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Favorite Comfort Foods

Great comfort foods bring up fond memories of childhood or fun times with friends and family. In her new book, "The Comfort Table: Recipes for Everyday Occasions," Katie Lee shares all of her favorites. And on "The Early Show," she prepared some of the Sunday supper comfort dishes featured in the book.

Tomato, Vidalia Onion and Cucumber Salad
Fried Chicken
Sweet Potato Casserole
Simmered Collard Greens
Frozen Southsiders
Chocolate Banana Cream Pie


Tomato, Vidalia Onion, and Cucumber Salad
Almost every evening in the summer, my grandma would slice up some tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers for us to snack on before dinner. She'd just sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper. Her pre-dinner "crudités" inspired this salad. I like to serve it piled on a platter, and use different colors of tomatoes.

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3 Ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 Vidalia onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)

Arrange the tomato slices on a platter. In a medium bowl, combine the onion, cumber, and cherry tomatoes. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add to the salad and toss to combine. Spoon the salad onto the sliced tomatoes. Garnish with the scallions.

Simmered Collard Greens
We always ate greens when I was a kid. Kale, turnip greens, dandelion greens, collard -- I loved them all. Most people put a ham hock or bacon in their greens, but I think it's overpowering. My favorite way to prepare them is to simmer the greens in chicken broth flavored with soy sauce. I put a bottle of hot pepper vinegar on the table and let people spice up their greens if they like.

3 bunches collard greens
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Hot pepper vinegar, optional

Remove the white rib from center of the collards leaves. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice into 1-inch pieces. Thoroughly wash the greens. (I soak them and continue to change water until no dirt or sand remains.) Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits. Stir in the soy sauce, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a low boil. Add the greens and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Stir in the vinegar and simmer an additional 15 minutes. Serve with hot pepper vinegar, if desired.

Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet potatoes are yummy, and also a valuable food for boosting antioxidants in the body. For this recipe, I whip them with spices, put them in a baking dish, and cover them with marshmallows. The marshmallows get golden brown and crunchy and taste fantastic with the sweet potatoes. I could almost eat this for dessert!

4 large sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds), peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup milk
1/2 heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
One 16-ounce bag large marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Grease a 4-quart baking dish.

Place the sweet potatoes in a medium pot. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the milk, cream, and butter until warm but not simmering.

Return the potatoes to the pot and add warm milk mixture, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Using a handheld mixer, whip the potatoes until smooth and creamy with no lumps. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the marshmallows.

Bake until the marshmallows are golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Fried Chicken
People always ask me what my favorite thing to cook is, and I have to say that I enjoy nothing more than fryin' up some chicken. The only think I enjoy more than cooking it is eating it! Paula Deen taught me to cover the chicken for part of its cooking time so that it steams and keeps the meat juicy. I transfer my chicken to the oven for the last 10 minutes of cooking which I find makes the skin really crisp. It also makes it really easy to fry in batches and keep all of the chicken hot. Don't be afraid of the hot sauce in the recipe-the chicken will not be spicy.

1 Fryer chicken, cut into 10 pieces
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 large eggs
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup buttermilk peanut oil
2 1/2 cups self rising flour*

*Self-rising flour is all-purpose flour with added salt and leavening (baking powder). You will notice that recipes that call for self-rising flour do not call for baking powder.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In a large bowl, big enough to accommodate all of the chicken, whisk the eggs, hot sauce, and buttermilk. Add the chicken and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate. Let marinate at least 2 and up to 4 hours.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a couple inches of peanut oil to 350°F degrees. Preheat oven to 450°F.

Dredge the chicken in the flour, taking care to evenly coat each piece. Transfer in batches to the hot oil. Cover and let cook 5 minutes. Remove the cover and turn the chicken. Let cook uncovered an additional 5 minutes. Place the chicken on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Frozen Southsiders
The first time I had a Southsider was at a friend's house in Palm Beach. The drink is traditionally shaken and served on the rocks, but she made hers in a blender with ice. I was hooked. I went online to learn about the history of my new favorite drink - there are all kinds of claims to its origination. Some say it started in Prohibition-era Chicago before becoming a favorite of the country-club set; others say the 21 Club in New York City created it. Whatever is provenance, this storied cocktail is refreshing and delicious.

6 ounces gin
2 cups lemonade
2 cups ice
20 fresh mint leaves

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Serve in goblets.

For a Chocolate Banana Cream Pie recipe, go to Page 2.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie
The combination of chocolate and bananas is one of my favorites. The rich chocolate pudding with the sweet sliced bananas and the light whipped cream with the salty crust just puts me over the edge. This pie is so heavenly it will disappear in minutes. I suggest cutting a piece for yourself and hiding it in the fridge for leftovers before you serve it.

One 9-inch pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup high-quality cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
3 extra large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 cup heavy cream
Chocolate shavings, for garnish

Special equipment: Pie weights or dry beans

Preheat the oven to 425°F

Place the pie crust in a pie plate and pinch the edges to create a rim. Use a fork to prick holes in the dough. Fill the crust with pie weights or beans. Bake 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool completely.

While the crust is cooling, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the white sugar, cocoa, flour and salt. Mix well. Whisk in the milk. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon while the mixture comes to a low boil and becomes thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low. Stir a couple of tablespoons of the hot mixture into the egg yolks. Stir the egg yolks back into the hot milk mixture. Stir constantly until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract.

Line the crust with half of the banana slices. Pour the pudding into the pie crust. Top with the remaining banana slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the cream, confectioners' sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread the whipped cream on the pie. Top with chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until serving time.

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