Heartwarming Holiday Recipes: "Everyone Wants the Sides"

Soulful recipes for the holidays: ‘Everyone wants the sides’
Credit: Chris Hunt

Razia Sabour has always cherished the holiday season, but the atmosphere will be more festive and celebratory this year when the family gathers at her home in Dallas, Georgia.

The dishes at Sabour's holiday table will resemble the kitchen she ran during the show's six pressure-filled episodes as she, along with seven other black chefs from across the country, took on timed cooking challenges.

Heartwarming Holiday Recipes

One of those challenges was the biscuits and gravy, a recipe packed with personal memories. “I make those cookies for my nieces and nephews all the time,” Sabour said. “When they're at my house, that's something they look forward to. For me, to get crackers and gravy, I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' "Sabour recounted how it was "somewhat emotional" to prepare the dish because he connected her to her loved ones when she was away from home during the recording. From the show, "She's a bubble all the time. You're missing your family."

Chef Razia Sabour (second from left) is happy to be home for the holidays with her family, especially after being gone to film “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” a new cooking competition on Discovery+. She's shown with daughters Layla Burton (left, age 13) and Caden Burton (third from left, age 10) and husband Michael Burton. (Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Credit: Chris Hunt

Sbour will be surrounded by family this Christmas. In addition to her husband, Michael Burton, and her daughters, Layla Burton and Caden Burton, her home will be the celebration destination for out-of-town relatives. “Half of my family is in D.C. They travel to be with us,” she said.

Hopefully they'll bring stretch pants because Sabour has a huge variety planned. And it's about the "staple food of the soul".

She checked off her holiday menu items: a sweet potato soufflé, a fish concoction, mac and cheese, kale, corn pudding, a mixed roasted vegetable and her signature honey cornbread, among other dishes. "All the sides, everybody wants the sides," she said.

She plans to give these dishes the same loving care she's had for the past 10 years as a caterer for Atlanta's film and television industries, and did this fall on the set of "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off." ". her making food judged by Food Network host and star Kardea Brown, "Top Chef" alum Eric Adjepong, and celebrated Harlem restaurateur Melba Wilson.

“I came to showcase soul food in beautiful ways. I didn't imagine it as a game; I envisioned it as a platform for soul food to be beautifully presented, respected and put on a pedestal,” said Sabour, also a former Food Network “Cutthroat Kitchen” contestant. “Soul food is a kitchen, but it is more than that. It's part of me."

She considers spice blends to be "the heart" of soul food and the reason soul food can fit both vegan and carnivorous diets.

"It's not about the ingredients, it's about the spice mix and how you make it shine," Sabour said. “If you're eating as a family, you know when it's right and when it's wrong. It's all about the flavor of the spices. That is the cultural meaning. How Italian food is Italian or Asian food is Asian: It's the spice mix or the sauces you make."

She divulged that allspice is the secret to her winning sweet potato preparations, from a dessert cake to the soufflé recipe she shares with AJC readers.

Sabour is still digesting her victory in this series produced by Good Egg Entertainment, the company behind Food Network's "Chopped" and overseen by the Oprah Winfrey Network.

“In the end, I was relieved. There's so much anxiety building up around you while you're at it. So much tension. When they called my name, I was stuck. Frozen."

Sabour's victory comes with a cash prize of $50,000. She hopes to use it as seed money to fulfill a long-time dream of opening a fresh produce market where she can sell prepared foods and packaged family meals with her signature soul food dishes. In addition, she wants to stock products from other artisan food manufacturers.

"I want to call it Sabour Market or something," she said. The location and schedule for realizing the vision will be determined. "A brick and mortar is something that's over my head, but I'm going to have to take steps to figure it out," said the entrepreneur who found herself in a similar position a decade ago when she unexpectedly jumped into the restoration world when she simply was trying to launch a food truck.

As Sabour pondered the next chapter of her culinary career, she repeated her mantra that soothed her through hectic kitchen challenges in "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off": "Go with the flow."

That's sound advice for any cook, anytime, especially during the holidays.


These Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potato Soufflé, and Honey Cornbread recipes are signature dishes from "The Great Soul Food Cook-Off" winner chef and caterer Razia Sabour, who she regularly prepares for meals holidays

The secret to Razia Sabour's Baked Macaroni and Cheese is to freshly grate the cheeses instead of using pre-shredded ones. (Styling by Razia Sabour / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Credit: Chris Hunt

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Chef Sabour has kept this recipe a closely guarded secret, until now. What prompted you to share it? “It's an American staple. It's not just staple food for the soul,” she said. Her tip for chef success with this dish: grate freshly made cheeses instead of buying pre-grated ones. "It doesn't melt the same," she said of the packaged stuff. 

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni, preferably Barilla brand
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Drain cooked pasta and place in a large mixing bowl. Add evaporated milk, whole milk, and beaten eggs. Stir well to combine. Add the Monterey Jack, 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and all seasonings. Mix well.
  • Drain cooked pasta and place in a large mixing bowl. Add evaporated milk, whole milk, and beaten eggs. Stir well to combine. Add the Monterey Jack, 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and all seasonings. Mix well.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Per serving, based on 6 servings: 1,090 calories (percent of calories from fat, 57), 57 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 62 grams total fat (35 grams saturated) , 244 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,237 milligrams of sodium.

You can roast the sweet potatoes a day ahead for Razia Sabour's Sweet Potato Soufflé, but don't forget to use allspice when you're making it. (Styling by Razia Sabour / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Credit: Chris Hunt

Sweet Potato Soufflé

At holiday meals this time of year, sweet potatoes are "a big deal," Sabour said. Whether she's making a sweet potato pie or this soufflé, she turns to allspice. "That's the secret to my sweet potato, anything," she said. To save time, roast the sweet potatoes a day in advance. If you don't have fresh oranges, use store-bought orange juice and omit the zest.

Sweet Potato Soufflé

  • For the soufflé:
  • 6 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced (1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 tablespoons allspice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 orange, juiced (1/4 cup juice)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  • Pierce the skin of the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Place on baking sheet and bake 1 hour. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard the skin. Place the meat in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  • To the bowl, add the sugar, butter, milk, eggs, orange juice and zest, allspice, vanilla, and salt. On low speed, combine all ingredients until smooth. Pour mixture into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. It will have the consistency of smooth mashed potatoes.
  • While the soufflé is baking, prepare the sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar, orange juice, and walnuts. Cook until sugar dissolves, then remove from heat.
  • Pour the sauce over the soufflé. Serve warm. for 6.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Per serving: 755 calories (37 percent of calories from fat), 6 grams protein, 116 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 32 grams total fat (16 grams saturated), 125 milligrams cholesterol , 130 milligrams of sodium.

If you're looking for a moist cornbread for your holiday table, Razia Sabour's Skillet Honey Cornbread is sure to please. (Styling by Razia Sabour / Chris Hunt for the AJC)
Credit: Chris Hunt

Honey Cornbread Skillet

"My cornbread is moist and sweet," Sabour said. “I'm from North D.C. We put sugar in our grits. It wasn't until I got here that I ate grits with salt, pepper, and butter." Sabour's Honey Cornbread is one that graces the family Christmas table every year.

Skillet Honey Cornbread

  • For the cornbread:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • For the honey butter:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Put the butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place it in the oven. Allow butter to melt, 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the melted butter to a large bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • To the bowl with the butter, add the buttermilk, egg, and honey. Mix well.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  • While the cornbread is baking, prepare the honey butter: In a small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, combine 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon honey. Heat over low heat or in the microwave, stirring to combine.
  • To serve: Pour honey butter over warm cornbread, slice and serve. Serves 6-8.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: Per serving, based on 6 servings: 556 calories (41 percent of calories from fat), 9 grams protein, 74 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams total fat (15 grams saturated) , 96 milligrams of cholesterol, 606 milligrams of sodium.

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