Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

easy recipes

Super Father’s Day Sundaes

If it’s possible to still be a Daddy’s girl at 52, then I’m as guilty as the six year-old that wears him like a badge of honor on my heart, then as I do now.   He enforced strict discipline and never tolerated lies he was somehow able to sniff out like a dog on the hunt. He taught unconditional love at  every turn, returning from arduous week-long business trips, always ready to give his energy to his pack of four children and our mother on weekends.  These often involved long rides on our horses, tag football, and summer evenings spent watching fireflies on our country front porch. When we were really lucky, these nights ended with him recanting imagined tales of Cookie to all of us, under a “tent” in the living room.  And, when the summer heat really turned on, Saturday afternoons meant cherished and rare trips to Dairy Queen for ice cream. I favored the soft serve vanilla twist cones dipped in confetti peanut/candy, but sometimes one of us, Dad included, went whole hog and indulged in a hot chocolate sauce banana split. So, even now, I can’t think of ice cream sundaes without thinking of my Dad.

Time may have softened the lines of these memories, erasing the tears from an overly tired child or admonishments from a frustrated Dad, but at their core, they remain true to the man he was and is. The best Dad I could ever hope to have and my eternal night in shining armor, still shining at 84 years of age. The recipe that follows is an adult version of a very, very indulgent sundae that far surpasses DQ’s confetti candy and moves into the realm of butter, mashed bananas, brown sugar, walnuts and rum, though the latter can be wholly omitted without really missing a beat. From my cookbook Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith), it might be just the right treat for your Dad this Father’s Day.

Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes

(Yields 8 sundaes)

The classic brown sugar, butter and rum sauce wrapped around flash-cooked and flambeed ripe bananas was created by Chef Paul Blange at Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans in 1951. The dark brown sauce is just the right foil for the sweetness of bananas. Lightly mashed and served warm over commercial vanilla ice cream with a crumble of chopped walnuts, it is sublime and comes together in minutes. To flambe, carefully tip the saute pan to meet  your stovetop gas flame, or quickly hit with a lighter flame. The flambe is important to cook off the burn of the alcohol and increase flavor, although the rum can be omitted altogether. This is best served straight from the pan, but will store refrigerated and covered for a day or two. Reheat before serving over a few scoops of ice cream.

Mashed Bananas Foster Sundaes from Mashed -Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) by Holly Herrick. Photo credits to Alexandra DeFurio.



1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 tablespoons

1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

4 ripe bananas, peeled, halved vertically, and halved again horizontally

1/3 cup dark rum (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts


1 1/2 quarts best quality vanilla ice cream

In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, canilla, and salt. Cook together over medium-low heat, stirring, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the bananas and gently stir to coat, cooking for 3 minutes. Add the rum, stir to combine, and flambe, standing back to avoid the flame. Gently mash into large chunks using a manual masher or wooden spoon. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 1 – 2 minutes. Serve warm in individual bowls over 2 or 3 scoops of ice cream. Garnish with a tablespoon or so of chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.


Happy Father’s Day!



Stress-Free and Decadent Thanksgiving Dessert

Thanksgiving is all about tradition, but let’s face it, not everyone loves apple, pumpkin or pecan pie, and not everyone loves to bake or get involved with making or rolling out pie pastry.

That’s where this decadent tart comes into your Thanksgving day stress-free dessert plan. Except for a quick bake to set the butter and chocolate Graham cracker crust, it’s completely oven-free. The filling, a blend of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff is blended together and chilled, something that can be done a few days ahead. Just before serving, top it off with a thick layer of freshly whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate chips. It’s a Reese’s lovers dream, with whipped cream on top that’s sure to please.

Peanut Butter Fluff and Chocolate Tart. Photo by Helene Dujardin.

Peanut Butter Fluff and Chocolate Tart. Photo by Helene Dujardin.

Adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet by Holly Herrick (Gibbs Smith, October 1, 2011).

Peanut Butter Fluff & Chocolate Tart

Equipment Needed: One 9″ X 1″ round tart pan with removable bottom

For the chocolate crust:

1 stick soft, unsalted butter

3 cups crumbled chocolate Graham Cracker Crust (about 1 1/2 of the individually wrapped plastic packets)

For the filling:

1 cup creamy peanut butter

4 ounces (1/2 cup) cream cheese

3/4 cup marshmallow cream (suggest Kraft’s Jet-Puffed brand)

1/4 cup light brown sugar

For the topping:

1/2 cup whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare the crust. To crumble the Graham Crackers, crush the packets with a rolling pin and continue smashing them (this part is fun!) until they resemble the size of tiny peas. Combine the cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Using your hands, combine the butter and the crumbs until they’re evenly mixed. Press the crust into the bottom of the tart pan forming an even thickness and pressing the crumbs into the edges of the tart pan. It’s o.k. if it looks a little rough and rustic. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and pie weights and continue baking until the crust starts to dry out and crisp, another 20  minutes or so. Remove from the oven and set aside for 20 minutes to cool. Chill to refrigerate. (Note: The crust can chill, covered with plastic wrap overnight or for several hours).

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Combine the peanut butter, cream cheese, marshmallow cream and light brown sugar in a medium sized bowl. Whisk to combine, or blend with a hand held mixer utnil very fluffy and smooth.

When the crust is completely chilled, add the filling.  Smooth with a spatula to meet the edges of the tart. Refrigerate at this point for several hours or overnight, if desired. Within one or two hours of serving, prepare the whipped cream. Combine the cold cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium sized, cold bowl and beat with a whisk or blender until firm peaks have formed. All at once, place the whipped cream on top of the filled tart. Spread with a spatula to level it out, leaving a 1/2″ visible border of the peanut butter filling. Drizzle the chocolate chunks over the whipped cream. Chill for at least one hour and up to three hours before serving.

Bon appetit and Happy Thanksgiving!


Sparkling Canteloupe Soup with Prosciutto and Basil

This cold, refreshing canteloupe soup is  a delicious and low-calorie way to celebrate the tastes of summer.

A crazy, water-logged summer has taken its toll on farmers and produce. Sweet, juicy peaches from summers’ past have become tasteless, over-sized balls of flavorless water and tomatoes halted their season early. I’ve had great luck with canteloupes however, finding fragrant, sweet melons at farmers’ markets and local sections at the grocery store.

Hot southern summers cry out for the cool, sweetness of melon. I can’t see or taste canteloupe without thinking of many afternoons I spent in France supping with friends on the smaller, sweeter varietals they serve there, often wrapped in Jambon de Bayonne and served with a cool, bubbly glass of Blanquette de Limoux.

This sparkling canteloupe soup brings these luscious flavors together, and gets blessed with a dash of cream, which recalls a kind of grown-up ice cream float, minus all the calories and with the peppery pluck of fresh basil and ground black pepper. I substitute the more easily found prosciutto (dry-cured ham found in the deli section) and brut Champagne for the Blanquette. The soup is not cooked, so if you’re not comfortable with a bit of alcohol in the soup, substitute sparkling cider.

Sparkling Canteloupe Soup

Sparkling Canteloupe Soup

Refrigerate the soup thoroughly for an hour or up to three hours (any longers and the bubbles will lose their luster)  and serve in shallow bowls. Garnish the center of the plate with the basil and prosciutto and finish with a drizzle of black pepper.  This presentation gives a pretty French touch while putting the perfect finishing touches on this fabulous soup’s flavor package.

Sparkling Canteloupe Soup with Prosciutto and Basil

(Makes 6 to 8 servings)

1/2 large, ripe canteloupe, halved, seeded and peeled cut into 1/4″ cubes (about 4 cups)

2/3 cup brut Champagne (or substitute non-alcoholic sparkling cider)

1/2 cup whole cream (do not substitute with another reduced fat cream)

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Zest of 1 lime


8 slices prosciutto, trimmed and cut into thin strips

1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspon extra virgin olive oil

You’ll need a food processor or blender; I find the latter yields a frothier, smoother soup. After that, it goes fast! Prep the canteloupe. To remove the outer rind, it’s easiest to cut the melon into several slices (usually about 4 to 6). Then, using a sharp, medium chef’s knife, slice along the bottom to remove the rind. Cut the melon into cubes. Place in the blender with the Champagne and cream. Pulse a few times and then blend until smooth and frothy.

Pour out into a medium sized bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the lime zest. Cover with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly for one hour in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, prep the garnish and toss the prosciutto, basil and oil together in a small bowl.

To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls. Top with a dollop of the garnish set up in the middle of the bowl. Dust with a sprinkle of ground black pepper. (Note: Taste the soup after it has chilled.  The colder temperature may “numb” your previous seasoning. Adjust salt and pepper as needed).

Bon appetit!


Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

These beautiful little cream puffs actually look a bit like pumpkins, are light as air, and practically whisper “autumn” in every bite.

Creamy sweet marscapone, ginger, nutmeg, ginger and a splash of Cognac recall the classic flavors of pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. The pastry gets a colorful pumpkin flavor glow from the addition of pumpkin puree to classic choux pastry.  And, finely chopped pecans in the filling deliver an unexpected crunch surprise. On top? A fuss-free,  fluttery dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

What’s  not to love? These would make a lovely,  light ending to any meal and are sure to please. Give them a go for Halloween or Thanksgiving or any time simple and delicious sounds just about right.

(Adapted from The French Cook: Cream Puffs and Eclairs, Gibbs Smith, October, 1, 2013, by Holly Herrick)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

(Makes 22 – 24 “petite” cream puffs)

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Pumpkin Pecan Spiced Cream Puffs

Begin by preparing the pastry.

Sweet Pumpkin Choux Pastry

Special Equipment Needed: 2 silicon baking sheets or parchment paper, 2 half-sheet baking pans, one 12” piping bag, #806 round pastry tip, pastry brush.

1 cup water

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

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 cup All-Purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Generous pinch kosher or sea salt

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

Egg wash: 1 egg, splash water and pinch kosher or sea salt, beaten together

Preheat the oven to 425F. Have everything measured and in place in before starting to actually prepare 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. Whisk in the pumpkin puree until blended. Reduce the heat to medium. Sift together the bread flour, AP flour, sugar, 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. This should take about 1 – 2 minutes.

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.

While the pastry is still warm, pipe and bake the pastry using a 1/2″-round tip (#806)  onto a silicon or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pipe so that the choux puffs are all the same size, about 1 1/1″ wide (round) and about 3/4″ high. Brush the top of each pastry with a light coating of egg wash, being careful not to allow the wash to drip down the sides of the pastry.

Bake the choux puffs for 22 to 25  minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the pastry stand for 5 minutes. Pierce the bottom of each choux gently with the tip of a knife. Allow to cool completely before filling. (Note: The pastry can be prepared ahead and baked several days before filling. Store in the freezer in plastic freezer bags for up to three weeks).

Creamy Spiced Pecan and Mascarpone Filling

1 cup mascarpone cheese (or substitute regular cream cheese), room temperature

1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon best-quality vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Cognac or bourbon

3 tablespoons whipping cream

Pinch kosher or sea salt

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Whisk together all of the ingredients, except the pecans,  in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in the pecans and blend to combine. Reserve cold until ready to use (Note: The filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated, covered. Sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes before filling the cream puffs).

Putting It Together – Assemblage

If you’re not inclined to fuss with a pastry bag, simply cut each choux puff in half horizontally with a serrated knife. “Plop” a teaspoon of the filling on the bottom half of each puff and cap each with its respective top. Or, fit a clean pastry bag with a clean #806 round pastry bag, and fill the halved choux, piping about 1 teaspoon of the filling into the center of each, and capping each with their respective choux hoods.

Spiced Sugar Garnish

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Place the sugar and the cinnamon in a small sifter. Sprinkle generously over the top of the filled cream puffs.  Serve immediately and watch ’em swoon. These are first-place-delicious-good.

Bon appetit!



Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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