sugar
  4. 2 cups granulate white sugar
  5. 5 Tablespoons bourbon
  6. 1 large bunch mint
Instructions
  1. Put peaches and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mash with a potato masher or an immersion blender. I like to leave a few chunks of juicy peach.
  2. Bundle the mint together and tie with kitchen string so none of the leaves are free. Add both sugars, bourbon and mint to the peaches and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook until thick and set, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the bundle of mint.
  3. While your jam is cooking, get a boiling water canner or big stockpot of water going and place a small ceramic plate in the freezer. When the jam is almost ready, pour some boiling water over the lids to your jars to soften the seals and set aside.
  4. When the jam has cooked down and is thickened, pull that little plate out of the freezer and spoon a little jelly onto it. Leave to set for a minute, then tilt the plate. If the jelly stays put, or only runs a little bit, it’s ready to go. Also, run a finger through the jelly on the plate if the two sides stay separate and don’t run back together, you’re good to go.
  5. When the jam has met the set test, fill the jars. I like to ladle the jam into a large measuring jug for easy pouring. Fill each of your warm, cleaned jars with the jam, leaving a ½ inch head space. Dry the lids with a clean paper towel and place on the jars. Screw on the bands, then process the jars for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you have a bit of extra jam, scoop it into a refrigerator container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. When the jars are processed, leave to cool on a towel on the counter.
  7. The processed jars will keep for a year in a cool, dark place. Don’t forget to label your jars!
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Beer Shrimp Boil with Beer Sauce and Homemade Shrimp Boil Spice

Beer Shrimp Boil Summer officially kicks off with Memorial Day, and it is the perfect time for outdoor gatherings with big groups of family and friends. I think a shrimp boil makes a nice switch from the classic burgers-and-dogs grill fest. I have a big outdoor table on my patio, and this has become a favorite way to entertain. I simply cover the table with brown paper and scoop the boil ingredients onto it. Everyone gathers around the table, eats with their hands, leaving the shrimp peels and corncobs behind. When we’re all done, I just roll up the paper and take it straight to the garbage. It’s easy, fun and about the least amount of clean-up I’ve ever done after a party.

For an interesting twist, I make my own spice mix for the boil, add beer for an extra hit of flavor and serve a tangy beer sauce for dipping on the table. Don’t bother with a fancy, expensive beer, you’re basic Bud works fine, but serve a good, ice-cold local beer to drink. Corn, sausage and potatoes are the classic ingredients in a shrimp boil, but the last time I did this, I found some gorgeous artichokes and fresh asparagus, which made for a very nice addition. A friend recently clued me in to the idea of adding raw peanuts to the boil to make spiced up boiled peanuts, and I’m definitely going to give that a try. I also put some hot sauce on the table for the spicy folks and a few baguettes from a local baker. Put the beer sauce in shallow bowls spread across the table. Its great for dipping shrimp and potatoes or asparagus or artichokes, or slathering on the corn.

Here are my instructions for a shrimp boil, which easily feeds 12 people:

I use a 22-quart water bath canner on an outdoor burner, but you can use any very large stockpot and a burner on a grill, or do it inside on the stove. You can also divide the ingredients between two stockpots if you don’t have one big enough. I use a frying basket to scoop out the cooked food, but a large metal strainer with a long handle will work (protect your hands with an oven mitt around that hot boiling water). Grill tongs and a large slotted spoon come in handy too. If you happen to have a special shrimp boil pot with a straining basket, lucky you!

Line your outdoor table with brown paper, which you’ll find at a big box store in the mailing supplies section, or several layers of newspaper. Put several rolls of paper towels on the table, accessible to all the dinners. You’ll need lots of paper towels! If you need to do this indoors, scoop your ingredients into big bowls.

1 six pack or 3 (40-ounce) bottles lager beer 1 recipe Shrimp Boil spice (see below)

4 lemons, cut in half

3 heads of garlic, the tops cut off to reveal the cloves

2 pounds of smoked sausage cut into one-inch pieces

4 corn cobs into three pieces each (or thaw frozen corn cob pieces)

2 pounds very small red potatoes

4 artichokes (optional)

4 pounds of fresh, beautiful shrimp with the peels on, but heads removed

1 pound asparagus spears (optional)

3 pounds of beautiful, fresh peel on, head-off shrimp

Pour the beer into the pot, and add enough water to fill the pot halfway – remember you will be adding lots of food to the pot, so don’t fill it up. Stir in the Shrimp Boil Spice, the lemons and garlic heads (and the artichokes if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat. This can take up to 30 minutes, so leave your self plenty of time. If it comes to a boil before you’re ready to cook, just turn it down to a simmer until ready to go.

When the liquid is boiling, drop in the sausage and potatoes and bring back to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes then add the corn. Boil for another ten minutes, then test a potato to see if it is tender all the way through. When the potatoes are tender drop in the asparagus, if using, then the shrimp and give everything a good stir. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and scoop out all the delicious food onto your table and dig in.

Beer Shrimp Boil

For the Beer Sauce:

1.55 ounce jar ground mustard powder

½ cup beer

3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon hot sauce (I like Crystal)

2 cups mayonnaise

Put the mustard and the beer in the carafe of a blender. Blend for a few seconds to combine. Drop in the onion pieces and add the Worcestershire, hot sauce and mayonnaise and blend until completely smooth and combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for several hours to allow the favors to blend and mellow. This is best made a day ahead, but can be made up to two days ahead.

For the Shrimp Boil Seasoning:

2 tablespoons celery salt

1 tablespoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground mace

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the jar and shake until all the spices are blended. This will keep covered in an airtight container for up to a week.

Beer Shrimp Boil

Buttermilk Brownies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carrot and Dill Biscuits with Cream Cheese Butter

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

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

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

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

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

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