Soul Food Recipe Contest Winners!

In June SoFAB reached out to our followers and asked everyone to share their favorite soul food recipe for our first Soul Food Recipe Contest. We never anticipated we would get such a response! Thanks to everyone who sent in their favorite recipes for soul food of every sort. As the SoFAB staff tested each recipe, we’ve really come to appreciate the full breadth of soul food, from slow simmered greens to a well seasoned sweet potato pie. Most of all, we were impressed with the stories you shared, the family memories and love that’s been passed down along with the dish. Although it was a series of tough decisions, we finally picked our favorites for each category (Main Dish, Breads, Greens & Sides, and Dessert) which we are excited to share here. Congratulations to our winners, thanks to everyone who shared their stories, and thank you to Cassandra Gaines and Adrian Miller for their help with the contest.

Best Main Dish: Yvonnedra Leach's Southern Fried Chicken

Best Bread: Raymond Gillaspie's Mama’s Fried Cornbread

Best Greens & Sides: Diane Keiser's Cleo's Best Potato Salad

Best Dessert: Diane Keiser's Lemonhead Squares

Recipes below.

Yvonnedra Leach sends this recipe in from Atlanta, Georgia. We loved the crispness of the chicken and the highly seasoned batter.

Southern Fried Chicken

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 tablespoons onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons white pepper
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying

Directions: Heat oil in fryer to 350 degrees. Clean chicken and any unwanted excess fat. In a separate bowl combine all seasonings, seasoning salt, onion powder, Cajun seasoning, and white pepper. In a another bowl place beaten eggs. Get another bowl and place flour inside of bowl. Take seasoning and coat seasonings over cleaned chicken. Then place chicken in flour bowl, take the chicken place in egg bowl. Then transfer chicken to coat with flour again. After chicken is coated with flour shake off excess flour, then place in fryer until golden brown and chicken floats to top of fryer. You can also tell when chicken is done by placing thermometer in middle of chicken half way through when temp rises to 165 degrees its done.

From Raymond Gillaspie, in Webster, Texas this recipe is from his his mother, Jennie Wee Gillaspie, and was made at least once a week in his house growing up. Although she never wrote the recipe down, he had learned the recipe by heart and was able to preserve it for his family after she passed away. Thanks for sharing with us, Raymond!

Mama’s Fried Cornbread

  • 1 Cup Cornmeal
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tblsp Sugar (Optional, but Mom always added it.)
  • ~ 1⁄2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Tsp Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • Flour
  • Vegetable Oil (Mom said “Always use fresh oil.”)
  • Old Iron Skillet
  • Boiling Water

Combine Milk & Vinegar, let sit. After a bit add Baking Soda, mix well, let sit again. Combine Cornmeal, Salt & Sugar. (Mom always used her aluminum mixing bowl.) Add “boiling” Water till good and moist! (Mom said “You need to get a good scald on it.”) Add soured Milk & Soda mixture and “fold” together. Do not stir, batter should be very thick. Add a tablespoon or so Flour to thicken and “fold”. Add more as needed to make batter stiffer. Cooking ­Heat Oil in Old Iron Skillet on medium high till a small drop of cornmeal batter “sizzles”. Ease large tablespoons of cornmeal batter into hot oil. Fry till edges & bottom turn golden, turn once. Drain on a brown paper grocery bag. Serve ­ Serve with a large “pot of red or navy beans”, “black­eyed peas”, or a “pot of greens.”

Diane Keiser from Houston, Texas serves up a winner with what might be the most thorough recipe for potato salad that we’ve ever seen, straight from her grandmother’s kitchen. This salad is what every potato salad wishes it was--creamy without being cloying, allowing the potatoes to shine through with a little extra help from the exactly right amount of seasoning.

Cleo’s Best Potato Salad

NOTE FROM THE CHEF: There are many considerations when making a good quality mayonnaise based potato salad. You should always use a low starch waxy potato such as a Fingerling, Yukon Gold, White Boiling Potato, or Red. Never use a fluffy high starch potato that is meant for baking as they will fall apart in most cooking stages. Never use pre-packaged diced refrigerated potatoes; they are the most inferior product I have ever had. Do not use them for this recipe! Potatoes will retain most of their flavor if you boil them in larger pieces which can be later diced into a proper size. The method of boiling, the amount of salt in the cooking water, the size of the dice of the potatoes, the fresh vegetables added to the final product, what seasonings to add and when to add them, the size of the mixing bowl you toss the potatoes in, or even what temperature to serve the salad: these are just some of the factors in securing a great potato salad. I have tried many potato salads in 40 years, and whether from restaurants, grocery stores, or homemade, I have not found a single one I would ever try again. There are so many ways to mess up this great American salad, and I think I have eaten them all. This is a recipe from my grandmother (Cleophus) that I have been making since I was 5.

  • 6 Hard Boiled Eggs,  chopped
  • 4 pounds large white boiling potatoes, peeled and cut lengthwise in half once, then crosswise in half once
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch green onions, tops and bottoms, finely chopped or ½ cup finely diced red onion, or a combination of the both
  • 1 ¼ cups finely diced Kosher Dill pickles, plus 2 tablespoon pickle juice
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery with leaves
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 cups Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise (no substitute)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 teaspoons celery seed
  • 2 teaspoons Seasoned salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper (no substitute)
  • Couple dashes of your favorite fruity hot sauce
  • Paprika to top (optional)
  • 1 small tomato for rose garnish (optional)

Place a large baking sheet in the freezer to set the potatoes on once they have finished boiling. Chop the eggs, and set them aside. In a large sauce pot add the potatoes and enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil on high heat then lower the heat to medium high, and add the salt. Depending on the size of the cut potatoes it will take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to cook.  Watch them carefully, and with the tip of a sharp knife check each one for doneness. The potatoes should have a slight resistance. (Remember there is carry over cooking). If the potatoes are not uniform in size you will have slightly different cooking times. Check often, and place the finished ones on the cold baking sheet. Let completely cool. In a small-mixing bowl, combine the chopped eggs, green onions, pickles and juice, and celery. Set aside. Add to a small food processor, the garlic, mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, celery seed, pepper, and hot sauce, and pulse until well combined. Set aside. On a large cutting surface take one potato wedge at a time and cut into small uniform cubes. Cube all the potatoes and transfer to a very large-mixing bowl and add the egg, celery and pickle mixture, and 2 teaspoons Seasoned Salt and lightly toss. Add the mayonnaise dressing and toss lightly but thoroughly with a large spatula and taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle paprika. With a paring knife, peel off the skin of the tomato in a sawing motion in one fell swoop to make a strip of tomato skin. Form into a circle to make a rose. Set in the middle of the salad, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Before serving you will need to taste again for seasonings.

Diane Keiser sends in another great dish with this recipe for the most lemony lemon squares we’ve ever tasted. We loved the lemon curd’s use here and will probably be making these for every last summer picnic!

Lemon Head Squares

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • ¾ cup powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 sticks high quality unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 fresh eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 scant cups sugar
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (no substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large-mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the flour, powdered sugar, salt and butter, for about 1 ½ minutes. (The dough will look like wet sand). Press evenly into a foil lined ungreased 15x10 inch jellyroll pan. If the dough gets too sticky, sprinkle a small amount of flour or powdered sugar when pressing the dough into the pan. I use an offset spatula to evenly distribute the dough. Bake for about 20 -25 minutes. The dough will be pale in appearance. In a medium-mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest, flour and salt. Mix well. Add the mixture to a medium saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, and stir for about 5 more minutes until the mixture coats the back of the spatula. Remove from the heat, and add the baking powder. (The mixture will foam). Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the butter and stir until well incorporated.  When the cookie is done, pour the lemon mixture evenly over the cookie. Bake for an additional 12 - 15 minutes or until set. Let cool completely. Lift the foil lined squares out carefully, and set aside. Add the powdered sugar in a small strainer, and powder heavily. Cut into desired squares.