Weekly Recipe: Juneteenth Feast By Chef Megan Brown
Hooray for representation! Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in the United States, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the struggles and celebrate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans across the country.
Chef Megan Brown is the executive chef the Anything at All restaurant at the Graduate Roosevelt Island Hotel in New York City, and she wants to help foodies of all backgrounds celebrate Juneteenth with taste and style. To that effect, Brown has created four delectable recipes, each of which pays tribute to African American roots and the resistance against slavery.
Brown is a black, nonbinary, LGBTQ chef who uses food to share meaningful messages on issues they're passionate about.
"It is important to me as a black chef to honor Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the emancipation of my ancestors, by creating a menu that honors them," Brown says. "At Anything At All, I have created a special menu that is a collection of diasporic and freedom foods that serves as a tribute to the resistance."
From a succotash salad to braised beef cheek, fried chicken to mac and cheese, these dishes have meaning far beyond their flavors. If you can, stop by Graduate Roosevelt Island Hotel to taste Chef's loving versions, but if you can't, host your own celebration with the recipes below.
"Okra, being one of the ingredients that traveled with enslaved people to the Americas, is a symbol of resilience and one of my favorite textures in produce," Brown says. "Fried here, adding fat and salt is a complementary contrast to the fresh summer vegetables in this salad." This recipe yields six to eight servings.
- 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, split in half
- 2 cups roasted corn
- 2 cups lima beans, fully cooked (blanched)
- 5 pieces okra, split in half
- 1 lb leafy salad greens
- 4 strips thick cut bacon diced into ⅛-inch cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the bacon in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until some of the fat begins to render from the bacon. Raise the heat to medium and cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until it is crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crisp bacon to a paper towel lined plate, keeping all the fat drippings in the pan.
- Return the pan to the burner. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine, simmer for 10 minutes and reserve for use.
- In a large bowl place greens, tomato, roasted corn and lima beans. Coat fully with warm bacon dressing.
- Garnish with fried okra.
"Field greens of many varieties have been used to stretch what have sometimes been sparse meals," Brown says, "and the addition of ham hock and caramelized onion helps to ease some of the natural bitterness." This recipe yields six to eight servings.
- 2 sticks (½ pound) butter
- 1 onion, julienne
- 1 piece jalapeno, seeds removed
- 2 pounds mustard greens
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Cook butter, onions and jalapeno in a large saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and a deep brown color.
- Add mustard greens, vinegar, brown sugar and salt.
- Cover and continue cooking for 1 hour, or until greens are very tender.
Half Fried Chicken
"Being born in the southern part of the United States, there wasn't a household in my childhood where fried chicken wasn't a staple on any respectable cook's menu," Brown says. "Each family's matriarch passing down 'the best' iteration. My version here is a reflection of my granny's and my mama's." This recipe yields four servings. Find the AAA Spice Rub recipe below.
- 1 piece whole chicken (split in half)
- ½ cup salt
- ¼ cup sugar
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups buttermilk
- ½ tbsp chili flake
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons semolina flour
- 1 tablespoons cornstarch
- Frying oil
- In an extra-large pot, combine salt, sugar and water until dissolved. Cool the brine, then place the chicken in the brine for a minimum of 2 hours.
- In a large bowl, combine buttermilk, garlic, thyme, rosemary and chili flake, then place the brined chicken in this marinade. Cover and let refrigerate overnight.
- Fill a large pot with oil and bring to 300 F.
- In a baking dish or shallow pan, combine all-purpose flour, semolina flour, cornstarch and remaining salt to create the dredge.
- Remove the marinating chicken from the liquid, allowing any excess to drip off but do not rinse or pat dry.
- Coat the chicken completely on all sides with the dredge (for best results follow this step twice).
- Once the oil is hot, drop chicken into the oil in small batches and fry for about 15 minutes (the internal temperature should be at least 165°F).
- Remove the chicken from the oil and place on drain the oil on paper towels or a rack.
- Season with AAA spice mix.
AAA Spice Mix
- ⅛ cup garlic salt
- ¼ cup celery salt
- ½ cup smoked spicy paprika
- ⅛ cup kosher salt
- 2 tbsp cup black pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Mac and Cheese
"A dish attributed to James Hemings, an enslaved person to founding father Thomas Jefferson; this rich baked pasta was served in every soul food meal I have ever been served," Brown says. "Another dish where your own mixture of ingredients—specifically the blend of cheese—is signature to each family." This recipe yields six servings.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- ¼ cup shallot, sliced thin
- 1 tablespoon garlic, sliced thin
- 8 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups milk
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 cups white smoked gouda
- 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup for finishing
- ½ cup goat cheese
- ½ cup gorgonzola
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ¼ tablespoon fresh cracked black pepper
- Pre-cooked pasta
- In a large pot, melt butter over low heat with shallots and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until the shallot and garlic is translucent. Add the flour and cook for an additional 7 minutes until the butter and flour mixture is the consistency of wet sand.
- To the pot, add thyme, cream and milk. Simmer over medium heat, whisking well until smooth. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent clumping.
- Quickly whisk in all the cheese, starting with the goat cheese. Cook for 10 to 15 additional minutes, then adjust final seasoning with salt and fresh black pepper.
- Add fully cooked pasta, and combine until fully coated.
- Place mac and cheese in a baking dish and top with remaining cheddar.
- Bake at 400F for 8 minutes or until golden brown.