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

‘Great Soul Food Cook-Off’ winner offers recipes for the holiday table

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.

Just days ago, the chef-owner of catering company Fuller Food was named the winner of “The Great Soul Food Cook-Off,” a new cooking competition on Discovery+ designed to highlight the past and present of soul food.

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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.

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.”

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Credit: Chris Hunt

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.”

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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.

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“It’s not about the ingredients but the blend of spices and how you make that shine,” said Sabour. “If you are eating soul food, 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.

RECIPES

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.

Credit: Chris Hunt

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.

Credit: Chris Hunt

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.

Credit: Chris Hunt

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.

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