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#EssenceEats: Comfort Foods for a Festive Eve

Chef Kenny shares recipes to make the eve of the New Year comfy and cozy with a delicious meal. 
#EssenceEats: Comfort Foods for a Festive Eve
Will Vaultz

Traditions are meant to be preserved, but in this case, we are breaking all the culinary rules and creating new memories for 2016! Though tradition varies from culture to culture we celebrate and revere what is supposedly good luck foods, like pork, green, black-eyed peas and corn bread, but what if we flipped the script and indulged in these dishes on New Year’s Eve instead of January 1? Save yourself the stress and work of preparing a huge feast, which no one wants to do after a night of heavy partying, invite over a few close friends, create a killer playlist, put on your Sunday’s Best and celebrate, eat, drink and be merry the last night of the year!

To make this meal as flawless as your outfit, we’ve enlisted private chef, author, “Chopped” contestant, TV personality and owner of Eat for Life! Chef Kenny.The Harlem-based food maverick provides us with a bevy of updated versions of old staples that are delicious, guilt-free and will take you into 2016 on a fully belly! Warning: these are not your mother’s greens, skillet cornbread and black-eyed peas!

White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 15 Minutes

Serves 4


2 (3 to 4 ounce) links Spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

½ medium white onion, thinly sliced

2 Celery ribs, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons capers

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock

2 (8oz cans) Hunt’s Tomato Sauce with Basil, Garlic & Oregano

2 (15oz.cans) white beans no salt added or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons parsley (more for garnish)

Step 1. Preheat grill pan or skillet over high heat. Cook the chorizo on both sides until slightly browned and grill marks have formed, about 5 minutes total. Set aside.

Step 2. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and capers and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir until tender but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, string occasionally, 1 minute. Pour in chicken stock, tomatoes sauce, beans, and chorizo and simmer until the beans are heated through, stirring occasionally. Season beans with cumin, parsley and light salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into deep bowls and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve soup along side with cornbread or multigrain chips.

Southern Style Cinnamon Banana Cornbread

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes

For the corn bread

1 (8.5 oz. box) Jiffy Banana corn muffin mix

1 (8.5 oz. box) Corn muffin mix

2 Eggs

¼ Cup milk

2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 Teaspoons nutmeg

1 ½ Tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 Teaspoons vanilla extract

1 (14.75oz. can) Cream style sweet corn

½ Tablespoon of salted butter

½ Tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Directions: In a medium bowl prepare the cornbread mixture according to box instructions. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, vanilla, cram style corn and mix well. Spray “8 inch” square baking pan with non-stick butter spray. Pour the batter into baking pan and place on middle rack in oven. Bake for 15 minutes, transfer pan to top rack and bake for 10 additional minutes until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Check for doneness. Remove cornbread from oven and smear with butter and drizzle with honey.

Cumin Roasted Sweet Potato-Bean Salad with Wholegrain Dressing

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

4-6 Servings


1 ½ tablespoons of unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil 4 cups yams, peeled, diced (two large sweet potatoes)

1/2 cup red onion, chopped

3 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

6 dashes Hickory Liquid Smoke (found in condiment section)

1 large lemon, zest, juiced

1/3 cup chicken stock

1 (15oz can) Lima Beans (drained, rinsed)

1 (15oz can) Cannellini Beans (drained, rinsed)

Juice one lime

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (more to garnish)

3 slabs of cooked bacon, chopped (optional)

Pre Heat oven to 400

Step 1. Heat butter and olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium- high heat. Add the yams and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the next 9 ingredients and continue to cook until slightly tender and lightly golden. (About 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly) Add the stock and gently toss. Transfer skillet to oven, roast on middle rack until vegetables are tender but firm. (About 15-20 minutes)

Step 2. While the hash cooks, in a large bowl add the beans and bacon along with lime juice and cilantro. Season beans with light salt and pepper and toss. Cover and place to the side.

Step 3. Remove the hash from oven, taste. Season with light salt and pepper; adjust seasoning if needed with lemon juice and pepper. Allow to cool.

Whole Grain Mustard Dressing

1 ½ tablespoons Wholegrain Dijon Mustard

Juice 1 lemon

1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar

1/3 cup Olive oil (More to drizzle)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Pour mustard, lemon juice and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste, adjust seasoning with light salt and pepper and lemon juice. (For thinner dressing, add additional olive oil) To bring it together: Pour hash mixture into bowl with beans. Add dressing and toss well. To serve, place hash in a serving bowl and top with cilantro and micro greens.

Loved these amazing recipes? If so, follow Chef Kenny on Instagram @chefkennyusa as well as Facebook and Twitter @Chef Kenny.