TOPS | Our Favorite Southern Recipes | Mains


A Word On Food

When we were dreaming of the perfect issue to kick off the new year, the first two words that came to mind were “Southern Comforts.”

After the trainwreck that was 2020, everyone deserves a little comfort. And no one gets comfort quite like the South.

Cooking is about nourishing bodies and bringing people together around a table. But for anyone who has experienced a proper Southern spread, you know: Southern cooking about so much more than feeding one another. It’s about making the most with the least and transforming humble ingredients into something that feeds the spirit.

Think about your favorite Southern dishes. Your mind is probably dredging up a hearty bowl of chicken and dumplings, a spread of beer cheese and crackers, honey-drizzled cornbread with soup beans or collard greens, bourbon-drenched bread pudding, fried catfish with crunchy hushpuppies, boiling hot burgoo, steamin’ hot biscuits, and a gallon of sweet tea. The thought of each dish is like a balm for the soul, soothing you with the memory of a full belly and the glow of love.

We can’t help but think of the ways this past year changed our relationship with food. Like Southerners who came before us, we felt the call to stretch the ingredients in our pantries to ease our families through an uncertain time. Getting carryout was no longer a weeknight treat, but instead an important connection to our neighbors, a gift we gave and received from our community. A Thanksgiving without sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, and sweet potato rolls reminded us that every gathering around a table is something to cherish and celebrate.

As we head into 2021, let’s hold those lessons close to our hearts. Let’s remember our gratitude for the cooks in our homes and the food industry workers we visit around town. Let’s stay curious about what’s in our cabinets and available on grocery store shelves, finding new ways to create (and savor!) delicious bites. Let’s nourish our communities and share our favorite foods with everyone around us.

Let’s get cookin’!


Southern Shrimp & Grits

Recipe Courtesy of

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Serving size: 1 cup grits and about 10 shrimp

  • 2 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth 1 1/2 c. fat-free milk
  • 1 1/4 c. quick 5-minute grits
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. shredded Wisconsin sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 pound medium shrimp (about 40), peeled and deveined 1 T Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth and milk to a boil. Gradually whisk in the grits and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook the grits, stirring occasionally, until they start to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar and pepper.

In a large resealable bag, add the shrimp and Old Bay. Seal the bag and give it a few shakes to evenly coat the shrimp with the seasoning.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and cook until the green onions begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook on both sides until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, spoon 1 cup of the grits into a bowl and top with about 10 shrimp.

Nutrition Information
Per Serving: (1 cup of grits and about 10 shrimp) Calories: 425
Fat: 14g
Carbohydrates: 46g
Fiber: 3g
Sugar: 5g
Protein: 31g


Melt In Your Mouth Chicken

From TOPS Staff: Jennifer Baker

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. mayo
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Mix mayo and seasonings together.

Spread over chicken in baking dish.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes.

Beef Stew

From TOPS Staff: Fran Elsen

  • 2 lbs. good beef (for stew)
  • 2 c. diced onions
  • 2 c. potatoes (quartered)
  • 2 c. carrot chunks
  • 2 c. celery (cut up)
  • 2 small cans mushrooms (drained)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 5 heaping T tapioca (in the baker’s aisle)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 c. V-8 Juice

Mix all together in large covered dish and bake
5 hrs. at 250 degrees. (Do NOT brown meat first.)

Serve with hot bread.


White Chicken Chili

From TOPS Staff: Chad Howard

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp. Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning & Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cans (4 oz. each) diced green chiles
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • optional garnishes: fresh cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced avocados

Place chicken breasts in your crockpot. Sprinkle with seasoning mixes and chili powder.

Stir in the onions, green chiles, beans and chicken broth. Cover. Cook on high for 3-4 hours (or on low for 6-8 hours.)

Remove chicken, shred and add back to the slow cooker. Cook on high, just until warmed through and slightly thickened.

Serve warm, topped with garnishes!


Soup Beans

  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans
  • bacon or ham
  • 1 large onion, chopped

Pour beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Let soak overnight. Drain.

Cook your bacon or ham in the bottom of a large sauce pan, adding rendered bacon fat, if necessary. Transfer to a paper towel to drain.

Saute onion until tender in same pan, coating with the fat.

Stir in your beans. Cover with water or chicken stock to 1 inch. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Half-cover the pot and cook for an hour.

Stir in your meat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or hot sauce. Serve with cornbread and sliced raw onion.

Note: Soup beans are very much a “make do” recipe. You’re welcome to add in additional seasonings, like bay leaves or garlic. If you’ve got a ham bone or ham hock, it’s certainly welcome to join the party. If you’d like to put cooked collard greens in your finished bowl, that’d be mighty tasty!

If you feel like your soup beans are a little thin, trust that it will thicken up as you reheat it. In the meantime, add crumbled cornbread to the bowl for an authentic Appalachian bite.


Tomato-Basil Smoked Chicken

OBC Kitchen | 3373 Tates Creek Rd. Lexington, Ky | (859) 977-2600

  • 1 smoked or roasted chicken cooked, hot
  • 12 oz. gnocchi, fresh or packaged
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1 T garlic, minced
  • 12 heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 12 oz. roasted chicken stock
  • 3 T butter, cold
  • 4 T basil leaves, ripped Parsley, or spring herbs

Carefully remove the rib, breast, and back bones from the hot chicken; separate the breast quarter from the thigh/leg quarter, cutting each quarter in half. Place each piece skin-side down in a hot oiled cast iron skillet in a 400°F oven to crisp the skin for approximately 3-4 minutes.

Add the gnocchi into salted boiling water and cook until they float.

In a sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add the oil and garlic to flavor the oil.

Add tomatoes to the pan and quickly toss in the garlic oil, then drain. Add the cooked gnocchi and garlic cloves, tossing to coat (all 30 seconds).

Ladle the roasted chicken stock into the pan, bring to a quick boil, swirl in the whole butter; add the torn basil leaves.

Neatly divide the chicken into large warm bowls, arrange the tomato- gnocchi mix around the chicken in the bowls. Pour the hot stock over and around the chicken; garnish with parsley or herb sprigs.


Buffy Lawson Marinates On Cooking

When my son was five years old, he asked what I was making for dinner. I paused and contemplated the question as I had nothing planned. With one eyebrow cocked and his cute little finger waving in the air, he blurted,” Well, whatever it is, I know it’s gonna be marinated!”

The fact that my five-year-old kiddo even knew the proper context of the word “marinated” cracks me up to this day. But it is not all surprising, as he and his brother have been subjected to lacing up shish kebabs since they were able to walk.

Few things can offer a home the atmosphere of creating an amazing meal. The planning, preparing, cooking, and serving can be as simple or complex as your schedule, passion level and budget will allow. And anyone who knows me is aware that candles and music are always involved when I cook. Even if the TV is going and I am making something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup, there will be candles and music.

Being from Kentucky, most of us know all about Southern comfort foods. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried corn, and green beans swimming in bacon grease. Oh, and let’s not forget, yeast rolls drenched in warm succulent butter. A nice glass of Kentucky bourbon on the rocks, a UK basketball game, and BOOM: an evening to be reckoned with.

However, foods do not need to be fattening to be fabulous. Experimenting with fresh herbs and spices is exciting and a great way to enjoy tasty meals without the guilt. Substituting low-fat milk for cream, using fresh vegetables versus canned and an air fryer instead of deep frying are just a few examples.

Oh, and back to marinating! Vegetables and meats that have been hanging out in a freshly made marinade are to die for and require little to no oil or grease to be packed full of flavor.

This year I encourage you to get cooking! Make those memories and spoil yourself and those around you. Turn on some tunes, light a candle, and dive into the world of tantalizing smells and tastes.

Yes, this Kentucky girl is all about southern comfort. And, evidently, marinating. Just ask my (now) fifteen-year-old son.

Not So Terribly Guilty Buffalicious Lasagna

From Buffy Lawson

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 package breakfast hot sausage
  • 3 cans tomato sauce (8 oz)
  • 1 small can tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 T catsup
  • 1 T brown sugar substitute
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 T pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • Heaping handful of fresh cut basil
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • Dash soy sauce
  • 9 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 carton reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • Minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 cups part skim mozzarella cheese

Make noodles per directions.

In a large skillet, cook ground turkey and hot breakfast sausage and set to the side.

Sauté onion and garlic until tender.

Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, all spices, basil, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Let simmer.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, parmesan, and parsley.

Spread meat sauce into a 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Layer with 3 noodles, half of the cheese mixture, 1 1/3 cups sauce, and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.

Top with remaining noodles and sauce.

Cover and bake for 55-60 minutes or until bubbly. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese has melted.

Let sit for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with parsley.


Cole's Pot Roast

Coles 735 Main | 735 E Main St. Lexington, Ky | (859) 266-9000

  • 1 Chuck Roast 2-3 pounds
  • 2-3 large carrots
  • 2-3 red onions
  • 4-5 stalks of celery
  • 4-5 Idaho potatoes
  • 3-4 boxes of low sodium beef broth
  • Two 14 oz. cans tomato paste
  • Two 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a heavy-bottomed pan or iron skillet over high flame. While the skillet is getting hot, season the chuck roast liberally with salt and pepper.

Add 1⁄4 cup vegetable to skillet. When oil reaches the smoking point, add chuck roast. Brown on both sides 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until meat is evenly caramelized.

Add seared chuck roast to a roasting pan. Smear both cans of tomato paste on the roast. Add enough beef stock to slightly cover the meat and both cans of diced tomatoes.

Cover and place in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours.

While roast is cooking peel and chop carrots into 1-inch circles and reserve. Chop celery into 2-to-3-inch pieces and reserve. Peel onions and slice into 1-inch circles and reserve. Wash potatoes and set aside to chop later.

After 1 1/2 hours, pull the roast out of the oven, uncover, and check the seasoning of the broth. You will want it to be slightly salty.

Slice potatoes in half longways and cut again into 1 to 2 inch half-moons. Add remaining ingredients to the roasting pans.

Cover pan and place back in the oven for another 2 hours or until vegetables and meat are fork-tender. Enjoy!


Bread Crumb Pasta

From TOPS Staff: Jayme Jackson

This is a twist on spaghetti a traditional Italian pasta dish featuring garlic, olive oil, and chile. The fresh breadcrumbs soak up the spicy oil and garlic in a most delicious way. Be sure to brown the breadcrumbs well, or they’ll be soggy in the finished dish. Ciabatta breadcrumbs are best for this dish, but you can use any mild-flavored bread; leave the crusts on for the best texture. If I need to save time, I use Ritz crackers tossed in melted butter in the oven for 5 min. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 c. coarse fresh breadcrumbs (with crust), preferably from a ciabatta loaf or Ritz Cracker topping
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 lb. dried spaghetti, or linguine
  • Freshly shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. of Weyler’s chicken powder (I use chicken base in almost every dish I cook. It’s that little “something” a lot of dishes are missing.)

Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-low heat until sizzling, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Raise the heat to medium, then add the breadcrumbs. Cook while stirring until deeply golden, about 3 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, until breadcrumbs are brown and crisp.

Remove from heat.
Stir in parsley and season with chicken powder to taste.

Prepare pasta according to package instructions in salted water, then drain. (Don’t worry about getting all the water off your noodles. A little left in the colander will help everything stick.)

Top off the dish with breadcrumbs after plating. Serve sprinkled with parmesan.