Chef Adrienne Cheatham Shares After-Church Comfort Recipes in Her New Cookbook ‘Sunday Best’

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Image: courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse.

The cookbook is inspired by the longstanding African American tradition of wearing your best clothes on Sundays for church service gatherings.

Chef Adrienne Cheatham is best known for being the runner up on season 15 of “Top Chef,” and being the right-hand to restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson. Cheatham served as his Chef de Cuisine at his Streetbird restaurant, as Executive Chef at the famous Red Rooster in Harlem, and even helped develop and style all food that was photographed for the Red Rooster Cookbook. At Red Rooster, Cheatham curated special tasting menus for Black History Month and a multi-course dining experience inspired by female African-American chefs in the industry. 

Eventually Cheatham decided that it was time to branch out and shine a light on her own talents. She founded Sunday Best, a pop-up restaurant series held in various locations around Harlem and publish her very first cookbook, Sunday Best.

Image: courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

Released in April, the cookbook’s title is inspired by the longstanding African American tradition of wearing your best clothes on Sundays for church service gatherings. Cheatham finds inspiration in this tradition when it comes to her cooking style, making it her mission to dress Southern soul food up in its “Sunday Best”.  Whether by showcasing clever techniques, incorporating unexpected ingredients, or adding a bit of finesse through enticing finishing touches or thoughtful plating, she applies her classic French training and years of experience working in some of the best kitchens in NYC (Le Bernardin and Red Rooster) to prove that Southern cuisine deserves a place at the table and in the narrative of serious cuisine.

Today she shares three of her favorite family recipes to enjoy.

Tater Tot Waffles With Candied Bacon

Image: courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

“Growing up my mom used to put all kinds of stuff in the waffle iron, including potatoes, which were my favorite food. When we tried tots once, it came out amazing and we never looked back!” says Cheatham.

Recipe:

SERVES 2 TO 4

CANDIED BACON

1 pound sliced applewood smoked bacon

¼ cup (packed; 55g) dark brown sugar

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

TATER TOT WAFFLES

Nonstick cooking spray

1 package frozen Tater Tots, thawed (you can use your favorite brand, as well as any size bag to make as many waffles as you like)

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. MAKE THE CANDIED BACON:Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the bacon on it in a single layer.

3. Cook the bacon for 7 minutes. Flip the slices and cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pepper, and ginger. Once the bacon has cooked on both sides, sprinkle the brown sugar mixture evenly over the tops of the slices. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and continue cooking until the bacon reaches your preferred level of crispiness, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the slices briefly on a paper-towel-lined plate, but be sure to remove the bacon before the sugar cools and begins sticking to the towels.

5. MAKE THE TATER TOT WAFFLES: Preheat a waffle iron according to the manufacturer’s directions.6. Spray the iron on both sides with cooking spray. Arrange the tots in a tight, even layer in the waffle iron, fitting as many as you can.

6. Spray the iron on both sides with cooking spray. Arrange the tots in a tight, even layer in the waffle iron, fitting as many as you can.

7. Close the waffle iron, pressing gently to flatten the tots, and cook until they are nicely browned and crispy all over, about 5 minutes. Serve with the candied bacon.

TIMING TIP: If you’re planning ahead, let your tots thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If it’s a game-time decision, no worries. Take your tots straight out of the freezer, spread them on a plate or baking sheet, and let them thaw at room temp for 20 minutes before proceeding.

SUNDAY BEST FINESSE: Although Tater Tot Waffles are amazing on their own (served with or without Candied Bacon), they’re even better with all manner of toppings. Think smoked salmon and crème fraîche, or Sausage Gravy (page 23) and sautéed peppers. In fact, when entertaining, I often like to cut them into small squares to use as the base of elegant hors d’oeuvres.

Pecan Five-Spice Sticky Buns

Image: courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

Cheatham was inspired to include this recipe because “Sticky buns were one of the things I always wanted but rarely got as a kid – instead we got the canned version, while sticky buns were the sexier version” she says. “This recipe simplifies the process and blends sweet and savory together.”

Recipe:

MAKES 10 BUNS

DOUGH

1 cup whole milk, lightly warmed (not hot)

2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 cups (560g) all-purpose flour

Toasted sesame oil, for greasing

Vegetable oil, for greasing

STICKY TOPPING

Vegetable oil, for greasing

1½ cups roughly chopped pecans

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butte

r¾ cup heavy cream

½ cup cane syrup or dark corn syrup

½ cup (packed; 110g) dark brown sugar

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup bourbon or water

FILLING

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup (packed; 110g) dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of kosher salt

1. MAKE THE DOUGH: In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar and mix on low speed until just combined. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

2. Return the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, melted butter, salt, and about 3½cups (490g) of the flour. Mix until a smooth dough forms. If the dough feels wet or sticky, add the remaining ½ cup flour.

3. Grease a large bowl with a drizzle each of the sesame oil and vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat withoil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours.

4. MAKE THE STICKY TOPPING: Grease a 10-inch springform pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sprinkle the pecans in the pan and shake into an even layer.

5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, then whisk in the cream, syrup, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and bourbon. Bring to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until glossy, about 3 minutes. Pour the sticky glaze over the pecans and set them aside to cool.

6. MAKE THE FILLING: Combine the butter, brown sugar, five-spice powder, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and stir with a rubber spatula to blend.

7. ASSEMBLE THE BUNS: Turn the dough out onto the counter and roll into a 12 × 16-inch rectangle a little under ½ inch thick. Arrange the dough with a long side closest to you. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a naked 1-inch border on the far side. Starting from the near side, roll the dough into a tight log and pinch the seam to seal; leave the log seam-side down.

8. Using a sharp knife, cut the log crosswise into 10 pieces. Place the buns, cut-side up, in the springform pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit until the buns are almost doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

9. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center position.

10. Remove the plastic wrap, transfer the springform pan to the oven and bake until the buns are nice and brown and the glaze isbubbly, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before carefully inverting the buns onto a serving plate and having at it!

11. Store any leftovers at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

EXTRA, EXTRA: Make a double batch of dough (or halve the filling recipe), since any leftover dough can be refrigerated or frozen.

Cornbread Toad-in-the-Hole Wit­h Crab and Andouille

Image: courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse

“Toad in the hole is something that is easy to teach kids to make, and thus eat” details Cheatham. “I love making mine with cornbread because it’s sweeter. I also tapped into my connection to NOLA (my husband is from there) and incorporated the NOLA brunch classic of Crab and Andouille into it too.”

Recipe:

ABOUT 6 SLICES OF CORNBREAD

3 to 4 inches wide and ½ inch thick

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 large eggs

½ sweet onion, such as Vidalia, roughly chopped (white or yellow onion will work too)

½ green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

½ red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

1 medium garlic clove, sliced

½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves and stems

Extra-virgin olive oil

3 ounces andouille or your favorite smoked sausage (about 1 link), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Worcestershire sauce

2 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated

8 ounces picked crabmeat (lump, jumbo lump, Jonah . . . all work great)

Tabasco sauce, Cha-Cha, or Fermented Pepper Sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and rub it lightly with a drizzle of oil.

2. Use a small knife or shot glass to cut out the center of each cornbread slice, leaving a ½-inch border around the outside. Save the centers in a zip-top bag for another use.

3. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Put 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pan and swirl to coat. Lay the cornbread in the pan (work in batches, if needed) and toast the first side for about 4 minutes. Flip the cornbread and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan, swirling to distribute the love among the slices. Crack an egg into the hole in each cornbread slice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the eggs are set on the bottom,

2 to 3 minutes. Use a spatula to carefully transfer the eggtopped cornbread to the prepared baking sheet.

4. In a small food processor, combine the onion, green and red bell peppers, celery, garlic, and parsley and pulse 4 or 5 times, until coarsely chopped, like a Southern-style sofrito.

5. Drizzle a small amount of oil in the pan you used for the cornbread and eggs (why dirty another pan?) and heat over medium heat. Add the andouille and cook until the edges have crisped a little and some of the fat has rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the andouille to a plate.

6. Add the “sofrito” to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then add the cherry tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes begin to release liquid, 3 to 5 minutes, then return the sausage to the pan. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire and the scallion whites and reduce the heat to low. Gently fold in the crab until incorporated. Cook until just warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a few hits of Tabasco for a little spice and vinegary kick.

7. Place the baking sheet with the cornbread and eggs in the oven and cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking. Remove from the oven and divide among plates. Spoon the crab-andouille mixture over the top. Garnish with the scallion greens and serve immediately.

CORNBREAD REQUEST

You’ll want to purchase (or make) cornbread formed into a tall loaf, not a flat cake, or you won’t be able to achieve the kind of slices you need. Also, this is a great way to revive old and stale cornbread (such as leftover Sour Cream Cornbread, page 144, if you portion the batter into loaf pans). There’s no need for it to be super moist and fresh.

MAKE AHEAD

You can prepare the recipe up through step 4 ahead of time, refrigerate if holding for more than an hour, and finish in the oven just before serving.

7. Close the waffle iron, pressing gently to flatten the tots, and cook until they are nicely browned and crispy all over, about 5 minutes. Serve with the candied bacon.TIMING TIPIf you’re planning ahead, let your tots thaw overnight in the refrigerator. If it’s a game-time decision, no worries. Take your tots straight out of the freezer, spread them on a plate or baking sheet, and let them thaw at room temp for 20 minutes before proceeding.SUNDAY BEST FINESSEAlthough Tater Tot Waffles are amazing on their own (served with or without Candied Bacon), they’re even better with all manner of toppings. Think smoked salmon and crème fraîche, or Sausage Gravy (page 23) and sautéed peppers. In fact, when entertaining, I often like to cut them into small squares to use as the base of elegant hors d’oeuvres

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