Soulful recipes for the holidays: ‘Everyone wants the sides’

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

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

The dishes on Sabour’s holiday table will resemble the cuisine she executed during the show’s six pressure-packed episodes as she, along with seven other Black chefs from around the country, tackled timed cooking challenges.

Soulful recipes holidays

One of those challenges was biscuits and gravy, a recipe dripping with personal memories. “I make those biscuits for my nieces and nephews all the time,” Sabour said. “When they are at my house, that’s something they look forward to. For me to get biscuits and gravy, I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’” Sabour recounted how it was “an emotional thing” to prepare the dish because it connected her to loved ones when she was far from home during the taping of the show. “It’s a bubble the whole 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

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

Hopefully, they’ll bring stretchy pants because Sabour has quite a spread planned. And it’s all about the “soul food staples.”

She ticked off items on her holiday menu: a sweet potato soufflé, a fish preparation, mac and cheese, collard greens, corn pudding, a roasted vegetable medley, and her signature honey cornbread, among other dishes. “All the sides — everyone wants the sides,” she said.

She plans to give these plates the same loving care that she has done for the past 10 years as go-to caterer for Atlanta’s film and TV industries, and that she did this fall on the set of “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off” when making food judged by host and Food Network 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 picture it as a game; I pictured it as a platform for soul food to be beautifully presented and respected and put on a pedestal,” said Sabour, also a former contestant on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” “Soul food is a cuisine, but it’s more than that. It’s part of me.”

She considers spice blends to be “the heart” of soul food and the reason why soul food can accommodate vegan as well as carnivorous diets.

“It’s not about the ingredients but the blend of spices and how you make that shine,” said Sabour. “If you are eating family , you know when it’s right and when it’s wrong. It’s about the flavor in the spices. That’s the cultural significance. How Italian food is Italian or Asian food is Asian — it’s the blend of spices or the sauces you make.”

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

Sabour is still digesting her victory on this series produced by Good Egg Entertainment, the company behind Food Network’s “Chopped,” and overseen by the Oprah Winfrey Network.

“At the end, I just felt relieved. There’s so much anxiety built up around it while you’re in it. So much tension. When they said my name, I was stuck. Frozen.”

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

“I want to call it Sabour Market or something like that,” she said. The location and a timeline for realizing the vision are to be determined. “A brick-and-mortar is something over my head, but I’m going to have to take steps to figure it out,” said the go-getter who found herself in a similar position a decade ago when she unexpectedly jumped into the world of catering when she was simply trying to launch a food truck.

As Sabour pondered the next chapter in her culinary career, she repeated the mantra that calmed her through frenzied cooking challenges on “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off”: “Go with the flow.”

That’s good advice for any cook, any time, especially during the holidays.


These recipes for mac and cheese, sweet potato soufflé and honey cornbread are signature dishes for chef-caterer Razia Sabour, winner of “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” and ones that she typically makes for holiday meals.

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 her to share it? “It’s an American staple. Not just a soul food staple,” she said. Her tip for top-chef success with this dish: freshly grate the cheeses instead of purchasing pre-shredded ones. “It does not 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 instructions.
  • Heat the 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, the extra sharp cheddar and all the seasonings. Mix thoroughly.
  • 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, the extra sharp cheddar and all the seasonings. Mix thoroughly.

Nutritional informationPer serving: Per serving, based on 6 servings: 1,090 calories (percent of calories from fat, 57), 57 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 62 grams total fat (35 grams saturated), 244 milligrams cholesterol, 1,237 milligrams 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 making sweet potato pie or this soufflé, she reaches for allspice. “That’s the secret in 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 the 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. Set on the baking sheet and bake 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Remove and discard skin. Place the flesh 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 the mixture into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake 40 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. It will have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes.
  • While the soufflé is baking, make the sauce: In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar, orange juice and pecans. Cook until the sugar dissolves, then remove from heat.
  • Spoon sauce over the soufflé. Serve warm. Serves 6.

Nutritional informationPer serving: Per serving: 755 calories (percent of calories from fat, 37), 6 grams protein, 116 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 32 grams total fat (16 grams saturated), 125 milligrams cholesterol, 130 milligrams 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

Skillet Honey Cornbread

“My cornbread is moist and sweet,” Sabour said. “I’m from up north in D.C. We put sugar in our grits. It wasn’t until I was here that I ate grits with salt and pepper and butter.” Sabour’s Honey Cornbread is one that graces the family holiday 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 skillet from the oven and transfer the melted butter to a large bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • To the bowl with the butter, add the buttermilk, egg and honey. Mix well.
  • Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • While the cornbread bakes, make the honey butter: In a small saucepan or in a microwave-safe bowl, combine 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 tablespoon honey. Warm on low heat or in the microwave, stirring to combine.
  • To serve: Pour honey butter over warm cornbread, cut and serve. Serves 6-8.

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

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