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.

Parmesan Thyme Cocktail Biscuits

Savory little cheese wafers are the perfect accompaniment to a sophisticated cocktail. I have made more versions with cheddar cheese than I can count, and have branched out with my famous Blue Cheese and Fig Savories. But you can never have too many variations of these lovely little nibbles, and this one is a perfect treat with a glass of champagne or a crisp white wine. And best of all, they are simple to make and can be prepared ahead. But for all that, they are still elegant and sophisticated.

This recipe is loosely based on one from seminal British food writer Elizabeth David, and in a nod to the original, I have veered away from a traditional thin cheese wafer and cut these thicker. I love that this creates crispy edges with a crumbly center. David was known for bringing the flavors of the Mediterranean to a postwar, ration-weary Britain, and though this recipe certainly has an Italian flair, her inspiration was a recipe from a cookbook published in 1909 from the notes of an English aristocrat. I have simplified things with the food processor and the roll and slice method and added a nice herbaceous note from fresh thyme. A final sprinkling of nice flaky sea salt is the perfect finish.

Parmesan Thyme Cocktail Biscuits
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold
  2. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  3. ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  4. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  5. ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to sprinkle the tops
  6. 2 egg yolks
  7. ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and put it on top of the flour in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cheese, thyme and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pulse until crumbly and combined. Add the egg yolks and process until the dough just begins to come together and looks moist and grainy. With motor running, drizzle in the water until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and form a ball.
  2. Remove the dough to a piece of waxed paper and knead a few times to bring it all together. Form the dough a log and roll tightly, pressing in to form a nice solid log. Twist the ends of the waxed paper like a candy wrapper. Refrigerate for at least an hour before baking, but you can refrigerate them for two days or freeze them for 3 months.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 320° and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the rolls from the fridge and slice into medium-thick wafers, about ½ inch each. Place them on the baking sheet with a little room to spread and sprinkle the tops with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Bake until golden around the edged and firm on the top, about 25 - 30 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown. Cool on the pans for a few minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Baked Roast Beef, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Sliders

In my recently released The Southern Sympathy Cookbook, I included a recipe for perfect little baked sliders, because several people told me they had always called them “funeral sandwiches.” The book version includes a delicious country ham spread, cheese and a sweet buttery topping. Working on that recipe, I realized what a great concept they are – perfect flavor-packed hearty bites that feed, and please, a crowd. So I have been a little crazy creating different fillings and toppings. This is one of my favorite iterations – tangy and cheesy, sweet and savory, gooey and rich. Little sandwiches like these are often thought of as snack food or party appetizers, but they make a great meal too. They can be made a day ahead and heated up when ready to eat. Serve with a salad or a bowl of soup (tomato is particularly good).

Use the shredded mozzarella from a bag here, not the fresh Italian variety. The melty mozzarella helps hold the sandwiches together without overpowering the blue cheese flavor. Choose a good roast beef from the deli, I find a roasted London broil I like, and have it thinly sliced. Whole wheat rolls add a nice touch here, but regular rolls are just fine.

Roast Beef, Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Baked Sliders

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided

3 yellow onions

2 dozen honey wheat Hawaiian rolls

½ pound thinly sliced deli roast beef

8 ounces crumbled blue cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella from a bag

¼ cup light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Melt ¼ cup (½ stick) of the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the thinly sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and begin to brown. Pour in ½ cup of water, stir well and cook until the liquid is evaporated and the onions are a rich caramelized amber color. Leave the onions to cool. They can be prepared up to a day in advance.

Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with foil with ends hanging over. This makes it easier to lift out the cooked sandwiches. Use a high-sided brownie pan, not a shallower glass casserole.

Use a long, sharp bread knife to slice each package of rolls in half horizontally. Do not separate the individual rolls, slice open the whole rectangle. Spread caramelized onions in an even layer over both bottom halves, spreading evenly to the edges of the bread. Carefully transfer the covered bread to the prepared pan. They will fit snuggly and you may have to wiggle them in and press them down. Layer the roast beef evenly over the onions, covering the entire surface. Sprinkle the blue cheese in an even layer over the roast beef, then sprinkle over the mozzarella cheese, making sure to reach the edges of the bread. Place the top halves of the rolls over the cheese. Use a thin knife to run through the separations in the rolls to make them easier to pull apart when cooked.

For the topping:

Melt the remaining stick of butter, brown sugar, mustard and pepper together in a small saucepan. When the butter is melted, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.  Drizzle the topping evenly over the sandwiches in the pan, using a spatula to spread it out evenly if needed. Leave to cool, then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the sandwiches, covered, for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sandwiches are heated through. Uncover and cook for a few minutes, just until the tops are lightly toasted – be careful, the topping can brown easily. Use the overhanging foil to lift the sandwiches from the pan, then separate them and arrange on a platter.

Roasted Rosemary Grapes with Goat Cheese

Grapes are, I think, so unexpected in any form other than right off the stem for a snack. My parents always had a colander full of grapes near the sink, and the grandkids would snack off them constantly. So grapes have been sort of stuck in the realm of kid food to me, but this sophisticated dish dispels that idea quick smart. It has the effortless sophistication in food that I strive toward, but don’t always reach. And the broody color of the softened grapes garnished with a woody sprig of rosemary makes a striking and lovely Autumn treat.

This is one of the simplest, but still elegant appetizers in my repertoire. Toss grapes with oil and vinegar and roasting them creates this sweet, tangy rich topping for creamy goat cheese, with a wafting flavor of rosemary. I like dark, jammy black grapes, but fruity red grapes work as well. For me sherry vinegar or Jerez vinegar to have the perfect balance of richness and bite. I find balsamic a little syrupy for this, but use red wine vinegar if you need a substitute. You could also swap out the rosemary for another woodsy herb like thyme or marjoram. And of course you could serve the grapes with a different cheese, like brie or camembert, but I find the saltiness of goat cheese the perfect foil.

Roasted Rosemary Grapes with Goat Cheese
Serves 10
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups black or red seedless grapes
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
  4. 1 teaspoon honey
  5. kosher salt and pepper
  6. 3 large stalks rosemary, plus one for garnish
  7. 1 4-ounce log soft goat cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the grapes with olive oil, sherry vinegar, honey, salt and a generous dose of ground black pepper in an 8 by 8 inch ceramic baking dish. Tuck the rosemary stalks among the grapes. Roast the grapes for 20 - 30 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the grapes are soft beginning to collapse.
  2. Let the grapes cool for about 5 minutes, remove the rosemary stalks, then spoon over the goat cheese. Garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary. Serve with hearty crackers or baguette slices.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Radishes with Browned Butter Spread

I think radishes are absolutely gorgeous and I love it when they start to appear at the farmers market. Beautiful red and pink and pale purple Easter egg radishes, long ombre breakfast radishes, simply orbs of bright red. But to be honest, I’ve never really known what to do with them besides slice them for a salad. I’ve been so tempted by their beauty that I searched out recipes and ideas, and I’ve tried some with nice results, though I truly think the simple, French way of serving radishes with very good butter, flaky salt and soft baguettes is the best. It is that type simply stunning presentation you see in magazine spreads that I always aspire to reproducing. The beauty of the radishes does most of the work. And I find people are always excited or intrigued. Just to spark things up a little, I whipped up this browned butter spread

Use a good European-style butter for the best flavor, there is so little to this dish that you want to make every ingredient count. I think this is charming with pink Himalayan salt, or really striking with black salt, but crunchy flaky white salt, such as Maldon, is perfect. Any type of radish works, and you can slice them to drape over baguette slices slathered with the butter, or leave them whole for swiping through the spread and eating out of hand. The browned butter spread is good on just about anything!

Radishes with Browned Butter Spread
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
  2. ½ teaspoon flaky salt, pink, black or white
  3. radishes
Instructions
  1. Cut one stick of the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Stir the butter to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug. Leave to cool, but not solidify.
  2. When the browned butter has cooled, place the remaining stick of softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the loosen up the butter, scraping down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, drizzle in the browned butter, leaving the brown bits at the bottom of the measuring jug. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the salt and beat until well blended. Scrape the butter into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours (or up to three days) to allow the flavors to meld. Return to room temperature before serving.
  3. Serve with radishes and sliced baguettes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Bacon Praline Shrimp

Many years ago, I hesitate to say how many, the hot appetizer around town, both in restaurants and from party caterers, was bacon wrapped stuffed shrimp, often with a sticky glaze. They were an absolute hit with everyone. I, of course, re-created the dish at home and for some years served it at my own little gatherings. But it was (and still is) a lot of work. Butterfly the shrimp, carefully stuff them, hold them together while wrapping in bacon, securing with a toothpick, brush with a glaze, cook and serving immediately. I eventually gave up the ghost as I thought it was more trouble than I was willing to go to anymore. But bacon wrapped shrimp is just a plain delicious dish, so I worked to create something that mimicked the flavor without all the fuss. So here you go.

I’ve used shrimp of all sizes for this dish, but for toothpick appetizer purposes, little one bite morsels work best. Warm a serving dish in a low oven to serve these in, though they will remain delicious at room temperature. I have served this spooned over rice as a meal as well, and it makes a lovely supper. I do recommend making this and serving it quickly, but the sauce can be made a half hour ahead and kept warm over low heat. Up the heat and cook the shrimp as directed.

Bacon Praline Shrimp

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp

½ cup chopped pecans

3 strips of bacon

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup water

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 Tablespoons bourbon

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Rinse and drain the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels.

Toast the pecans in a dry, deep skillet until lightly browned and they have a lovely nutty fragrance. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the skillet. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in the skillet over medium high heat until browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then carefully pour the bacon grease into a bowl. Don’t wipe out the skillet, just return it to the heat and add the water and brown sugar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Drop in the rosemary and bring to boil. Cook until syrup and thickened, about 5- 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon and lemon juice. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of the reserved bacon drippings and the butter and stir gently until the butter is melted. Stir in the bacon and toasted pecans. Return the pan to medium heat and add the shrimp, basting them with sauce until they are pink, curled and cooked through, just a few minutes.

Serve the shrimp immediately with toothpicks and some good bread for sopping up the sauce.

Serves 6 – 8