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African Squash Tart with Whipped Eggnog Topping


DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

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.

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Maple-Braised Bacon

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

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.

recipe thumbnail maskFinger-noodles-1

Pork Stroganoff with Finger Noodles

Feeds 4 Most people are familiar with creamy beef stroganoff served over egg noodles. I modeled this version on what I learned from chef Alexander Wolf at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta. He’s a German chef from Baden-Baden, and finger noodles are specific to that region. Finger noodles are almost like the love child of spaetzle

Tacos al Pastor

DIFFICULTY: 1 of 5 (5 being hardest)

When I was 20, my Mexican friend Vincente took me to Mexico City for tacos al pastor. We walked up to this super-busy stall that had spits of marinated, sliced, and stacked pork rotating near a fire—almost like the meat for gyros. Pineapples rotated near the fire right next to the pork. The tacos are called al pastor because missionaries came from Jerusalem to Mexico and brought their Middle Eastern foodways with them. Over time, tacos al pastor became one of the most popular Mexican tacos. Go figure. Anyway, here’s my veiled attempt to nail down the spicy-sweet savory flavors. The texture is nearly impossible to get right without 200 pounds of sliced pork rotating on a spit. Instead, I use trim and scraps of pork shoulder, cut them small, and then sear the pork in a smoking-hot pan. Garnish the meat with spicy salsa and some chopped onion and cilantro, and it makes a damn fine taco.

Fatback Fried Corn

DIFFICULTY: 2 of 5 (5 being hardest)

Fatback Fried Corn Feeds 4 Most Americans call this creamed corn. In the South, it’s called fried corn, which is a better term because there’s barely any cream in it. The creaminess comes from the corn itself, not the cream. I ate this dish every summer. My granny cut fresh corn from the cob with