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.

Liptauer

LiptauerMany years ago, as a kid, I saw a recipe and photo for Liptauer in a cookbook or magazine, and I remember that it looked impossibly elegant and sounded so exotic and sophisticated to me. I didn’t understand all the ingredients –capers and caraway sounded foreign and out of reach. The picture showed a fancy mold surrounded by intricate garnishes – carved radishes and celery fans. I can still call that image to mind. For years, I’d come across recipes for Liptauer and still imagined it was above my palate and skill level. The first time I ever tasted Liptauer was in Vienna on a family vacation. We visited one of the “huerige” wine halls and sat outside under a canopy of trees. We drank local wines and enjoyed a big Viennese meal. But to start it out, our local guide ordered Liptauer. Far from the fanciful creation I had imagined, it was served in a rustic pottery crock with brown bread. And it was delicious. I knew the time to work on a recipe at home had come.

Years later, at a book signing in North Carolina for Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook, a woman approached me and said she was from Austria, and she grew up eating a spread with cream cheese and paprika, and since she’d been living in the States, she had come to liken it to pimento cheese. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I love the idea of cross-cultural, cross culinary links. Now this is totally different from pimento cheese, but it makes a wonderful party dish; since I’ve started serving it, I either get reactions from people who remember it as a 70’s party dish their parents served, or people who’ve never had it before but ask for the recipe. It’s become a staple dish for me, one I turn to whenever I need an easy to make but exciting appetizer. I love to serve this with sliced pretzel bread or rolls or rye melba toast.

Liptauer
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Ingredients
  1. 3 teaspoons capers in brine, drained
  2. 1 small shallot, peeled
  3. ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
  4. 1 Tablespoon roughly chopped chives
  5. 1 ½ teaspoons caraway seeds
  6. 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  7. 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  8. 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  9. 1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika (if you have half-sharp, sub it for ½ teaspoon)
Instructions
  1. Put the capers, shallot, parsley, chives and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until everything is well chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the cream cheese and butter, cut into pieces, and pulse a few times. Add the mustard and paprika and blend until smooth and well combined.
  2. Scrape the liptauer into a bowl and refrigerate until firm. This will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you would like to serve a molded liptauer, line a bowl or mold with plastic wrap and press the liptauer into it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then turn the spread out onto a platter, unwrap and serve.
Notes
  1. Makes about 3 cups
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess PieI adore sweet potato pie, but I admit I was a latecomer to its joys. I think as a young person, I thought it was a trick to make me eat vegetables. I mean, who puts potatoes in pie? I always avoided the marshmallow topped casserole at Thanksgiving, because I just couldn’t imagine the sweet, sugary combo. I don’t remember when I discovered the pleasure of sweet potato pie, but I have spent many years chasing a signature recipe. I’ve tried it with condensed milk, evaporated milk, a roster of spices, nuts, crumb crusts, bought crusts, bruleed toppings and all manner of things. Now, a classic Southern chess pie I have always loved and I have great memories of little miniature chess pies as a special treat in my childhood. Chess pie was one of the earliest dishes I learned to make. So eventually, coming around to the idea of a sweet potato chess seemed only natural. And now, this is my go to sweet potato pie.

Buttermilk is my secret weapon for about everything. It gives this pie a little tang which is a great complement to the rich sweet potates. The buttermilk crust adds an extra layer of flavor as well, and also makes a tender crust. I don’t go overboard with the spices on this one, just a teeny whisper of nutmeg. The lemon really adds balance, but I have also made this with an orange to good results.

Sweet Potato Buttermilk Chess Pie
Serves 6
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For the Buttermilk Crust
  1. 1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
  2. 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  5. ¼ - ½ cup buttermilk
For the Filling
  1. 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 pound
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  4. ½ cup buttermilk
  5. zest and juice of one lemon
  6. 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  8. ¼ cup light brown sugar
  9. 2 Tablespoons cornmeal
  10. ½ teaspoon nutmeg
For the Pie Crust
  1. Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the butter pieces and pulse just until the mixture is crumbly. Add ¼ cup of buttermilk and pulse until you have a shaggy ball of dough, adding more buttermilk if needed. Remove the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and knead to pull together, then pat it into a disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
  2. When ready to make the pie, take the dough from the fridge and let soften slightly. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray. Roll the dough on a lightly floured counter into a 12-inch round disk. Carefully fit the crust into the pie plate. Prick the bottom all over with a fork, then line the crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool. Remove the pie weights.
For the Filling
  1. Prick the potatoes all over with a sharp knife and microwave fro 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. You should have about 1 cup of puree. Leave the puree to cool.
  2. When the puree is cool and the pie crust is also cooled, add the eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, lemon zest and juice and vanilla to the sweet potato in the food processor. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Whisk the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal and nutmeg together in small bowl, then dump it all at once into the bowl and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is completely combined. Pour the filling into the prepared crust
  3. Bake the pie for 30 minutes, the sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top and return to the oven. If the crust is getting very brown, shield it with foil. Bake a further 15 – 20 minutes until the center is set. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a rack.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Southern Blue Cheese Pecan Spread

Southern Blue Cheese Pecan Spread

The recipes requests I get most often from family, friends and readers are for appetizers – “something different, that I can make ahead.” I have developed a host of recipes over the years that fit the bill, but people still seem to want more. So here’s another one. It’s a riff on the classic cheddar and pecan cheese ball so popular at parties, but this dish is amped up with tangy blue cheese and a nice hit of bourbon to round things out. Green onions and pecans create a nice texture.

I love to use a good Southern-made blue cheese when I can get it, like Shake Rag Blue from Sesquatchie Cove Creamery in East Tennessee or Asher Blue from Georgia’s Sweet Grass Dairy, but any really tangy blue will do. I’ve had great success with Buttermilk Blue from Wisconsin. This spread needs a hearty holder, so go for a sturdy cracker or sliced baguette. It is also good with nut thin crackers made with pecans.

Southern Blue Cheese and Pecan Spread
Yields 2
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound blue cheese, at room temperature
  2. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
  3. 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  4. ¼ heavy cream
  5. generous grinds of black pepper
  6. 4 green onions, white and light green parts, cut into small pieces
  7. 1 clove garlic
  8. 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  9. 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Place the blue cheese, butter, bourbon, cream and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to blend. Add the green onions, garlic, and parsley and blend until smooth. Add the pecans and pulse until they are mixed in.
  2. Scoop the spread into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend and to firm up. This can be made up to three days ahead and kept tightly covered in the fridge.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Squash Blossom Risotto

Squash Blossom Risotto

I ate at two restaurants in Rome earlier this summer that claimed to be built on the very spot where Julius Caesar was killed, and visited two tourist attractions that claimed the same thing. It makes a great story to print on a menu, and they each had some historical perspective to back up the claim. Of course, the restaurants are modern buildings now with only a small trace of their ancient ancestry, but the food at each one was quite good. I made sure to order classic and traditional Roman dishes at each (when in Rome, right?), but when I saw the risotto con fiore di zucca on one menu, I knew I had to order it. I love squash blossoms, and they are an ingredient I just have to sample whenever I see them. I had my fill on a trip to Mexico, and was lucky enough to be in Italy when they were abundantly available. So when I sampled this dish, I knew I would recreate it once I returned home.

It was at a restaurant in Tuscany that I had a risotto with a secret center of creamy cheese, and I decided to incorporate that idea into this recipe to add a nice tang and creaminess to complement the rich rice. The flavors here are subtly earthy with lovely strands of the blossoms stirred through. Many dishes that use squash blossoms like to include saffron for color. (I use it in my pesto). You can do that here too, just soak a pinch of saffron strands in some hot broth and stir that into the risotto during cooking.

Squash Blossom Risotto
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 24 squash blossoms
  2. 5 cups vegetable stock
  3. 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  4. 1 large shallot, finely diced
  5. 1 ½ cups carnaroli or arborio rice
  6. ½ cup dry white wine
  7. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  8. salt to taste
  9. 4 Tablespoons whole milk ricotta, at room temperature
  10. olive oil for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Grasp the squash blossoms by the stem and twist to remove the hard stem and the stamen inside, leaving only the blossoms. Place 12 of the blossoms in a blender with 2 cups of the stock and blend until smooth. Pour the blossom mixture and the rest of the stock into a saucepan and heat over low until just simmering.
  2. Cut the remaining blossoms into thin pieces. I generally pull the leaves apart, stack them up and use scissors to cut them into fine shreds. Set aside.
  3. Melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter over low in a large, deep skillet. Add the diced shallots and sauté until soft and glassy, but do not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the butter and cook for a few minutes until the edges of the rice grains are a little translucent. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, until it is completely evaporated. Now start adding the stock a big ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition. When each addition has evaporated, add the next ladleful and stir. When almost all the stock has been absorbed, taste the risotto. It should still have a little bite and texture to it, but if it still hard or crisp, keep adding stock until it is al dente. Stir in the squash blossom strips and the grated Parmigiano until combined and melted. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and stir it through. Season with salt to taste.
  4. To serve the risotto, scoop a dollop of ricotta (about a Tablespoon; I use a small cookie scoop) onto the center if a rimmed plate or shallow bowl, then spoon the risotto around it. Drizzle with good olive oil and serve immediately.
Notes
  1. The ricotta needs to be at room temperature to melt smoothly into the risotto. You can scoop it out onto the plates and have them waiting before you start making the risotto.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn

Fresh corn straight off the cob is one of the great joys of summer. This soup is the freshest of fresh corn flavor, maximizing both the juicy sweet kernels and extracting every last drop of flavor from the cobs to make a broth redolent of summer. There are a few steps involved, but the velvety texture and bright flavor are worth the effort. I really want the corn flavor to shine, so I do not add much else to the basic soup.

Beautifully simple on its own, this bisque is brought alive by toppings. Here, I used a playful, fun sprinkling of popcorn seasoned with thyme-infused butter. You could season some popcorn with any flavor you like (Old Bay Seasoning is particularly good with corn). Or try a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Chopped bacon or garlic buttered croutons. A swirl of olive oil infused with chives or basil.

Fresh Corn Bisque with Thyme Buttered Popcorn
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ears of yellow or yellow and white corn
  2. 1 stalk celery
  3. 5 sprigs of thyme
  4. 1 bay leaf
  5. 1 large yellow onion, halved
  6. kosher salt
  7. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  8. ½ cup whole milk
Instructions
  1. Fill a large bowl or the sink with cold water and ice. Bring a large stockpot full of water to a boil. Blanch the corn in the boiling water for 30 seconds and remove it immediately to the ice water bath to stop the cooking. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs into a large bowl. Scrap the cobs to release any juices. Toss the kernels with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the refrigerator.
  2. Cut the corn cobs in half and place in a large stockpot (if you use the pot you blanched in, rinse it well to remove corn silks). Add the celery, thyme, bay leaf and half of the onion and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring the stock to a boil, skim off any scum that rise, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours. The liquid should reduce by about half. Pour the stock through a strainer and discard the solids.
  3. Rinse out the stockpot and add the olive oil. Chop the remaining onion half (you need one cup chopped onion) and cook in the olive oil over medium heat until soft and glossy. Stir frequently and do not let the onions brown. Add the reserved corn kernels and any accumulated liquid. Stir to combine the onions and corn, then pour in 4 cups of the corn cob stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium low and cover the pot. Simmer the soup for 30 minutes, until the kernels are very soft. Leave the soup to cool a little, then carefully puree it in batches in a blender. Pour each batch through a fine mesh sieve set over a large, pressing the liquid through. Rinse out the pot again, and return the smooth soup to it. At this point, you can refrigerate the soup for up to 2 days.
  4. When ready to serve, whisk in the milk. Gently warm through on low heat.
For the Thyme Buttered Popcorn
  1. For 1 cup of popped corn, strip 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves and sprinkle them with 1 teaspoon of coarse salt on a chopping board. Chop very finely. Really go to town, rocking your knife back and forth over the herbs until you have thyme salt. Stir the thyme salt into 3 Tablespoons of hot melted butter. Stir very well, pour over the popcorn and toss to coat.
Notes
  1. Note: Corn stock is a wonderful thing to have around, it pumps up the flavor of a winter chowder made with frozen corn or any vegetable soup. Make big batches and freeze. I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and add a striped cob everytime I use corn. When I have about a dozen cobs, I make stock.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise

I adore chilled soups during the hot summer months and often wonder why restaurants don’t serve more of them, or people make them more often. Nothing could be more refreshing, and filling. Make a big batch of cold soup and keep it in the fridge for quick lunches, cooling snack or part of a simple salad or sandwich supper.

I often make a big pot of classic white potato and leek vichyssoise for myself and dip out of it all week. So I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to a sweet potato version. Though normally thought of as a cold-weather food, my favorite Southern tuber is a natural match for the cold soup treatment, as we sure do know a lot about hot weather down here. This soup is very simple with the earthy sweetness of the potatoes is balanced by leeks. Herbaceous rosemary and bay and exotic clove add an extra layer of flavor and a wonderful, mysterious aroma. Don’t be tempted to leave them out.

The vibrant orange color of this creamy soup makes it a showstopper on the table. I have served it at seated dinner parties and casual gatherings. If you are so inclined, it would make an interesting soup shot passed as an hors d’oeuvres. I love to sprinkle each bowl with some chopped honey roasted peanuts for a little texture and a sweet-salty finish, plush some chives for color and to complement the leeks.

Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, to make 4 cups chopped
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 cup white wine
  4. 2 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
  5. 4 cups vegetable stock
  6. 3 cups water
  7. 2 stalks fresh rosemary
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  10. ½ cup heavy cream
  11. finely chopped honey roasted peanuts for garnish
  12. finely chopped chives
Instructions
  1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half moons. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Then remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until the leeks begin to soften, then pour in the wine, cover the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, until the leeks are soft. Uncover the pot and cook for a few minutes to reduce the wine until it barely coats the leeks. Do no let the leeks brown. While the leeks are softening, chop the peeled sweet potatoes into small chunks. Add to the softened leeks with the water, broth and a good sprinkling of salt. Tie the rosemary, bay leaves and cloves up into a little cheesecloth package or place in a tea strainer ball and drop in the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium - low, cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are very soft. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature. Remove the herb package.
  2. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender about half-full each time. Pour each pureed batch into a bowl. When all the soup is pureed, whisk in the cream. Cover the bowl loosely and refrigerate for at least two hours but preferably overnight. Taste for salt and season before serving, garnished with chopped honey roasted peanuts and chives.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Country Ham Stuffed Eggs

Anytime you pair a classic Southern ingredient with a classic Southern dish its bound to be a wonderful thing. And for me, these are too longtime family favorites, so I earned some extra bonus points. As I’ve said before, in my family we always call them stuffed eggs, not devilled eggs, because devilled smacks of spicy and mama don’t do spicy. Also, I love pulling out my egg trays and putting them to good use.

Salty country ham and creamy egg yolks are a beautiful combination, and I love a edge from shallot, without overpowering the little kick from mustard. I used a thick cut slice of ham for the filling to give it some nice body, but had the deli counter thinly slice a little (prosciutto style) to curl on top of each egg as a nice garnish and additional zing of salty ham. This is a great way to use up a little leftover country ham to make a whole new dish, but don’t be afraid to serve these with more ham. They would look gorgeous on a platter surrounding a whole ham or the piled up slices.

Country Ham Stuffed Eggs
Yields 24
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Ingredients
  1. 12 eggs
  2. 1 shallot bulb
  3. ¼ cup loosely Italian parsley leaves
  4. 3 ounces country ham center slices
  5. 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  6. ½ teaspoon regular mustard powder
  7. dash of hot sauce
  8. lots of freshly ground black pepper
  9. 1/3 cup mayonnaise
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 shallot into chunks and drop into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break up the shallot, then add the parsley and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Drop in the country ham and pulse until everything is finely chopped. You don’t want a puree, just a rough chop.
  4. 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 the food processor. Place the empty whites on a tray or stuffed egg plate.
  5. Add the Dijon mustard, the mustard powder, hot sauce and pepper and pulse to break up the yolks. Add the mayonnaise and blend until everything is combined, but there should still be some texture from the ham and shallots – don’t go overboard and make it completely smooth. You can add a little more mayonnaise if needed. Taste and add salt if you want, but the ham is usually enough.
  6. 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.
Notes
  1. I like to use a very small cookie scoop to fill the whites, then go back with lightly damp fingers to press the filling in and smooth the tops.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing

I am a late in life lover of chicken salad. As a child, I had an aversion to this type of mixed up dish coated in dressing – I felt they were primarily tools my mom used to hide things I didn’t want to eat. I was always concerned that chicken salad or casseroles were stealthy ways to get me to eat my vegetables. But I got over that as an adult, in part because I reached a stage in life where you simply couldn’t stomp your feet and refuse to eat something and still be accepted in polite society. And then I realized how very good a well-made chicken salad truly is. So, all those years, my chicken salad – loving mother was right.

Over the years, I have created Lemon Dill Chicken Salad to appeal to my mother and a fall appropriate Maple Mustard version. I have made chicken salads with Moroccan flavors and with an Asian flair. These are dressed primarily with mayonnaise with additions of buttermilk and yogurt. But over the years, as I have perused my ever-growing collection of community cookbooks, I kept running across recipes for “Cooked Dressing for Chicken Salad.” Rarely is there an actual recipe for chicken salad, just the dressing, but after seeing do many recipes, I had to give it a try. And I am glad I did. The dressing is creamy and tangy with a sweet-and-sour edge from the sugar and vinegar. I kept the recipe simple here, with crunchy celery and almonds and a nice herbal note from parsley, but this salad will absolutely work with a variety of additions, so get creative. By the way, my mom loves this version.

Old Fashioned Chicken Salad with Cooked Dressing
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 chicken breasts
  2. 1 cup chicken broth
  3. 1 lemon
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 1 bay leaf
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2/3 cup sugar
  8. 2 Tablespoons flour
  9. ½ cup white wine vinegar
  10. ½ cup water
  11. ½ teaspoon salt
  12. 2 Tablespoons butter
  13. ½ cup slivered almonds
  14. 3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Place the chicken breasts in a large saucepan that fits the breasts in one layer and pour over the broth. Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot, then drop in the juiced skin. Break up one celery stalk and add it to the pan with the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover the chicken breasts if needed, then place over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (165° internal temperature), about 10 -12 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a plate to cool.
  2. Make the dressing while the chicken is cooling. Beat the eggs in a medium sized saucepan, then beat in the sugar. Stir the flour into the water to make a paste, then add it to the eggs. Add the vinegar and salt and stir to fully combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the dressing thickens to the consistency of runny pudding. Pull the pot of the heat, and stir in the butter, a small piece at a time, until each piece is melted before adding the next. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Finely chop the remaining two stalks of celery and place in a large bowl. Dice the chicken into small pieces and add the bowl with the almonds and parsley and stir to combine. Spoon in the dressing a bit at a time and stir to coat the chicken until you have a consistency that suits you. You may personally not want to use all the dressing.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and chill until ready to serve. The salad will keep for two days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Potted Ham

Potted Ham

Potted ham is some truly old fashioned cooking. Potting was a method for preserving meat and seafood and even cheese in English kitchens before the advent of refrigeration. It is basically sealing finely chopped meat under a layer of clarified butter. The butter solidifies and shields the meat form unwanted visitors. It was the precursor to canned meats and I think that is probably why it’s reputation suffered and it went largely out of fashion. I’ve made potted shrimp and potted stilton for English themed tea parties and they’ve always been very popular, but I had never thought of potting ham until I found this recipe in Noel McMeel’s book Irish Pantry at the precise moment I had a surfeit of leftover ham in my refrigerator.

I find this dish charmingly old-fashioned, but it somehow seems to have a modern resonance and stylishness to it. It seems so homemade and self-sufficient. Make this in elegant little ramekins and serve as a first course with toasted crusty bread and a pretty little spreading knife, or make a larger ramekin (no more than a 2-cup size) and serve on a cheese platter with crackers. And it makes great sandwiches – even as a layer in a bahn-mi.

I would not trust this method as its original purpose as a long-term storage solution for meat, but it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. And it freezes well too. Pack it into freezable jars, cover with butter, refrigerate until cold, then freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw completely in the fridge before serving. I particularly like it in these European-style jars. I have simplified the original recipe a bit.

Potted Ham
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces of high-quality butter (like Kerrygold)
  2. 1 pound cooked ham, torn onto pieces
  3. 1 Tablespoon parley
  4. 1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
  5. ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  6. ¼ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  7. ¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  8. ¼ teaspoon salt
  9. lots of ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into quarters and place in a 4-cup microwave safe measuring jug. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Leave the butter to sit for one minute, then skim off any white foam from the surface. Slowly and carefully pour the clarified butter into a smaller measuring jug leaving the white solids behind. Set aside.
  2. Place the ham in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse several times to break the meat up into rough crumbs. Add the parsley, vinegar, cloves, mustard seeds salt, pepper and about 2/3 of the clarified butter. Pulse until you have a thick, rough paste that sticks together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and making sure everything is well combined.
  3. Use a spoon to transfer the ham to ramekins or jars. Pack the ham down lightly into the containers making sure there are no large gaps. Smooth the top of the ham to an even layer. Pour the remaining clarified butter equally over the top of each container. The surface needs to be completely covered with a generous layer of butter. No ham should be sticking up through the butter. Leave the ramekins on the counter so the butter settles and begins to solidify, then carefully transfer to the fridge. When the butter has solidified completely, cover with jar lids or plastic wrap. Let come to room temperature before serving.
  4. The potted ham will keep in the fridge for a week or the freezer for up to three months.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Melty Cheese and Caramelized Onion Fondue Dip

Melty Cheese and Caramelized Onion Fondue Dip

I love this recipe for many reasons. It combines some of my favorite things (sweet caramelized onions and gooey cheese), it never fails to delight guests, and it can be elegant or rustic. This is the kind of recipe that makes me feel like a much more put-together person than I am. I seems to me like the kind of thing you read about in a magazine food story, where the writer has shown up at some gorgeous farmhouse to write about the heirloom produce and the hosts casually bring this out with loafs of crusty bread just out of the wood-fired oven, like its no big deal. It takes a little more effort for me to look that non-chalant. That being said, this dish is a little work for a lot of reward.

There is a lot of flavor packed into this little dish. Let the onions caramelize to a rich, deep, jammy spread. Nutty gruyere and creamy brie make the cheese top layer multi-dimensional. I love the herbal tang of thyme, but marjoram is also a great complement.

Melty Cheese and Caramelized Onion Fondue Dip
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium onion, finely chopped (to produce 2 cups)
  2. 1 Tablespoon butter
  3. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. ¼ cup white wine or vermouth
  5. ¼ cup water
  6. 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  7. 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  8. 4 ounces gruyere
  9. 8 ounce round of brie
  10. 4 ounces cream cheese
  11. 2 Tablespoons milk
  12. 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  13. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  14. Sliced baguette for serving
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter and oil together in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt and stir, cooking until they are soft and translucent. Add the white wine, stir, cover the pan and cook for a few minutes, until the wine has evaporated. Pour in the water, add the brown sugar and the thyme, stir well and cover. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes over medium-low until the onions are deep brown and jammy, stirring a few times to prevent scorching. You can add a little water if needed. Spread the onions evenly on the bottom of a small baking dish, about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep.
  2. Pulse the gruyere in a food processor until it is small crumbs. Scrape the rind from the brie, cut into chunks and add to the food processor with the cream cheese, milk, cornstarch and thyme. Process until you have a thick paste with a little chunky texture. Spread the cheese over the onions in the baking dish to cover evenly. You can now cover the dish and refrigerate for up to two days.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350° and bake until goldens and bubbly and warm though, about 20 minutes. Let the dip rest for 5 minutes before serving.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/