The Dish: Chef Kevin Gillespie

Kevin Gillespie has a deep love of all things Southern, especially the food he grew up with. Some of his earliest memories are of standing next to the stove in his granny's kitchen, watching her cook. By seven years old he had already declared his desire to become a chef.

By the time he had competed on season six of Bravo's "Top Chef," he was well on his way to becoming the award-winning chef he is today.

He is now chef and owner of two of Georgia's hottest restaurants, "Gunshow," and "Revival," and has recently released his second cookbook, "Pure Pork Awesomeness."

Just this week, the James Beard Awards named Gillespie a semi-finalist in the Best Chef: Southern category for the third time.

Here's how to make some of his signature dishes: Coca-Cola glazed pork shoulder, cabbage dumplings with country sausage, overnight grits with tomato-braised greens, root vegetable soup, banoffee trifle with candied bacon and peach party liquor.

Coca-Cola glazed pork shoulder

Feeds 4 to 6

Ingredients

1 cup Coca-Cola

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon lemon vinegar

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2½ pounds boneless pork shoulder roast

2 teaspoons grapeseed oil or canola oil

Directions

1. In a large zip-top bag, combine the Coca-Cola, salt, vinegar, pepper, vanilla, and cinnamon, squishing to mix. Add the roast, squeeze out excess air, zip closed, and marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

3. Remove the roast from the marinade and pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat.

4. Spray a roasting pan and rack with nonstick spray. Pat the roast dry, brush lightly with the oil, and place on the rack, fat side up.

5. Roast for 15 minutes, then brush with the boiled glaze, flip, and roast for another 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300°F and continue flipping and basting the meat every 15 minutes until it reaches 160°F, about 1¼ hours.

6. Remove the roast from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.


Cabbage dumplings with country sausage

Feeds 4 folks

Ingredients

8 dark green outer leaves of cabbage

1¼ pounds country sausage (recipe below)

About 4 cups of smoked pork broth (recipe below)

Directions

1. Fill an 8-quart Dutch oven three-quarters full with water and bring to a rapid boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

2. Completely submerge the cabbage leaves in the boiling water, using tongs to press each one down into the water as you add it. Blanch the leaves until they are bendable, about 3 minutes. Use the tongs to transfer the leaves to the ice bath and dunk them in the ice bath to cool. Pluck the leaves from the ice bath and pat dry. Remove and discard most of the tough stems from each leaf. Discard the blanching water and reserve the pot.

3. For each dumpling, scoop up about ¼ cup sausage and shape it into a small brick. Set the sausage brick on the upper third of a cabbage leaf. Fold the top of the leaf down just about to the middle of the sausage and then diagonally fold the two sides of the cabbage in toward the middle. The leaves will cross over where you removed the stem. You'll have a little parcel that looks like an envelope with the bottom flap still open. Fold the entire packet toward you, over the cabbage leaf, to completely enclose the sausage. You'll have a nice, neat dumpling with the veins of the cabbage showing a design on the top.

4. Place the dumplings in a single layer in the Dutch oven. Add just enough smoked pork broth to cover the dumplings. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the diameter of the Dutch oven and press it directly onto the surface of the stock; the parchment circle helps to keep the dumplings in contact with the stock. Bring the stock to a low simmer over medium heat, then cut the heat down so the liquid is just below a simmer, and poach the dumplings until the largest top vein in the cabbage is tender when tested with a knife, 20 to 30 minutes. You can also test with a thermometer, which should read about 180ºF when inserted into the center of a dumpling. But tender cabbage leaves really are the way to tell when your dumplings are done. When the cabbage is tender, it won't have a tendency to unwrap, but will stay folded in the dumpling shape.

5. Carefully remove the dumplings and trim off any excess cabbage sticking out of the bottom. Re-season the poaching liquid. To serve, set 2 dumplings in each shallow serving bowl and spoon in about ½ cup of the seasoned poaching liquid.

PREP AHEAD: The fully cooked dumplings will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator; just separate the dumplings and poaching liquid to keep the cabbage from getting mushy. You can also vacuum-seal the dumplings and freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw, if frozen, and then gently reheat the dumplings in a Dutch oven with some pork stock and the parchment circle as described at left.

Country sausage

Makes about 1¾ pounds

Ingredients

1¾ pounds whole or 70% lean ground pork shoulder

1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon fresh sage

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

¾ teaspoon ground black pepper

¾ teaspoon rubbed sage

½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup ice water

Directions

1. If you're starting with whole pork shoulder, cut it into cubes and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. Chill the fine die and other metal parts of a meat grinder, then grind the cold pork with the fine die. Return the pork to the refrigerator until you are ready to make the sausage. It's important to keep everything cold when making sausage (even your hands!) so that the grinder cuts the cold fat into little chunks rather than smearing it into a sloppy mess. Combine the fresh sage, salt, garlic, black pepper, rubbed sage, red pepper, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and ice water in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the cold ground pork to the bowl and, using gloved hands, mix together.

2. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Pinch a small piece of sausage from the bowl, thoroughly cook it in the skillet, then taste it. Adjust the seasoning in the bowl as necessary.

PREP AHEAD: This sausage works best when made at least a day ahead. You can cover it tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 2 to 3 days. For longer storage, vacuum-seal it, then refrigerate it for up to 5 days or freeze it for up to 1 month.

Smoked pork broth

Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients

About 3 pounds of smoked ham hocks, shinbones or knuckles

10 cups chicken stock (see below)

Directions

1. Put the smoked pork bones in an 8-quart stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 3 minutes. Strain the bones and discard the liquid. Rinse the bones under running water.

2. Return the bones to the pot and add the chicken stock. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cut the heat down so that the liquid simmers very gently; you only want a few bubbles coming up now and then. Using a ladle, skim and discard any foam and fat from the pot. Simmer the stock very gently for 2 hours, skimming now and then. Pull the pot from the heat and let cool for 1 hour.

3. Using tongs, remove and discard the bones. (You can shred the meat from the pork bones and reserve it for another use.) Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer and then through a double layer of wet cheesecloth to remove any sediment. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.

Chicken stock

Makes 10 cups

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds

Directions

1. Cut down along one side of the bird's breastbone, then run the knife along the contour of the rib cage and around the wishbone to remove the breast meat; repeat on the other side and reserve the breast meat. Using kitchen shears, cut from the tail end up to the neck end on either side of the backbone to remove the backbone; place the backbone in an 8-quart stock pot. Cut the chicken wings from the body and put in the stockpot. Bend the leg away from the body, cut down to the joint, then bend the joint to break it; cut between the ball and socket and then down around the carcass to remove the entire leg/thigh portion. Separate the drumsticks and thighs into separate pieces and cut each in half to expose additional bone. Put all of the drumstick and thigh pieces into the pot. Cut the remaining carcass in half and put in the pot. Fill the pot with enough water to completely cover all the bones.

2. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Cut the heat down so that the liquid simmers very gently; you only want a few bubbles coming up now and then. Using a ladle, skim and discard any foam and fat from the pot. Drop the chicken breasts into the water and poach just until no longer pink (165°F internal temperature), about 15 minutes. Remove the breasts and reserve for another use. Simmer the stock gently for 2 hours, skimming the surface now and then. Pull the pot from the heat and let cool for 1 hour.

3. Using tongs, remove and discard the bones. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer and then through a double layer of wet cheesecloth. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months.


Overnight grits with tomato-braised greens

Feeds 8 to 10 folks

Ingredients

½ cup butter

1 baseball-sized onion sliced lengthwise into thin strips

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups whole milk

3 cups water

1 cup coarse-ground grits, preferably Anson Mills

4 cups tomato-braised greens (recipe below)

Directions

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter, the onions, and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cover and cook until the onions start to caramelize, about 8 minutes. Take off the cover and add the milk and water. Crank the heat up to high and bring the mixture almost to a boil. Start whisking, and slowly add the grits, whisking nonstop. After the grits are all in, whisk for another 30 seconds, then pull from the heat.

2. Pour the grits into a slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours or overnight. If you don't have a slow cooker and don't mind keeping your oven on for a while, put the covered Dutch oven in a 200ºF oven for 8 hours or overnight. The long cooking time and low temperature give you amazingly creamy grits.

3. Before serving, stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Then mound a large spoonful of grits on each plate and top with a generous portion of greens.

Tomato-braised greens

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

About 2 pounds of tender young greens (collards, kale, or turnip)

¾ cup chopped bacon, about 4 ounces

1 cup onion diced into ½-inch pieces

1 cloves garlic, minced, about ¼ cup

2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes

1 cup smoked pork or chicken stock (see above)

¾ cup brewed coffee

1 jalapeño chile pepper, sliced crosswise, about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions

1. Fill a 4-quart stockpot about three-quarters full with water and bring to a rapid boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Line a baking sheet with a dry kitchen towel.

2. Cut off and discard the tough stems from the greens, then coarsely chop the leaves. Drop the greens into the boiling water and blanch until the greens are a shade brighter than they were and just start to wilt, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the greens to the ice bath and swirl to cool. Transfer to the kitchen towel to drain.

3. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, stir, and cook until the bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Using your hands, squeeze and crush the tomatoes into the pot, breaking them up and adding all of the juice. Stir in the stock, coffee, jalapeno, salt, red pepper flakes, thyme, and drained greens. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cut the heat down and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 hour.


Root vegetable soup

Feeds 8 folks

Ingredients

8 ounces pancetta or unsmoked bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice

2½ cups onions cut into ¼-inch dice

1¼ cups rutabaga peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

1 cup celery cut into ¼-inch dice

⅔ cup carrots peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

1¼ cups sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) cut into ¼-inch dice

1¼ cups turnips peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 cup parsnips peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice

1 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced on a mandoline

6 cups chicken stock (recipe above)

1 teaspoon espelette pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 bunch baby turnip greens sliced into chiffonade(thin strips), about 4 cups

1 lemon

¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced

¼ cup fresh chives, very thinly sliced

¼ cup celery leaves, minced

Directions

1. Heat a large enameled cast-iron pot or other soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta, stir, and cook until the pancetta is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the onions, rutabaga, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables start to soften and the onions become translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the sunchokes, turnips, and parsnips and cook for an additional 8 minutes, stirring a few times. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock, Espelette pepper, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cut the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. The vegetables should be just tender.

2. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the turnip greens and about 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with additional salt and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the parsley, chives, and celery leaves.

PREP TIP: Don't be tempted to mince the garlic here. It should be sliced. If you mince it, the small pieces will cook faster and develop a bitter taste. The slices also contribute to the texture of the soup. If you want to make the soup ahead, prepare it up to the point of simmering the vegetables in the seasoned stock. Cool it down, and refrigerate it for up to 2 days. Then reheat the soup and add the greens and lemon juice just before serving and garnishing.


Banoffee trifle with candied bacon

Feeds 6 to 8 folks

Ingredients

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream, divided

1 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Canola oil for frying

3 bananas

5 ounces 65% chocolate, chopped

12 ounces shortbread cookies

2 cups vanilla custard or pudding

16 strips Candied Bacon (see below), chopped, 2 pieces reserved for garnish

Directions

1. To make the caramel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and stir in ¾ cup of the cream. Return to a boil and decrease the heat to a low simmer. Simmer, swirling occasionally, until the mixture reaches 235°F, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla.

2. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 350°F.

3. Peel the bananas and fry until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.

4. Heat the remaining ¼ cup cream in a small saucepan just to a boil, then remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted.

5. Place the cookies in a large zip-top bag, squeeze out any excess air, and roll with a rolling pin a few times to make very coarse crumbs; you should have about 3 cups.

6. You can make one large trifle bowl or individual servings in 8-ounce canning jars. To assemble, layerone-third of the cookie crumbs, half the custard, half the bacon, half the fried bananas, half the caramel, and the chocolate; continue layering on the remaining custard, bacon, bananas, and one-third of the crumbs; top with the remaining caramel and crumbs. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Cut the reserved bacon into long strips and garnish each serving with a strip.

NOTES: You can replace the chocolate with ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips. Use your favorite vanilla custard or pudding here; store-bought will work but homemade is better.

Candied bacon

Makes 1 pound, about 16 slices

Ingredients

1½ cups packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound Belly Bacon, sliced and chilled

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

2. Combine the brown sugar and salt and spread in a pile across the center short side of another baking sheet. Separate the bacon into single slices and, one by one, lay the bacon in the sugar mixture and press to crust it on both sides, patting so the sugar adheres. You should have a fairly thick layer of brown sugar on both sides of the bacon. Spread in a single layer on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle any remaining sugar over the bacon. Bake until the sugar melts, bubbles, and turns a deep brick red color, 18 to 20 minutes; the bacon will start to curl. If using thick-sliced bacon, after 18 minutes increase the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until crispy and deep brick red in color, another 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer to a baking sheet lined with nonstick foil or a silicone mat. Serve immediately or let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

NOTES: If you replace the Belly Bacon with store-bought bacon, buy a thick-cut, dry-cured bacon smoked with real hickory wood. During recipe testing, Gena Berry went one step further with this candied bacon and turned it into Crack Bacon, a wicked addictive snack. To make it, just add 1½ teaspoons cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons Espelette pepper, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper along with the sugar and salt in the recipe. It tastes best baked and served immediately. But you can get a jump on prep by mixing up the spice mixture ahead of time and spreading it on the prepared baking sheets. Then just coat the bacon in the seasoning, bake, and serve.


Peach party liquor

Gets 4 sensible people pretty lit up, or 1 somebody who's gonna be hurtin' for certain

Ingredients

2 cups water

4 black tea bags

½ cup agave nectar

8 ripe baseball-sized peaches,pitted and peeled

2 cups Moonshine

¼ cup lemon juice

Directions

1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Add the tea bags, and steep the tea in the hot water for about 30 minutes; you want to end up with very strong tea. Add the agave nectar to the tea and stir until blended. Cool the tea to room temperature.

2. Using a juicer, food processor, or heavy-duty blender, puree the peaches until they are completely smooth. Pour into the pan of tea along with the moonshine and lemon juice, stirring to blend. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids. Cover, chill, and serve ice-cold.

MOONSHINE: White lightning or moonshine refers to any illegally distilled, unaged white whiskey made in an unregulated still at home. But you can find perfectly legal white whiskey called moonshine in just about every liquor store across the country. Any corn-based liquor will do just fine in this recipe. If you can't find white whiskey, 80-proof Cathead Vodka from Mississippi is finished with corn and makes a great substitute.