Sweet Potato Soup with Candied Bacon

Here’s a recipe for those of you who find yourself with a half a bag of leftover sweet potatoes after the holiday! It was a real hit at our house, and I hope you enjoy it.

Beware: the candied bacon is addictive.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
two pinches of Old Bay
splash of bourbon
~2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or to taste)

12 bacon rashers
brown or natural raw sugar

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook about five minutes until just translucent, stirring occasionally. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the bacon, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Add bacon to a large plastic bag, leaving the top of the bag open wide. Sprinkle in sugar, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to cover each piece of bacon. You want each piece to be nicely covered in a thin layer of sugar, not clumping. I use just about 1/4 cup of sugar for a whole package of bacon.

3. Remove each bacon rasher from the bag and spread out flat on a cooking rack. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet under this to catch the bacon fat, and place the entire thing into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Check it at 15 to see if it’s done. Do not raise the temperature to speed cooking.

4. While the bacon is baking, spices and salt to the sweet potatoes and stir thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of bourbon to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir again, then pour in vegetable broth. Raise heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and easily crumbled with the back of your stirring spoon.

5. Pour sweet potatoes and broth into a large food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency, doing two batches if necessary (simply pour half in, process, and then remove to a bowl; pour other half from stock pot, process, and then return to pot along with the half in the bowl). I like my sweet potato soup a little chunky, so I processed about 3/4 of the pot, and smashed the remaining large pieces of potato up with the back of my spoon before returning the blended soup to the pot.

6. Stir thoroughly, taste to adjust spices and salt, and continue to simmer over very low heat until the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, and break into edible pieces (not bacon bits, but small enough to scoop up with a soup spoon!). Drizzle cream into soup and stir thoroughly.

7. Ladle soup out into bowls and top with candied bacon pieces. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Serves 4.


Honey Mustard Collard Greens

Another variation on one of my favorite type of greens, this savory side dish will be liven up any dinner.  The bacon grease gives these collards their distinctive Southern flavor, while the honey mustard provides an unexpected note of sophistication.

~4 cups collard greens, washed and chopped
2 tsp bacon grease
1/4 yellow onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp honey

1. In a large skillet, melt bacon grease over low heat. Add garlic and onion, stir, and sauté for about five minutes, until fragrant and translucent.

2. Deglaze pan qith red wine, then add collard greens and balsamic vinegar. Stir continuously for about five minutes, until the greens begin to wilt and turn bright green.

3. Add mustard and honey, stir thoroughly to coat all the leaves, and remove from heat. Serve immediately.

Serves 2. What looks like a huge pile of raw greens turns out to be just right for two people! Double or triple recipe as desired, but don’t cook too much! These are best freshly cooked—leftover greens don’t translate.

Shown here with oven-baked bison sausage and a side of creamy brown rice.

Creamed Hominy

This one’s pretty straightforward, but I want you to enjoy it as much as I did, so I’m posting it!  If you like hominy (and you should like hominy), you’ll love creamed hominy.

4 cups fresh (or fresh frozen) hominy
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp butter, separated
dash of raw sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Rinse the hominy and pour into a stock pot or slow cooked (I prefer the latter). Cover completely with water, add a dash of salt, and boil for approximately an hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for about another four hours, until hominy is tender but still firm. It can now be cooked, or stored for future use within (This step can be skipped if you’re using canned hominy, bless your heart. If you’re using raw, unsoaked hominy, follow these steps–you are a braver cook than I!)

2. Drain the water from the hominy and pour it back into a stock pot with the cream. Bring just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer, stirring constantly.

3. Add butter, sugar, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir until all ingredients are melted and well mixed, cooking over low heat as hominy achieves a thick, creamy texture. Serve warm as an addictive and filling side dish.

Serves 4.

You could also use corn. But it won’t be nearly as buttery and delicious!

Shown above with butternut squash and potatoes roasted in bacon fat and olive oil, with a little salt, pepper, and fresh sage and rosemary, topped off with a little grated parmesan.

Stella’s Macaroni and Cheese

This may be the comfort food of all comfort foods.  Macaroni and cheese.

So rich, cheesy, warm, filling, and… American.

Here’s my standard recipe for slightly dressed-up but still approachable, baked mac and cheese.  Handle it carefully.

1 lb macaroni
6 Tbsp butter
5 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 cups whole milk
1 cup sour cream
1 yellow onion, very finely diced
1 tsp paprika, with extra set aside for dusting
~12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
~6 oz. pecorino romano cheese, grated*
~1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large stock pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a large casserole dish (or two!) with butter and set aside.

2. Next, melt four tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and stir for constantly until it begins to thicken and is free of lumps, about two minutes. Stir in mustard, milk, sour cream, onion, paprika, salt, and pepper, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, then add 3/4 of the cheese to the skillet.

3. Drain macaroni and return it to the pot. Pour the cheesy sauce mixture over the macaroni and stir thoroughly until the pasta is evenly coated. Fold mixture into casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the top and place the dish in the oven. Bake for approximately 30 minutes. If you’d like your macaroni a little crispier, broil briefly at the end until nicely browned (about three minutes).

4. After carefully removing the dish from the oven, garnish the dish with paprika and serve immediately.

*I also threw in a little grated horseradish cheddar, which I couldn’t resist at Wheatsville!

Dijon Cheesy Grits

Here is a great twist on my Horseradish Cheese Grits recipe, invented due to a lack of milk and horseradish. I had a craving for grits, and came up with this. It was delicious!

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow grits
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup heavy cream
more salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium saucepan, bring water, salt, and pepper to a boil. Add grits and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Reduce heat to low and continue stirring regularly as the mixture thickens (about 25 to 30 minutes). Add more water if needed.

2. Add butter and cheese and stir until melted into grits. Add mustard and stir lightly until mixed in. Finally, pour in cream, stirring constantly until evenly absorbed. Serve immediately with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Shown here with chicken prepared according to my Easy Shrimp and Grits recipe.