Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Day After Thanksgiving Turkey and Crimini Soup

Last week, a full two weeks before Thanksgiving was even scheduled to arrive, I got an intense craving for turkey. No, not the deli variety, and not the roasted kind you can buy. I needed to have a fragrant bird filling up my house with its gorgeous aromas while I worked on my new French soup cookbook upstairs in my office.

So, I went to the grocery and bought a small, five pound, bone-in turkey breast. I had to wait a day to thaw it in the fridge, and then I got busy doing what I always do for any turkey I’m about to roast. I rub mine down with olive oil, season generously all over with ground black pepper and kosher salt, and nestle a couple of pats of butter under the skin of the breast.  I start mine in a hot, 425F oven and let it cook for about 20 minutes, or until it starts to form a kind of golden “crust” within which the seasoning is embedded. Then, I reduce the heat to 325F, and start basting it with a combination of 1 cup white wine, 1 cup chicken stock, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, whisked together. I baste (or return the love back to the turkey)  every 20 minutes, spooning the flavorful pan juices over the bird along the way. Stop cooking the turkey when the center of the breast reads 160F and let it rest, lightly covered with tin foil, for at least 30 minutes. This whole process, at 20 minutes per pound, took less than 2 hours.

Then, I started carving the juicy, tender white meat away from the bone for the week of turkey sandwiches I enjoyed the past several days.  Never one to endorse wasting food or flavor, I coarsely chopped the remaining carcass and put it in a large stock pot with a quartered onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a carrot, 2 bay leaves, and enough water to cover the contents . I brought it up to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and cooked it ever so slowly, uncovered for about 6 hours, skimming off any “scum” as it rose to the top.  The result was a gorgeous, clear, fragrant stock.

So, a little bit early, I had on-hand exactly what you will have on-hand the day after Thanksgiving. Plenty of turkey and stock to put to good use. The obvious solution is a fragrant, light and delicate soup. Because the book I’m working on uses French technique and method, I cut up all of the vegetables very finely, into what is called a brunoise. This is a tiny 1/8″ dice. It looks pretty and allows all of the vegetables to cook quickly and for the same amount of time. A petite dice of warm croutons on top finishes it off in a very French way for this wonderfully American holiday.  Because basically everything is prepped ahead, it comes together in just about 20 minutes. Bon appetit! If you’re careful in your planning, you should still have plenty of roast turkey for sandwiches. This soup uses only about 2 cups.

Day After Thanksgiving Soup

Day After Thanksgiving Soup



1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and very finely chopped

2 large stalks celery very finely chopped

2 large carrots, peeled and very finely chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed into a paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups very finely chopped crimini mushrooms (Note: Remove any dirt with a damp paper towel and pull out any tough stems before cutting.)

1 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage leaves

1/4 cup dry vermouth

6 cups reserved turkey stock

2 cups turkey breast, skin removed and cut into 1/4″ cubes

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped

For the croutons:

1 cup dried white bread, such as baguette, crust removed and cut into 1/4″ cubes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage leaves

Roast turkey on Thanksgiving using method described in the front of this recipe. After the meat’s been cut off the bone, reserve the carcass and prepare the stock using the method in the front of this recipe and reserve the stock and the turkey meat separately in the refrigerator. The following day, proceed as follows.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Stir to coat, reduce heat to medium, and sweat the vegetables for 5 to 8 minutes or until they’re softened. Add the chopped crimini, dried sage and stir to coat. Add the vermouth, stir and increase heat to medium high. Reduce the vermouth to a glaze, another 3 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved turkey stock and cubed turkey meat. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for 20 minutes to soften the veggies and bring the flavors together. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Meanwhile, to prepare the croutons, melt the butter and the oil together over medium high heat in a saute pan. When sizzling, add the cubed bread, salt, pepper and dried sage. Toss to coat evenly. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking the croutons, tossing, until golden brown on all sides. Reserve warm.

Serve the soup very hot in shallow bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of freshly chopped rosemary and arrange a pyramid of warm croutons in the center of each bowl just before serving.

Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!






Farmers’ Market Opening Day – An Early Spring Rite of Passage

Early spring selflessly affords us with so many wonderful things to celebrate. Here, in Charleston,  the air is sweet with the heady frangrances of jasmine, wisteria, and budding trees everywhere. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful, it mandates automatic forgiveness for the pollen that clogs the air and heads of the allergy afflicted masses.  Here and elsewhere baseball season begins, Easter and Passover’s celebrations are underway, marathons are being run, and the thing that makes me happiest of all, Farmers’ Markets are dusting off their tents and setting up shop for another long and delicious season.

Nothing puts spring in my step like farmers’ market opening day. The vendors and farmers are rested from their early winter break (although farmers’ work never ends) and tables are bursting with the bounty of spring – tender, sweet onions, asparagus, fresh-from-the-earth potatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, turnips, greens – some of my favorite things. I’ve long held an internal debate about what seasonal foods I most prefer. As much as I adore the tomatoes and peaches of summer and the squash and apples of fall and winter, I always come back to spring as my #1 top pick. I don’t know if it’s because the silence of the winter season seems so long, but there is something about these foods that render me virtually giddy.

Opening day Farmers' Market Finds

Opening day Farmers’ Market Finds

So, this past Saturday morning, when Charleston’s downtown Farmers’ Market opened, it felt like I was seven years old on Christmas morning, the anticipation level was that high. I pulled out my trusted, striped farmers’ market basket, donned a beaming smile and headed straight for Marion Square. As always, it was a feast for the senses and the soul. The smell of baking bread co-mingled with the sweetness of strawberries, familiar farmers and vendors smiled and sold their wares, even as more new faces and vendors did the same. It was intoxicating!

I loaded up with all my favorites and headed home to figure out how to best put these goodies to use. This was another reminder of why spring produce is especially idyllic. It needs precious little prep or ingredient additions to render it just about perfect. Super fresh produce responds very well to roasting which does a simple and fantastic job of coaxing the sugars and flavors of the supple produce out of them and directly into your happy mouth and stomach. Hence, the recipe that follows.

Roasted Spring Veggie Medley with Bacon and Scallions

(Yield: 4 to 6 servings)

In this delicious and nutritious warm veggie side, potatoes, spring onions, summer squash (though not yet quite in season), spring onions and asparagus are roasted separately (or alongside each other in the same pan) to retain their individual flavors and then tossed together, topped with sauteed bacon and scallions just prior to serving. Look for the freshest, thinnest skinned new potatoes you can find and leave the skin on. They will take just a little longer than the vegetables to cook, but the short wait is well worth the while. Non-meat eaters feel free to omit the bacon.

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Bacon & Scallions

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Bacon & Scallions

10 well-scrubbed small, fresh potatoes, quartered

3 spring onions, trimmed to 3″ length of the green stems, and halved

1 yellow squash, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/2″-thick slices

10 spears asparagus, washed trimmed (cut about 1″ off the bottom) and gently peeled about 3″ up from the base

Extra Virgin Olive oil

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:

4 slices bacon, sauteed and crumbled into large chunks

3 scallions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 425F. Prep the vegetables. In a large roasting pan, arrange each of its kind together in a single layer, side by side. If the pan is too small, roast any remaining vegetable kind (for example asparagus) in a separate pan. Drizzle the veggies generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss each group together to coat. Roast at 425 until tender and barely colored/golden, tossing once or twice. The potatoes will take a little longer than the rest. After 20 – 25 minutes, remove the asparagus, onions and squash with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving bowl. Keep warm by covering with a piece of aluminum foil. Increase the oven to 450F and continue roasting the potatoes until very tender and just golden, another 10 minutes. Meanwhile, saute the bacon over medium high heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Crumble or chop into a small dice. Toss the potatoes together with the warm vegetables. Topp with the bacon and scallions and serve immediately. This is a delicious dish on its own, or would work magic as a side to poultry, fish, pork or steak.

Mom’s Stewed Strawberries and Rhubarb

(Yield: About 2 1/2 cups)

Me and my siblings were basically sweet and dessert deprived as kids because my mother didn’t believe in them. However, she always obliged when strawberry and rhubarb season came around with this simple and delicious compote. Serve it warm over ice cream or cold over yogurt for breakfast. Unlike Mom, I add a little cinnamon and vanilla, but feel free to omit if you want it “plain.”

4 rhubarb spears, trimmed and cut into 1/2″-thick pieces

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 vanilla pod, cut in half vertically

Generous pinch ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients together in a medium sauce pan. Bring up to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the rhubarb has broken down into a sauce and the strawberries are still chunky, but very soft. Remove the vanilla pod and discard. Serve warm or cold as suggested above. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 days. This will also freeze well for several weeks.

Bon appetit!






No Stopping the Versatile Choux Train

I’ve been having fun in my kitchen testing choux recipes for my upcoming book, The French Cook – Eclairs and Cream Puffs (Gibbs Smith, Fall 2013). I’ve just concluded the savory portion of the book and these little choux gnocchi treats were one of my favorites to eat, and so much fun to make.  I shared a taste with my neighbors, inspiring one of their darling young daughters to declare me “a good cooker.” It’s the little things that make one smile. I thought you might enjoy the recipe. Next stop on the choux train: all things sweet and delicious starting with cream puffs.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron & Butter Sauce

(Yields 10 generous appetizer portions, or 4 to 6 entrees)

Infinitely less complicated than traditional gnocchi, piping choux directly into simmering (but not boiling), well salted water yields little logs of tender, gnocchi-like dumplings. They take the time of preparing the choux and just minutes to cook; roughly 20 – 25 minutes. After the choux hits the water, it drops to the bottom and then pops to the top. A few more minutes of fattening and plumping up, they’re ready to drain, toss with seasoned butter and serve. The ease and bubbling drama of the preparation make it perfect for a dinner party or an evening of casual dining with friends or family. Kids will love them! If you’re not a big saffron fan, just take it out of the mix. These need to be served fairly quickly but can stay warm in the cooking water, off the heat, for 15 or 20 minutes.

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce

Herbed Choux Gnocchi with a Saffron Butter Sauce





















For the choux gnocchi:

Master Recipe Savory Choux Pastry (with variations)

1 cup water

3/4 stick (3 ounces) unsalted, cold butter cut into 1/2”-cubes

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

3 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 room temperature large eggs (about 1 cup), beaten together


1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lemon

Before starting the pastry, have a large pot of well-salted water on a very low simmer. Fit a pastry bag with the #806 round tip and have the ingredients measured and ready to go before preparing the choux.

In a medium, sturdy sauce pan, melt the water and butter together over medium high heat, stirring once or twice to help the butter melt. Once melted, reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, cornmeal and salt together over a medium bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients all at once to the melted water and butter mixture, reserving the bowl nearby. Stir the mixture (roux) vigorously with a wooden spoon to bring the dough together, initially. Continue stirring, less vigorously, until the pastry starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and forms a uniform ball. Turn the pastry out into the reserved bowl. Allow to sit for about 1 minute, or until the pastry is cool enough to touch comfortably with your finger for at least 15 seconds. Add 1/2 of the beaten eggs (about 1/2 cup) to the pastry. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the pastry looks uniform and glossy, about 1 minute. Add half of the remaining egg mixture (about 1/4 cup) and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until the pastry is uniform and glossy (about 1 minute). Repeat with the remaining egg mixture.  Stir in the chives, parsley, thyme and lemon zest.

Fill the prepared pastry bag with 1/2 of the pastry. Pipe the pastry over the simmering water into 1/2” to 3/4” lengths, about 1/2”-thick, cutting with a kitchen scissor or paring knife once the desired length has been met to “plop” it into the water. Continue piping until the pastry bag is empty. The choux will rise to the surface after about 3 to 4 minutes, and will continue to plump and cook another 6 to 8 minutes, or until set. Drain with a slotted spoon onto a clean, cloth towel-lined baking sheet. Fill the pastry bag with the remaining choux and repeat with the second batch.

For the butter sauce:

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into large cubes

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads (optional)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the butter, shallot, saffron, lemon juice and seasoning. Melt over medium heat, reduce to low. Reserve warm over low heat.

To serve, arrange the gnocchi on individual plates and drizzle with a generous amount of the seasoned butter sauce. Or, serve on a platter and let everyone serve themselves.

Here’s another fun way to use these darling little choux gnocchi:

Choux Gnocchi Gratinee

(Yields 8 side-dish portions)

The same choux gnocchi (using the master recipe above), dressed with Parmesan and butter and baked off in a hot oven, yields a cheesy, pasta-like delight that is perfect with roasted chicken, pork or a juicy steak. Simply poach the gnocchi as in the previous recipe and arrange the cooked, drained gnocchi in a large baking pan. Top with 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese and a couple pats of butter. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately. (Note: Any left-over gnocchi from the previous recipe can be stored overnight in the refrigerator and served gratinee style the next day).

Bon appetit!



Kind Words from Ilke’s Kitchen

I would like to thank food blogger and photographer Ilke Erdogan McAliley for taking the time to review my about to be released new book,  The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013).  Ilke explores the mayonnaise chapter as she prepares one of the favorites from her Turkish kitchen, International Salad.

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick



Here’s some of what Ilke had to say:

“I guess the success is in the details that Holly mentioned in her book: using the plastic blade in food processor, pasteurizing the eggs, room temperature ingredients, the type of oil and pepper recommended, and tips on how to save it if everything goes south. Just like in Tart Love, she has a nice, familiar way of explaining things. I love it that although her books have a teaching component,  they do not sound like a textbook.”

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Anchovy and Parsley Mayonnaise from The French Cook: Sauces. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.


Thank you so much, Ilke.

If  you’re interested in visiting Ilke’s blog and would like the recipe for her delicious International Salad, click on this link:

Bon appetit!


Crazy Simple Canape Cups for Hassle-Free Holiday Fun

It’s getting to be that most wonderful time of the year again. As we approach the early stages of holiday planning, the best way to embrace blazing fires, cold nights, time with family and friends, and fabulous feasts, the best plan is to keep it simple, plan ahead, and have fun. Otherwise, the most wonderful time of the year can feel like the worst time of your life.

One way to have a good time without investing half your bank account and countless hours (even days) in the kitchen, is to share canapes and cocktails with a small group of family and/or friends. The little cups, cradled (in both these recipes) with prepared mini-fillo pastry cups, are beautiful, crisp and delicious, and can be prepared within minutes – 15 or less if you move along briskly. Both pair beautifully with a cold glass of Champagne or crisp white wine. It’s also a lovely way to begin a holiday dinner and whet the appetites of all those about to sit down for the more substantial feast that awaits.

Crunchy Crab Cup Canapes

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

This recipe is an even easier adaptation of a slightly more demanding version from Tart Love, Sassy Savory and Sweet. In the book, I recommend making your own pastry – which is just fine and something I believe in, big time. However, the other day when I was coming up with a new recipe for Slather Brand Foods, I encountered Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells, and decided that these prepared shells would provide a harried-free alternative for frustrated Thanksgiving and holiday chefs everywhere. Indeed, they’re delicious and just need a few minutes to brown, crisp and heat through in the oven. The cool, sprite, crab-rich salad is the perfect texture counter to fill the canapes and looks and tastes merrily festive.

Photo by Helene Dujardin


Here’s the recipe:

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (2 packages or substitute another brand)

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups pasteurized lump crab meat

2 tablespoons capers

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Dijon or sweet/hot mustard

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

Generous dash hot sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet, leaving space between them. Bake for 8 minutes, or until browned and warmed through. Remove and set aside at room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Very gently place the crab, capers, onion, chives, and zest in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Whisk vigorously to combine. Top the crab mixture with the blended mixture and fold gently with a wooden spoon to combine, being careful not to break up the crab. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Fill the canape cups (they can be room temperature or barely warm) within an hour of serving. Garnish with a few short spears of fresh chives, if desired.

Slathered Brie & Pecan Cups

(Makes 30 individual canapes)

Easy and elegant, these ooey, gooey cups of warm, rich cheese are topped with zesty Original Slather Sauce and a crisp layer of crunchy pecans. Prepared with the same prepared fillo cups used in the previous recipe, they look so impressive and taste so delicious, your holiday guests will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen, when in fact they come together in just minutes. The final of twelve recipes I developed for Slather Brand Foods this past year, it’s one of my favorites. The sauce is chunky, sweet, tart, and round all at once – an incredibly versatile addition to your condiment larder. To find it, go to, for a complete listing of retail outlets and online purchasing options. You’ll be glad you did!

30 Athens Brand Mini-Fillo Shells (two packages – or substitute another brand)

1/2 pound best-quality Brie cheese, cut into 1/2″-thick cubes

1/2 cup Original Slather Sauce

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper to finish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the cups on a baking sheet. Place a cube of the prepared cheese into the bottom of each cup. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of Original Slather Sauce. Top each with 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped pecans. Bake on the middle rack until golden and bubbly, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for about five minutes.

To serve, arrange on a pretty platter and drizzle the cups with the fresh parsley and a dash of freshly ground black pepper. The pepper is not mandatory, but works very nicely with the mellow flavor of the cheese and the sweetness of the sauce. These are best served warm.

Wishing you all a wonderful, delicious, and stress-free holiday season!


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