Southern Snacks Cookbook

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.

Crab Remoulade Cheesecake

Crab Remoulade Cheesecake

I love a savory cheesecake. Possibly the most talked about recipe in my book Southern Snacks has been the Country Ham Cheesecake. I even made it on the Hallmark Channel! I find the savory cheesecake to be the perfect party piece – it packs a lot of flavor and interest in a make-ahead dish that serves a crowd. And it is easy to make it look really impressive if you get creative with the garnishes. I serve these as an appetizer to spread on crackers, but you can also serve thin wedges as a first course with a salad. My crab remoulade version walks the line between rustic and elegant – take it wherever you want it to go. It’s perfect as for a Mardi Gras blow out or an elegant jazz brunch. But it’s not only for Mardi Gras, it is great for any spring entertaining. Tender crabmeat with lots of tang and fresh lemon is decadent and fresh all at the same time.

I have this lovely 7-inch springform pan which makes a wonderfully sized appetizer, but if all you have is a 9-inch pan, this recipe works just fine. You will need to reduce the cooking time a little, as the filling is not as thick in a bigger pan. Just make sure the center is firm. Serve this as a spread with baguette slices or crackers.

Crab Remoulade Cheesecake

20 buttery crackers, such as Townhouse

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Several grinds of black pepper

¼ ( ½ stick) cup unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:

2 green onions, white and light green parts, and about 1 inch of dark green

2 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons capers

2 teaspoons grated horseradish from a jar

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

¼ cup sour cream

3 large eggs

2Tablespoons Creole mustard

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 -4 dashes hot sauce, such as Crystal

1 cup crab meat, rinsed drained and picked over to remove shell

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line the bottom of a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then spray the whole pan with baking spray. Wrap the outside with foil to catch any butter seepage.

Process the crackers, cheese, salt and pepper to fine crumbs in a small food processor.  Add the melted butter and process until it all comes together.  It will be very wet – don’t worry. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the springform pan, pressing a little bit up the sides of the pan.  Bake the crust for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

For the Filling:

Rinse and dry the bowl of the food processor and add the green onion cut into pieces, the garlic, capers and horseradish and pulse until you have a chunky paste.

Beat the cream cheese, eggs, sour cream and mustard together in the bowl of a stand mixer until very smooth and combined.  Add the green onion mixture, the lemon juice, salt and pepper and hot sauce and beat until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the crab meat and beat on low until it is evenly distributed and combined. 

Spread the filling evenly over the crust, smoothing the top.  Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes until completely firm and lightly browned on top.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then chill in the refrigerator loosely covered for several hours or overnight.  When ready to serve, release the springform ring and transfer the cheesecake to a platter. Lining the bottom of the pan makes it easier to slide the cheesecake off the pan bottom to the platter.

Serve with crackers or baguette toasts.

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Flatbread with Cranberry Onion Jam and Brie

I had this idea for a flatbread appetizer with cranberries and caramelized onions. I put together a version for a simple friends gathering and I felt like I wasn’t quite there yet, but it got absolutely gobbled up. That’s how I knew I was on the right path. I worked out this amazing cranberry onion jam, which has become a house staple for all sorts of things, and tweeked the dough to be easy and make-ahead. I made it again for another gathering a week or so later with some of the same people, and you would’ve thought I’d invented the wheel for the raves. Best of all, it was an all ages hit. Two friends asked for the recipe because their kids loved it so much. And it does make a stunning display.

I have quite a few helpful notes on this one. First, the jam is really versatile. It would make a fantastic alternative to cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, and/or would be amazing on a leftover turkey sandwich. It takes a little time to cook but can be made a few days ahead and held in the fridge. With the flatbread dough, my trusty recipe makes a crust for 2 pizzas or flatbreads, so I fiddled around with cutting it in half, but in the end decided that was unnecessary, because the easy to make dough can keep in the fridge for a few days or the freezer for up to a month. So why not make a whole recipe and have some on hand, because it can be used for any pizza or flatbread combo you like. I love the creamy, mellow taste of brie, but you’ve got options here too. Taleggio is magnificent but a little spendy. Camembert is lovely or get really tangy with some crumbled blue cheese. This recipe makes a lovely meal with a green salad, but I like to serve it as a party appetizer. Make the jam and the dough ahead, assemble it all before your guests arrive, pop it in the oven as they pull in the driveway. I shape the dough to fit a wooden cutting board for a rustic serving presentation. Don’t worry about perfection – the handmade look is a special touch.

Flatbread with Cranberry Onion Jam and Brie

For the Cranberry Onion Jam

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds yellow sweet onions, finely diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup pure cane sugar or granulated sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 stalk fresh rosemary

2 cups fresh cranberries

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

For the Flatbread Dough:

2 packets active dry yeast

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon honey

1 ¼ cup warm water

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Assembly

4 ounces brie cheese

¼ cup dried cranberries

Flaky salt and black pepper

For the Jam:

Pick out a medium sized, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and make a paper lid for stewing the onions by cutting out a circle from a piece of parchment that will fit tightly over the surface of the onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the diced onions. Stir to coat the onions in oil, then cook for about five minutes until the onions begin to wilt and color slightly at the edges, stirring frequently. Sprinkle over the salt and stir to combine. Turn the heat to medium low. Place the parchment paper circle over the top of the onions pressing directly on the surface.  Cook the onions until soft and caramelized and golden brown, removing the paper once or twice and stirring, replacing the paper lid, about 20 minutes. If the onions are catching on the bottom of the pan, stir in a couple of tablespoons of water and scrape up ant browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the liquid is evaporated and replace the cover and continue. When the onions are a lovely toffee color, add ½ cup water, the sugar and vinegar and stir. Tie the rosemary in a little cheesecloth bundle or put it in a tea ball and add to the pot, then add the cranberries. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries begin to pop and split. When you are stirring, press on the berries with your spatula or spoon to break them up. You don’t want any whole berries in the finished product. When you’ve got a thick, dark spreadable jam of a deep wine color, about 20 minutes of cooking and stirring, remove the pan from the heat, remove the rosemary and stir in the chopped sage. Leave to cool.  The jam can be made up to two days ahead, cooked, covered and refrigerated.

For the Flatbread:

Put the yeast, oil, honey and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Give it a stir with the hook, then add three cups of flour and mix until the begins to dough come together, pulling the mass of dough off the hook a couple of times as needed. Add the remaining one cup of flour a little at a time, incorporating it into the dough as you go, pulling the dough from the hook as needed. At times it won’t look like it will combine, but it will. When you have a nice cohesive mass, continue to knead the dough on medium speed for seven minutes, stopping the mixer and pulling the dough from the hook if needed. When the dough is a nice, smooth elastic mass, put it in a bowl lightly brushed with olive oil and leave it in a warm dry place to rise for 30 – 45 minutes until it is doubled in size. Divide the dough into two equal halves. If you are not using it immediately, wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for two days (see note). When ready to use, bring one half of the dough to room temperature. 

Brush a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough about ½ inch thick. Use your creativity here – you can roll it to fit completely in an 11 by 7 inch pan, or to fit a 12-inch round pizza pan, or go free form for a rustic look. When you have the shape you want, transfer the dough to the oiled pan and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Bring the jam to room temperature. Slice the brie round into thin strips. Spread the jam over the prepared crust, getting pretty close to the edges. Top with the sliced brie, then sprinkle over the dried cranberries. Season well with some flaky salt and generous grinds of black pepper. Bake the flatbread for 10 – 12 minutes, until the crust is golden at the edges, the jam is warmed through and the cheese is melted. Let rest for a few minutes, then cut into pieces.

Note: Wrap the dough halves tightly in plastic. You can keep one half in the refrigerator to use for the recipe. If you’d like, place the other wrapped half in a plastic ziptop freezer bag and freeze for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using, then let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling.

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

When I was in school in England many moons ago, the chic appetizer on menus all over the country, from bistros to pubs, was fried camembert with a cranberry relish. Small wheels, or sometimes wedges, of camembert were breaded and fried and served with anything from a canned-type cranberry sauce to complicated cranberry relishes. One English grocery store even (to this day) sells a heat and eat version with a little tub of cranberry jelly. I loved it, and ordered all the time. But the likelihood of me coating and frying cheese has always been pretty slim. I tried coating the top of a wheel with breadcrumbs one time, but that was not very successful. But I love the combination of gooey cheese, crunchy crumbs and tart-sweet cranberry. Hence, this was born. A cheat’s version that truly rivals the inspiration.

A melty wheel of creamy cheese makes a wonderful appetizer that never fails to please. I love the funky depth of camembert, but you could certainly use brie or another creamy cheese. I like to bake it until it is really runny, so the cheese picks up the crumble when you swipe a server through it. Hazelnuts are the perfect winter partner for the cheese, but walnuts or pecans would work well. The cranberries and rosemary give this a festive look. Serve melty hot with baguette slices.

Baked Camembert with Hazelnut and Cranberry Crumble

2 ounces hazelnuts

3 sprigs rosemary

2 sprigs marjoram

1 clove garlic

1 ounce dried cranberries

Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 8 ounce wheel of camembert cheese

Put the hazelnuts in a dry skillet and toast for a few minutes over medium heat just to warm them through. Transfer to a tea towel, then fold over the towel and rub the hazelnuts around to loosen the skins. Don’t worry about getting every piece of skin, just the majority of it. Roughly chop the hazelnuts, either with a knife or in a mini food processor. Put about five rosemary leaves aside, then finely chop the remainder. Finely chop the marjoram. Cut the garlic clove in half and very finely mince one half. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the skillet, then add the chopped herbs and the hazelnuts. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently just until the nuts start to take on a little toasty brown color. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. When the nuts are little browned, add the garlic and stir and cook for 30 seconds. Immediately put the mixture in a bowl, then add the cranberries and generous pinches of salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat to oven to 350°. Place the camembert in a small, lightly greased baking dish. Rub the cut side of the remaining garlic half over the top of the cheese, the use thin knife to make several slits in the top of the cheese. Poke the reserved rosemary needles down into the slits in the cheese. Bake the cheese for 15 – 20 minutes, until it is warmed through, soft and runny. Sprinkle over the crumble and heat for a further three minutes. Serve immediately with baguette slices.

Barbecue Pimento Cheese

Photo by Jennifer Davick

My third book, Southern Snacks: 77 Recipes for Small Bites with Big Flavors was released this week, and its made me a little nostalgic, so here’s a throwback from my first book Pimento Cheese The Cookbook. It’s hard to choose favorite recipes from each book, but this is certainly at the top of my list. I think pimento cheese is the most iconic Southern snack, and I promise it appears in the new book as well!

As a born and raised Memphis girl, my blood runs part barbecue sauce.  So any exploration of Southern foodways for me is likely to loop back around to barbecue. But with the finest barbecue to be had five minutes away in every direction, I have never seen the point of smoking my own pig. I do have my own house barbecue spice that I use on everything from pork chops to popcorn.  And of course, pimento cheese.

Barbecue Pimento Cheese

1 Tablespoon sweet paprika 

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon celery salt 

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼  teaspoon onion powder 

¼  teaspoon chili powder 

¼  teaspoon crushed red pepper 

¼  teaspoon garlic powder 

1/8 teaspoon cayenne 

8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese

8 ounces naturally smoked orange cheddar cheese

4 green onions, white and some green parts, finely diced

1 cup mayonnaise

1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, rinsed and drained

Mix all the spices together until thoroughly blended.

Grate the cheeses together into a large bowl and toss together to combine.  Add the green onions and toss again.  I find my clean, dry hands the best tool for this.  In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with 2 Tablespoons of the spice mix and stir until completely incorporated.  Stir the mayonnaise into the cheese mixture until everything is well blended and all the cheese is coated.  Stir in the pimentos until they are evenly distributed throughout the mix.  

Chill the pimento cheese, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let the flavors meld.  This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Makes 3 ½ cups

There will be some spice blend leftover.  Keep it in an airtight container and sprinkle it over hamburgers, steak or, my favorite, popcorn.

 

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham

 

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes in summer serve cold soups for supper. Mostly vichysoisse from a can and something called consommé madrilène. I didn’t not like this. The idea of cold soup just didn’t square in my adolescent brain. But like most things, my mother was right. Cold soup is such a perfectly refreshing summer meal. And it is a great opportunity to make the most of summer’s delicious produce, like my summer squash Vichysquash, or Cold Vidalia Onion Soup. And my favorite summer produce is unquestionably field peas. Add a touch of buttermilk and I am in chilled soup heaven.

Delicate lady peas are perfect for pureeing into a light and creamy soup. Tangy buttermilk and soft leeks add layers of flavor. The crispy country ham adds the perfect salty note and crunchy texture to finish it off. This soup can be an elegant dinner party starter, and I can also see it as one of those soup shooters serves at a cocktail party, with a pretty shard of country ham balanced on the glass. But I also like it for a simple summer dinner, maybe with some sliced tomatoes on the side, and having some in the fridge over a weekend to sip for lunch or a snack is a treat.

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3)
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 1 pound fresh lady peas
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 2 shallots
  6. 6 – 7 stalks of thyme
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. zest and juice of one large lemon
  9. 1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
  10. 6 ounces thinly sliced country ham
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. Remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not let the leeks brown.
  2. When the leeks are soft, add the lady peas, the celery stalks (broken in half if needed) and the shallots. Pour over 6 cups of water. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and drop in the pot with the bay leaves. Zest and juice the lemon and set aside both. Drop the squeezed out lemon halves in the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the peas are very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Fish out the bay leaves, the thyme bundle and the lemon halves, then cool the soup to room temperature. Transfer the soup to a blender (in batches if needed), add the lemon zest and juice and puree until completely smooth. Season well with salt – it may take quite a bit. Pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer, scraping it through, into the cleaned out pot or a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  4. Cut the country ham into thin slivers and cook in a skillet over medium high heat until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve the soup topped with the slivers of country ham.
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