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.

Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop Biscuits

Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop BiscuitsRecipe ideas rattle around in my head for years sometimes. This is one of those. I liked the idea of a cobbler made with juicy summer tomatoes with a biscuit-like topping. I tried a version with sliced tomatoes and it wasn’t what I wanted, so I left the idea behind. At some point, I realized cherry tomatoes would be a better bet. So I looked around for recipes and ideas. Lots of them had rolled biscuits, which just seemed like more trouble for me than I wanted. So I filed the idea away again. When I returned to the concept, I knew I wanted to make something a little different than plain buttermilk biscuit, that would really add some interest to the tomatoes. I love tomato blue cheese soup, so I realized it could be a great combo. The tomato underlayer is simple so the tomatoes really shine, but the blue cheese biscuit topping soaks up those delicious juices with a tang all its own from the cheese and the buttermilk.

I think this dish has that elegant but homey feel I love. Make this in a nice oven to table dish and serve it right to the table. It makes a great main dish with a green salad, or as a side dish to grilled meats, and it works for brunch or dinner. I like to pick out a colorful selection of red, yellow and orange baby tomatoes in all shapes at the farmers market, but this is also lovely with a monochrome palate of simple reds.

Cherry Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Drop Biscuits
Serves 8
Print
For the Tomatoes
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  3. 2 large onions, diced
  4. ½ cup white wine or vermouth
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leave
  7. 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  8. 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  9. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  10. salt and pepper to taste
  11. For the Biscuit Topping
  12. 2 ¼ cups soft wheat flour (like White Lily)
  13. 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  14. ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  15. ½ teaspoon salt
  16. 6 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  17. 8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
  18. freshly ground black pepper
  19. 1 cup cold buttermilk
For the tomatoes
  1. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat in an oven to table skillet or braiser. Add the diced onions and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the onions well and cook until they are soft and just beginning to brown. When the onions are brown at the edges, pour in the white wine and stir well, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover and cook until the wine is completely reduced. Add ½ cup of water and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and caramelized and the water is gone, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook one minute more. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. When the onions are cool, add the cherry tomatoes then sprinkle over the flour. Stir to combine the onions and tomatoes and coat everything with the flour. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
For the Biscuit Topping
  1. While the tomatoes are cooking, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and generous grinds of black pepper together in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter pieces and rub it into the flour with your good clean hands until it is well distributed. Add the crumbled blue cheese and rub it into the mixture as well. Stir in the buttermilk until you have a soft, dough with no dry ingredients visible.
  2. Remove the tomatoes from the oven after their 25 minutes. Scoop the dough over the top of the tomatoes – I like to use a large ice cream scoop. Return the pan to the oven and cook a further 15- 18 minutes until the biscuits are firm and golden.
  3. Let the cobbler rest for about 10 minutes before serving warm.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

Zucchini breads and cakes are a go to during the growing season, when there is always one left from your farmers market haul, or just too many growing in your garden. I like my zucchini bakes light and fresh, rather than dark and spiced, so with that one lingering zucchini on the counter, I returned to my recipe for Zucchini Lemon Gems to make a loaf cake. I’ve switched to lime for a little difference, and used rich olive oil and tangy Greek yogurt to make the cake moist and zippy.

I debated whether to call this a bread or a cake. It is a cake more in the sense of an English cake, served at tea, rather than the rich frosted confections we think of. But the crackly sweet glaze makes it a little richer than a zucchini bread. Without the glaze, you definitely have a simple bread, but I really think it adds a special touch. Serve this as snack (with iced tea in the summer of course) or for breakfast. But served with a scattering of fresh berries and some lightly sweetened whipped cream, it makes a creative summer dessert packed full of in season flavor.

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake
Serves 10
Print
For the Cake
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  5. Zest of 1 medium limes
  6. 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  7. 1 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  8. 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  9. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  10. 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the glaze
  1. Zest of one medium lime
  2. 3 Tablespoons lime juice
  3. 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs then stir in the oil, sugar and yogurt until well blended. Add the lime juice and zest and the zucchini. Stir until blended, making sure the zucchini is evenly distributed. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just blended, with no streaks of flour left.
  3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. While the cake is cooking, mix the sugar and lemon juice for the glaze in a small bowl. The sugar should not dissolve completely.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then poke holes all over the surface with a skewer or cake tester. Stir the glaze to blend, then spoon it over the cake while it is still hot. Leave the cake to cool and soak up the glaze, then run a thin knofe around the edges to loosen and remove from the pan.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Mom’s Dilled Potato Salad

Mom's Dilled Potato SaladEvery once in a while, I get stuck. I feel like I’ve run out of recipe ideas, so I look everywhere for inspiration. I was recently stuck like this, right before summer, and I whined about it to my mom. She simply said “make that potato salad, it’s so good in summer” as if I know exactly what she meant. I didn’t, so she had to explain it to me, and pull out her recipe card box. She says it is her favorite potato salad, but I have no memory of ever eating it or seeing her make it. But she was right, it is a great potato salad for summer. She loves dill, so anything with a healthy dose like this is likely to appeal, but the crispy peas, crunchy, salty capers and tangy creamy dressing make this a stand-out version. So I call it Mom’s, not because it’s a long-held family memory, but because my mom said so.

Cooking the potatoes in water with salt and vinegar, helps to season the potatoes. It can be tough to get a salty balance with cold, cooked potatoes after the fact. I like to use little red potatoes that hold their shape better when you cut them after cooking.

Mom's Dilled Potato Salad
Serves 6
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
  2. 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  3. 2 pounds small red potatoes
  4. ½ cup Greek yogurt
  5. ½ cup mayonnaise
  6. ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  7. 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  8. 2 Tablespoon drained capers
  9. 3 green onions, white and light green parts, chopped
  10. 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Instructions
  1. Add the salt and vinegar to a large pot of water and bring to the boil. Drop in the potatoes and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes. Drain well and leave to cool.
  2. When the potatoes are cool, mix the yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, lemon juice, capers and green onions together in a large bowl (or use the pot you cooked the potatoes in to save a dirty dish). Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and add to the dressing with the peas. Stir to coat, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover and refrigerate. Leave to chill for a few hours, but the salad will keep for up to two days.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Parmigiano and Basil Baked Corn

Parmigiano and Basil Baked CornFresh summer corn is one of my favorite things on the planet. I buy it in such quantities at the farmers market it’s actually a little insane. Though a fresh cob lightly steamed dripping with butter is a perfect summer treat, I also love corn baked in a creamy casserole, and it is an easy way to serve corn to a big crowd at a summer supper or cookout. Last summer, I spent a month in Italy, exploring the food and cooking. When I returned home, I found myself a little obsessed with the flavors I had enjoyed so much there. I found myself putting basil, garlic, parmigiana and pecorino cheese in absolutely everything. I made enough pesto frozen in little cubes to feed Caesar’s armies, ate cacio e pepe every week and altered some of my favorite summer recipes to remind me of Tuscany. And this is another example of that. Corn is not a particularly Italian ingredient, but I found myself one weekend with another oversized haul from the market, and a huge bunch of fresh basil and I just couldn’t resist reimagining one of my favorite corn casseroles with the fresh flavors of my Italian summer. And it was a big hit. The parmigiana is a nice departure from a typical cheddar cheese corn casserole. Use a good cheese to get the best result – real Parmigiano – Reggiano, not the bagged pizza cheese.

I love this corn casserole as a foil to a big American meal, a little touch of Italy in that most American of side dishes. You can double the recipe for a big crowd, and you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven while you fire up the grill. It’s perfect with steaks, burger and dogs or fried chicken or fish.

Parmigiano and Basil Baked Corn
Serves 8
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 Tablespoon butter
  2. 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  3. ¼ cup white wine or vermouth
  4. 1 clove garlic, minced
  5. 2 cups heavy cream
  6. 1 ounce cream cheese
  7. ¾ cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese, divided
  8. ½ teaspoon salt
  9. ½ teaspoon black pepper
  10. 8 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from about 10 ears
  11. 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet, one that will hold all the corn. Sauté the onions in the butter until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and the garlic, stir well and cook until the wine is completely evaporated. Pour in the heavy cream, raise the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened, about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream cheese and ½ cup of the grated cheese with the salt and pepper and stir until melted. Add the corn and stir until it is well coated, then stir in the basil, making sure it is evenly distributed. Scrape the corn into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of Parmigiano evenly over the top. You can cool, cover and refrigerate this for several hours before baking.
  3. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 25 – 30 minutes.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Marinated Summer Squash Salad

Marinated Summer Squash Salad

Squash season is starting, and everyone I know is always looking for new ways to use the bounty. Everything old is new again though, so I pulled out this recipe. In recent years, I have seen an explosion of fancy squash salads on restaurant menus and on Pinterest. The trend seems to be thinly slicing the squash lengthwise to create long ribbons. It does make for a pretty salad. But in the back of my mind, I knew I had made a squash salad from an old community cookbook in my collection. I’ve been combing through the volumes for a couple of squash seasons now looking for the recipe, and I finally found it. The book is from a small town in Mississippi and was published in the Nineties, putting it slightly ahead of the trend. I jazzed it up with a little marjoram in the dressing

I like to slice everything on a mandolin slicer to create whisper thin strands that soak up the simple dressing. Slicing the squash paper thin is essential, but if you don’t have a mandolin, you can use a vegetable peeler to make thin slices, and you can dice the other vegetables into small pieces. And I suppose you can create those photogenic long squash ribbons, but to be honest, I think it’s easier to eat this as round slices. This makes for a wonderful summer cook-out dish. You can make it up to a day ahead, and the tangy pickled bite of the fresh squash is a real taste of summer.

Marinated Summer Squash Salad
Serves 6
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound yellow summer squash
  2. ½ of a yellow onion
  3. 3 stalks of celery
  4. 1 green bell pepper
  5. 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  6. ¼ cup granulated sugar
  7. 1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
  8. 2 teaspoons salt
  9. ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  10. 1/3 cup olive oil
Instructions
  1. Thinly slice the squash on a mandolin and place in a large, wide bowl. Cut the onion half in half again, and slice each piece on the mandolin and add to the bowl. Carefully slice the celery on the mandolin and add to the mix. Cut out the seeds from the pepper and cut it into quarters. Slice the pieces on the mandolin and add to the bowl. Use your hands to toss the ingredients together, separating the squash slices.
  2. Put the vinegar, sugar, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large jar with a tight lid and shake to combine. Add the oil, screw on the lid and shake until well combined. You can also whisk everything together in a bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to combine. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 24. Give everything a good stir when you think about it.
  3. Drain the salad through a colander, then spread the vegetables on a serving platter. Taste and add a little salt if you like. Serve chilled.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

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

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
Print
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
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Gumbo Z’Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z’Herbes, or green gumbo, is a very traditional Creole dish that you do not find all that often. The magnificent Leah Chase at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is famous for hers, and she serves it primarily the traditional way – on Holy Thursday (before Good Friday). Gumbo Z’herbes is said to bring luck and strengthen the body, and that for each type of green you put in the pot, you will make one new friend in the coming year. The traditional number seems to be nine, with eleven greens being a real bonus, and odd numbers are said to bring even more luck.

I have only had professionally made Gumbo Z’Herbes once in new Orleans, but it is a tradition and a dish that has always intrigued me, so I set out to do some research. I read recipes I found in some old Louisiana cookbooks and online. And the variations are endless. So I took all that information onboard and created this recipe. I generally don’t use as many as nine greens, because I can’t usually track that many down. And some of the recipes used very regional ingredients like pickled pork that I just don’t have access to. Some versions take all day to prepare and cook, some take shortcuts. Some have up to seven different kinds of meat, from pork shoulder to boudin while some insist this should be a vegetarian dish for lent. I am not claiming this is the definitive version of Gumbo Z’Herbes, but it’s mine.

Though traditionally a dish for Lent, I think it is perfect for New Years Day, when eating greens is said to bring prosperity and eating pork is said to be a symbol of progress in the New Year. I say the more greens and pork the better!

Gumbo Z'Herbes
Serves 6
Print
Ingredients
  1. 3 pounds of mixed greens: Mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, kale, spinach, flat leaf parsley, watercress, chard, dandelion (see note)
  2. 1 cup vegetable oil
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 2 cups finely diced yellow onion (about 1 onion)
  5. 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 pepper)
  6. 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2 stalks)
  7. 1 Tablespoon cajun seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  8. 1 ham hock
  9. 10 cups hot water
  10. 1 pound Andouille sausage
Instructions
  1. Strip any thick stalks from the greens (particularly collards, mustard, turnip and kale) and place all the greens in a sink or large bowl full of water. Swish them around a couple of times and let them soak about 5 minutes. Lift the greens out of the water into a large colander. Dirt and silt from the greens will settle at the bottom of the sink, so gently lift them out to prevent the dirt getting back on the greens. Shake the greens to drain. Chop piles of the greens into bite size pieces and return them to the colander.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 7 quart) heavy pan (I like cast iron or enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the creole seasoning. Now slowly pour in the hot water (hottest from the tap is fine, or bring some to a simmer in a pot), stirring constantly. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Add the ham hock, then all the greens, a handful at a time, stirring them down to fit in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and simmer the gumbo for 1 ½ hours.
  3. Scoop about a third of the greens into a food processor or blender with a nice dose of potlikker, at least a cup, and puree until smooth. Return the pureed greens to the pot. Remove the ham hock and carefully pull the meat of the bones. If needed, chop it into bite-sized pieces and add back to the gumbo. Slice the andouille into thin half moons about 1/8 inch thick and add to the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes more.
  4. Serve in big bowls. The gumbo on its own is a little soupy. Serve it over rice to soak up some of that potlikker if you’d like, or with nice hunks of French bread or cornbread to sop it up.
Notes
  1. Head to a good Southern market, farmers market or an Asian grocery to track down all the greens. Many recipes use carrot tops as one of the greens, so if you can find those. Same goes for beet tops and radish tops. Green chard, cabbage, arugula and romaine will also work. Just weigh out 3 pounds.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Mustard Creamed Pearl Onions

Musatrd Creamed Pearl Onions

Many years ago, when I first started cooking a big Thanksgiving meal, I followed the suggested menu of some magazine or cookbook to the letter, despite existing family traditions or personal preferences. One of the dishes on the list of traditional Thanksgiving fare was creamed onions, which I had never had before. My family had never had them either and didn’t really understand why I had included them on the buffet with all the other food. Everyone tried them, and liked them, but focused more on the dishes standard to our feast. I liked them, and made the recipe a few times to accompany beef roasts. But it fell from the Thanksgiving roster in favor of more traditional Southern fare.

Last year was a transitional Thanksgiving for my family, working to develop new traditions during a time of change. Change of location, new people at the table and some new recipes. Fortunately, we had some distant family relatives from New England in town with recently relocated children. They brought a delicious dish of brussel sprouts that they always have on their Thanksgiving table at home. We’ve never included brussel sprouts at Thanksgiving, its mostly green beans. But they were really happy to see the creamed onions – a throwback from their Eastern childhood. And there were no leftovers.

It was a really nice meal, sharing our family traditions. I can’t say for sure if creamed onion are a purely regional specialty for the holiday, but it is not a tradition on the tables of any of my Southern friends. I have streamlined and jazzed up that original creamed onion recipe, and it makes a lovely accompaniment to the centerpiece turkey.

One reason I chose to make this last year is that I found some beautiful multi-colored pearl onions at the grocery that I couldn’t resist. All white onions are perfectly good if that’s what you find.

Mustard Creamed Pearl Onions
Print
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups pearl onions (white, yellow, purple or a combination)
  2. 1 ½ cups light - colored chicken broth
  3. ½ cup white wine
  4. 1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
  5. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 2/3 cups heavy cream
  7. 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Instructions
  1. Cut the tops and roots off the onion. Try to leave a little of the root end intact to hold the onion together. Drop the onions into a pan of boiling water for 45 seconds. Drain the onions, and when cool enough to handle, slip off the skins. This can be done up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Put the onions and the broth and the wine in a medium sauté pan and sprinkle over the sugar and salt. Stir to combine. Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is gone, pour in the cream and add the mustard. Stir and cook over medium until the cream is reduced and thickened and coating the onions.
  3. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Creamy Cauliflower Parmigiano Gratin

I had the good fortune to spend a month in Italy this summer, a blissful few days of it at the cooking school of Badia a Coltibuono, a medieval abbey turned into a winery and bed and breakfast in the hills of Tuscany. We made pasta by hand and learned the secrets to Italian breads and sauces. On one day, the chef, Benedetta Vitali, told us we would make a cauliflower cheese dish to accompany the evening meal. I have to say, we students were not at first thrilled at the idea. The other ladies in the class were English, where “cauliflower cheese” is a ubiquitous comfort food dish, and I have always been underwhelmed by the seeming bland crucifer. Amidst the amazing classical Tuscan recipes, it seemed sort of plain and uninteresting. But we were there to learn, so we watched and participated as told. The first difference we noticed from our own ideas of the dish was how finely Benedetta insisted we chop the cauliflower, rather than layering florets in a baker. Then she saved the cooking water to use in the sauce. Genius. When the dish was served at dinner, we were all amazed. It was so simple to make, but so packed with flavor, rich and creamy but not heavy or cloying. We each in turn said we’d definitely be making this at home. Homemade, hand rolled gnocchi, we weren’t so sure.

As it happens, it showcased the best of Tuscan cooking – choosing the best in season, fresh ingredients and treating them simply and with respect. True parmigiano-reggiano cheese is the secret to this dish. It adds a salty edge and Italian flair, so splurge on a piece and grate it freshly for this dish. Chopping the cauliflower into pretty fine crumbs makes a huge difference in this recipe. I served this to my extended family, and they loved, each saying “I don’t usually like cauliflower, but this is delicious…”

Creamy Cauliflower Parmigiano Gratin
Serves 6
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 head of cauliflower
  2. 10 Tablespoons butter (1 stick plus 2 Tablespoon)
  3. 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  4. 1 cup milk
  5. 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Place the whole head of cauliflower in a large, deep pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until soft when pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the cauliflower to a plate. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then wipe out the pot.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° and grease a 2-quart baking dish.
  3. When the cauliflower is cool enough to handle, remove any stem and leaves, and place on a large chopping board. Cut the head in half, then finely chop – it should be fine crumbs. Repeat with the other half. I use my biggest chopping board and a large knife and scrape the first half of the crumbs onto the plate and continue with the rest.
  4. Melt the butter in the pot, then whisk in the flour until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is pale and smooth. Whisk in the milk and the reserved cooking water and cook until thickened and smooth. Whisk in the cheese, a handful at a time, until smooth and melted. Fold in the chopped cauliflower until it is all coated in the sauce. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. Scrape the cauliflower into the prepared baking dish and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
  6. The gratin can be cooled, covered and held in the refrigerator for several hours before baking. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
Adapted from Benedetta Vitali
Adapted from Benedetta Vitali
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/