Anytime Hoppin’ John & Hoppin’ John Cakes
When it comes to good luck, Southerners don’t take any chances. Each year on New Year’s Day, we hedge our bets by eating hoppin’ John, a rustic mix of rice, black-eyed peas, bacon, and onion that is thought to bring good fortune in the year to come. (Literally—the peas in the dish represent coins, and the stewed collards that are usually served on the side are the rich green of dollar bills.) Making the Hoppin’ John Cakes is a great way to use your leftovers.
Beer Can Chicken
This beer is for the birds. A whole chicken roosts atop a half-full tallboy to absorb extra moisture and flavor. Perched above a hot bed of coals, it also take on a golden, smoke-tinged hue. There’s not much to do except stand back and turn the bird a few times while sipping on the extra beers. In fact, the method is so easy that I tend to cook tow at a time, enuring leftovers for chicken salad and tacos.
Braised Chicken Thighs with Chevre Stuffing
Chicken thighs are rich in flavor and don’t dry out as quickly as chicken breasts. This fast, easy dish is also delicious without the chevre stuffing.
Brown Bag Chicken
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been cooking chicken in oven bags, those oven-safe plastic bags. So when I recently started roasting chicken in a brown paper bag, I felt sort of like I was going back to my roots. It works great because the paper bag traps just enough steam to make the chicken supermoist and tender, while at the same time letting enough steam to escape to allow the skin to get golden brown. It always amazes me that the bag doesn’t catch on fire— so much so that I think of this as half recipe and half magic trick. Just make sure your broiler is turned off and the bag is not touching the top of the oven.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
For true comfort, layer up with this vegetarian lasagna no matter the season. We regularly fold mushrooms and spinach into a creamy pesto sauce, but in winter, we also turn to butternut squash and kale, and in summer, ratatouille. This is great with the addition of sausage for all you meat lovers.
Carl’s Deep-Fried Turkey
Every Thanksgiving, my friend Carl, who is also a pastor, makes his deep-fried turkey for some of the women in his church. Using a turkey fryer frees up the oven to make lots of sides, stuffing and pies. Carl seasons his turkey with plenty of cayenne pepper, so much that it made me nervous the first time I saw him make it. But I shouldn’t have worried — it came out perfectly browned and crisp, with just a hint of heat. Be sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your fryer and get a turkey that will fit easily in the fryer, no more than fourteen pounds. It is safest to cook this outside.
Chicken Country Captain
This exotically spiced curry of chicken, tomatoes, peppers, dried fruit, and nuts is proof of Southern food’s cosmopolitan roots. Served with steamed rice, slivered almonds, and fresh parsley, it is wonderfully bone-warming and fragrant.
Chicken Marsala with Oven-Roasted Mushrooms and Onions
This variation on veal Marsala is easy to make, yet special enough for an important dinner party. The boneless chicken breasts are flattened to about ⅓ inch thick, so they cook very quickly, like veal cutlets. The creamy sauce is made right in the pan. We like to serve this dish on a bed of Classic Mashed Potatoes or lightly wilted spinach.