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Classic Comfort Food with a Twist

This time of year it can be cold outside, which means there is no better time to make up some comfort food in your kitchen.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore

Marcus Samuelsson is executive chef of New York's hot spot Aquavit and author of "New American Table," which has all sorts of classic recipes with twists. He's also accomplished himself as a chef for the Obamas. In November, he cooked the first state dinner at the White House.

Samuelsson shared some of his comfort cooking on "The Early Show." But it's not what you might expect. Sure he made fried chicken, but his has a hint of lime, coconut milk and red curry paste. His collard greens have a touch of soy sauce, his fries are spiced with paprika and chili powder, and his banana bread pudding has a tropical flavor combined with the classic banana, chocolate and vanilla flavors.

Fried Chicken

Some people dislike the term "soul food," a phrase that was coined in the mid-1960s to describe the food developed by African-Americans of the southern US, because they think it is pejorative. But food historian and writer Donna Pierce embraces the term, saying that soul food is the one common factor that African Americans across the country have in common, and argues that there is a clear differentiation between soul food and Southern cooking.

"There's a difference in the flavor and the way seasonings are put together that makes it soul food," she says. "Soul food dishes are highly seasoned with a complex mixture of spices."

Of all the great soul food dishes, perhaps the best known is fried chicken. I think my method for fried chicken is a hands-down winner, lightening up the breading by using panko and cooking the chicken twice -- first simmering the pieces in a flavorful coconut milk-based broth, then breading and deep-frying it -- to result in fried chicken that is moist, delicious and perfectly cooked through.

6 servings

3 tablespoons peanut oil, plus 4 cups for frying
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Scotch bonnet chilies, chopped with seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
Juice from 2 limes
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg whites
2 cups panko
1 teaspoon salt

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the chicken and brown on both sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add the garlic, chilies and curry paste and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, 1 cup of water and return the chicken to pan. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until chicken is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Combine cornstarch and panko together.

Dip chicken in egg whites then roll it in the panko-cornstarch mix. Coat well.

Carefully add the chicken pieces and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes total cooking time. Heat the peanut oil in a large, deep pan to 350.

Place on paper towel to remove excess oil. Season with salt.

Collard Greens

6-8 servings

6 bacon slices
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 cups (about 6 ounces) very thinly sliced collard greens (about 2 bunches)
4 cups (about 1-1/2 pounds) very thinly sliced bok choy (about 2 heads)

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels, and crumble into small pieces. Set aside.

In small saucepan, bring the coconut milk and soy sauce to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and crumbled bacon. Set aside

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large straight-sided pan over low heat. Add the garlic, and slowly toast until pale golden brown, about 10 minutes. (Be careful not to let it burn). Lift the garlic out of the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the collard greens and cook, stirring frequently, until the greens start to wilt. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and cook for about 20 minutes, until the greens are tender and the sauce has thickened.

In a separate pot bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil. Blanch the bok choy, and fold into the collard greens during the last minute of cooking. Stir the reserved garlic into the greens and serve.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

French Fries

4 servings

3 Idaho potatoes, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch sticks (about 2 pounds)
4 cups grape seed oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mild chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup chickpea flour

Rinse and soak the potatoes under cold running water for 20 minutes. Strain and pat dry. In a small bowl toss together the parsley, salt, chili powder and paprika, set aside.

Combine the cornstarch and chickpea flour in a large bowl. Add the potatoes and toss to coat.

Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, add the potatoes and fry until golden and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Toss with parsley and spice mix.°3. Heat the oil in a Dutch over or other large pot to 350

Banana Bread Pudding

8 servings

2 cinnamon sticks
2 cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 vanilla bean
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 bananas, diced
2 tablespoons shaved almonds
3 cups cubed day-old brioche, 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sour dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350.

Bring 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a small sauté pan. Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, brown sugar and coconut milk. With a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the back of the knife to scrape the seeds into the pan. Add the pod and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Discard the vanilla pod and cinnamon sticks.

In a bowl, toss the chocolate, bananas, almonds, brioche, cherries and cranberries. Pour the spiced coconut milk over the bread mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to let the bread absorb the liquid.

Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. Pour the bread mixture into the dish and bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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