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Published: November 2013
From Their Table to Yours: Holiday Recipes from The Carolina Inn  


If you are tired of the same old dishes at your holiday table, why not take it up a notch this year and try some of the recipes provided by James Clark, executive chef at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant at the The Carolina Inn (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Grits Soufflé with Braised Pork Cheeks & Red-eye Gravy

Serves 6-8 people

for Braised Pork Cheeks

2# pork cheeks

1 Vidalia onion

2 celery ribs

1 carrots

2 cloves of garlic

3 sprigs of thyme

1 c. of Pinot Noir

2 c. chicken broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions: Pre heat your Oven to 225 degrees. Take the Pork Cheeks rinse and pat them dry and then trim off all the gristle. Season them very lightly with salt and regular with Pepper. Clean and dice all the vegetables. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy duty braising pan and sear the seasoned pork cheeks and remove. Add the remaining olive oil and the diced vegetables to the hot pan and sweat until tender and then add the pork cheeks back to the pan and deglaze with the Pinot Noir and reduce the heat add the chicken broth and fresh thyme. Place the braising pan covered with foil in the oven and let cook for 3 ½  hours and check for tenderness if they are not falling a part then allow to go another 30min and check them again. Once the Pork Cheeks are done pull from the oven and remove the pork cheeks from the braising liquid and set to the side and allow cooling DO NOT WASH PAN. Strain the braising liquid and discard the vegetables.

for Red-eye Gravy

4 oz.  salt cured ham, no bone

½ Onion

2 thyme sprigs

2 c. Cold Coffee

2 tbsp. of oil (but if you have any bacon drippings they would work better.)

Braising Liquid

Directions: Dice the county ham and peel and dice onion, but keep separate. In the same braising pan add the oil (or bacon drippings ) and country ham. Allow to slightly brown, add the onions and continue to cook until onions are caramelized. Then add the coffee, braising liquid and   thyme and allow to simmer for 8min. Allow Gravy to stand for ½ hour and then strain out ham, onion and thyme and taste for seasoning.


for Grits Soufflé

first make the grits

2 ¼ c. water

2 ¼ c. whole milk

1 c. Anson Mills Grits

Directions: Add all ingredients into a heavy bottom pot and cook while siring occasionally for 30min. at medium heat to low heat. Once the grits are tender pull off of the heat and pour into a bowl to cool to slightly warm.



for the Soufflé

4 ea. large eggs

½ c. grated Parmesan cheese

3 tbsp. sour cream

2 tbsp. minced chives

1 c. milk

Directions: Separate the eggs with the yolk in one bowl and yolk in another. Add the milk, cheese, chives and sour cream to the yolks and mix well and then add the grits and the shredded pork and mix well. Whip the egg whites to a stiff peak and then fold the egg whites into the grits mixture with a rubber spatula and then pour into a buttered casserole dish. Place in the oven and Bake at 400 degrees for 20 min. Serve immediately with the Red-eye gravy poured on top!!

Stuffed Acorn Squash

(this recipe should be done the day before so it can set up to be sliced the next day.)

2 local acorn squash

1 sticks butter unsalted

1 c. brown sugar

1 c. toasted pecan pieces

1 c. Panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp. cinnamon

½ t. allspice

½ t. nutmeg

pinch of kosher salt

Directions: Preheat your oven to 300 degrees, and then cut the acorn squash in ½ from the point end to the root end so it is an oval shape.  Scoop out the seeds, discard them and set the squash to the side. In an electric mixer whip the 2 sticks of butter, for about 6- 8  minutes, until they have almost doubled in size. Turn mixer to a slow speed and add in the rest of the ingredients and make sure they are mixed well you may have to stop the mixer and using a rubber spatula scraping the bottom of the bowl so everything is mixed well. Once everything is mixed scrape the butter mix out of the bowl and stuff inside the cavity of the acorn squash  until it is right to the top and make sure it is packed in tightly.  If you have remaining butter place into a zip lock bag and save to do again latter. Once the squash is stuffed place them on a cookie sheet, slide into the oven and cook for 1 ½ hour. Pull them out and if the flesh is soft then it is ready. Take the squash and place them in to the refrigerator overnight so that the stuffing can firm up. The next day or the day you are ready to serve place the squash skin side up and slice into ½ moon shapes about an inch think and then shingle them into a baking dish.  Pour about ½ cup of water into the dish, cover with foil and re-warm them in the oven at 300 degrees and serve.


Gingered Carrots & Parsnips

6 lg. carrots

8 lg. parsnips

¼ c. minced ginger

1 tbsp. minced garlic

¼ c. brown sugar

¼ c. bourbon

1 c. chicken stock

2 tbsp. chopped parsley (optional)

olive oil, salt and pepper

Directions: Peel the carrots and parsnips and split them in half , then cut the halves in moons about ¼ in thick.  In a large heavy bottom sauté pan, add some olive oil and put on medium heat.  Add the minced ginger and garlic and let cook for a few seconds. Then add the carrots and parsnips, and mix well in the sauté pan.  Once the parsnips and carrots began to cook, sprinkle ½ the amount of sugar on them followed by ½ the bourbon. Once the bourbon and ¼ of the Chicken Stock has cooked out, and turn up the heat.  Once that becomes thick add the rest of the sugar, rest of the bourbon and so on until the carrots and parsnips are tender but still whole their shape. Add the parsley and serve.

(photo acorn squash, courtesy of The Carolina Inn)

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