By Adrian Miller

Adrian Miller is the author of "Celebrating American 'Soul Food,' Edible Black History." He shares some of his original soul food recipes below.

 

Black-Eyed Peas

This is one of the first recipes that I got from my mother, Johnetta Miller. Though this is a recipe for black-eyed peas, this is my standard approach for making any vegetable in "soul food style." If you want to give this recipe a "Hoppin' John" feel, make some rice separately, mix together, and eat.

Makes 8 servings

1 pound dried black-eyed or other field peas

1 smoked ham hock or smoked turkey wing (about 8 ounces)

1 medium onion, chopped

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Salt, to taste

  1. Rinse the peas and pick through them to discard any small stones or broken peas. Pour the peas into a large saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring them to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. (Alternatively, place the peas in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and let stand at room temperature overnight.)
  2. Meanwhile, make a stock by placing the ham hock or turkey wing in another large saucepan. Cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the stock is flavorful, about 1 hour. Discard the hock or wing.
  3. Drain the soaking liquid from the peas and add them to the stock. Make sure the peas are submerged. Stir in the onion and pepper flakes.
  4. Simmer until the peas are nearly tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and continue simmering until the peas are tender and well-seasoned, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Serve the peas warm.
  6. If desired, you may pull meat off the ham hocks or turkey parts and add it to the dish before serving.

 

Mac 'n' Cheese

For sticklers, this is a recipe for macaroni with cheese sauce, rather than one for a mac 'n' cheese casserole. It is a favorite when I make soul food for my friends. I make a white sauce and then add cheese. I use cheddar cheese, but any cheese that easily melts should do the trick. Watch your butter roux carefully so that it doesn't burn before you add your milk to create the white sauce.

Makes 8 servings

1 1/2 cups macaroni (8 ounces)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk, warmed

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (6 ounces), divided

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish.
  2. Cook the macaroni al dente according to the package directions. Drain in a colander and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. Do not let the flour darken.
  4. Whisk in the milk and salt. Cook, stirring, until the sauce comes just to a boil and thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove the pan from the heat, add 1 cup of the cheese, and stir until smooth. Stir in the macaroni.
  5. Scrape the mixture into a prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the top. Bake until the cheese melts and the macaroni mixture bubbles around the edge, about 15 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving warm.

 

Banana Pudding

My mom's banana pudding recipe embraces the old and the new. It's got an old-fashioned custard to bring the main ingredients together and a homemade meringue to top it all off. Instead of making the bread component from scratch, I use vanilla wafer cookies. This is a very sweet dessert and a definite crowd-pleaser.

Makes 12 servings

Pudding

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 cups whole milk

4 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 small, ripe, firm bananas, cut into thin rounds (about 6 cups)

8 ounces vanilla wafers (about 60 cookies)

Meringue

4 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

  1. For the pudding: In a large, heavy saucepan or in the top of a double boiler, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt. (If using a double boiler, fill the bottom about one-third full of water and bring to a simmer.)
  2. Whisking continuously, add the milk in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a heatproof spatula, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of thick pudding, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Line the bottom of a large, glass serving piece with vanilla wafers. Top with a layer of banana slices. Pour a thin layer of custard over the bananas, spreading it with the spatula. Repeat the layers until you have used all of the remaining ingredients, ending with a top layer of custard.
  4. For the meringue: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean, dry, spotless metal or glass bowl. Beat with an electric mixer set to high speed until the whites begin to hold soft peaks. With the mixer running, add the sugar in a slow, steady stream. Continue beating until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks. Spoon the meringue over the warm pudding, making sure it touches the edges of the bowl. Use the back of the spoon to make a pretty design in the meringue.
  5. Bake until the tips of the meringue are golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes and then refrigerate until the pudding is chilled. Serve cold.

 

Adrian Miller lives in Denver, Colorado, and is the author of the James Beard Award-winning book Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time. You may follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @soulfoodscholar.