In 2013, I was commissioned to serve a dish at the Georgia Dome during a Falcons game. While other chefs brought froufrou food to the football stadium, I brought something absurd: the pork wing. Chicken wings are my favorite junk food, and I figured they’d be even better with pork, especially during a football game. Here we have braised pork belly cut into chunks the size of hot wings, fried, and slathered in wing sauce. They’re ludicrous and delicious at the same time. The fans seemed to like them. As I understand it, I hold the record for highest sales among guest chefs at the Georgia Dome. I’m also the only guest chef who worked his own station.
This is my mom’s all-time favorite thing that I make. If she’s sick, I get a call to make this soup. If she has a few days off at home, I get a call to make the soup. For family functions, I get the call. She first had something like it at the Olive Garden when I was a teenager. She came home and said, “Kevin, you need how to figure out how to make this!” She drove me to the Olive Garden—40 minutes away—specifically so I could taste this soup. It’s basically potato soup with sausage and greens in it. I’ve been making some version of it now since I was 15 years old. I like the soup kind of brothy. The potato just thickens it up a little bit. I also like black lacinato kale, but you could use other greens if you like.
You may have seen me make some version of these meatballs before. On Top Chef Las Vegas, we had a challenge to make a TV dinner, and I drew The Sopranos. So I made Italian meatballs. Lo and behold, it won the challenge! It’s a simple recipe (lots of bread is the secret to tenderness), but I switch things up here by frying the meatballs and serving them with a sweet and sour barbecue sauce. Deep-fried sausage—how can you go wrong? Think of them as Swedish meatballs made American.
I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin pie. I like pumpkins. I like cinnamon. But the crust is never good, the filling isn’t creamy enough, and the spices are too timid. Here’s an alternative dessert I developed with my pastry chef, Chrysta Poulos. It has all the desirable qualities I never found in pumpkin pie. I like a tart crust that’s a little crumblier and thicker, like shortbread cookies. And I prefer a superrich filling. The reality is that pumpkins are too watery for pie filling. I only want pumpkins on my porch, not in my pie. African squash makes a much better filling because it contains less water and more sugar. It also gets silkier when pureed. African squash is a winter variety that came to Georgia via Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), but it’s also grown in other places. If you can’t find it, any garden-variety butternut squash makes a good substitute. Either way, the method here is foolproof. You bake the tart crust, let it cool, pour in the filling, and let it set up. For fun, I garnish the tart with whipped eggnog, which thickens up just like whipped cream but tastes even better.
This dish goes beyond your traditional pancakes with a side of bacon. The sweet potato pancakes become a backdrop for the real star, thick-cut maple-braised bacon. You start with a thick slab of bacon, preferably Belly Bacon, get the bacon real crisp in a heavy griddle, and then add maple syrup and Coca-Cola. As the bacon braises, the acid in the Coke tenderizes it. And, oh yeah, you save the rendered bacon fat for cooking the pancakes. This is not diet food. I like to serve the maple-braised bacon right on the sweet potato pancakes and top the whole thing with a couple fried eggs. It’s an over-the-top, indulgent Sunday morning brunch to enjoy before you head off to the couch.