Kardea Brown Tells Tasting Table Her Favorite Dishes For Holiday Entertaining

Whether you follow her lead on Food Network's "Delicious Miss Brown" or leaf through her recipes from "The Way Home" cookbook, Kardea Brown's culinary creations are a feast for the eyes. Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, many of Brown's recipes are influenced by her Gullah background. "We're direct descendants of West African enslaved people. Gullah cuisine — our food, our culture, and the way that we speak — is directly connected to West Africa," Brown tells Tasting Table. Brown's style of cooking incorporates plenty of fresh seafood and produce, though she's currently working on the launch of her own frozen food line.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Brown shared some of her favorite dishes and tips for holiday entertaining while appearing at the inaugural Honeyland Festival in Sugar Land, Texas. The event, sponsored by Pepsi Dig In, featured acclaimed dishes and drinks from Black-owned food and beverage vendors, musical guests like Mary J. Blige and Miguel, and more. "To be a part of something this new and this awesome is incredible," says Brown of the gathering. In between live cooking demonstrations at Honeyland's packed Eats & Sips stage, we caught up with the Food Network star to hear more about her holiday menu plans.

Tradition is a big part of Kardea Brown's holiday menu

For many families, tradition is the backbone of holiday menu planning, and Kardea Brown is no exception. When asked to list her most memorable holiday dishes from her formative years, Brown was quick to mention her grandmother. "My grandmother's stuffing, and her macaroni and cheese," Brown said without skipping a beat. "And something that we make in the Gullah culture called Sweet Potato Pone. It's like shredded sweet potatoes — almost made like a sweet potato pie — just in a casserole form. It's one of my favorite things to eat during the holidays."

Of course, Brown continues to serve time-honored classics into the start of a new year. When it comes to New Year's entertaining, there are several menu items that Brown says are essential. "We have to do our traditional Hoppin' John, collard greens," she says, "and my mom has started a tradition with our family where we do fried chicken with that." For those unfamiliar with Hoppin' John, the recipe is a Southern New Year's staple said to usher in luck, featuring ingredients like black-eyed peas, long-grained rice, and smoked meat. Like Hoppin John', collard greens are another culinary good luck charm thought to bring about prosperity.

Kardea Brown's must-haves for a perfect holiday spread

Kardea Brown recognizes the importance of honoring family traditions in the kitchen, though her approach may be slightly different at times. She says her grandmother was known to serve a "traditional turkey, roasted" on the holiday table each year. However, Brown favors a different turkey cooking method to speed things up in the kitchen. "I like to spatchcock, so [the turkey] can cook a little faster, and I can do everything else that I need to do," Brown tells Tasting Table. In terms of other festive favorites, the "Delicious Miss Brown" star names a few must-haves: "Macaroni and cheese, and you've got to have your collard greens and honey-baked ham."

Since we know how skilled Brown is at creating magical meals from scratch, we were curious to see whether she used any canned foods to streamline her holiday menu plans. "You can never go wrong with a can of cranberries or cranberry sauce," she says. Although Brown acknowledges that canned cranberries are a divisive subject in some culinary circles, she can't stress their versatility enough. "You can break that down and make so many different things — you can add it to your salads, or you can make a sauce out of it. You should always have some type of canned cranberry around." We couldn't agree more. As Brown suggests, canned cranberries are an easy way to lend a bright burst of flavor to just about any holiday recipe, from sweet to savory.