The Best Summer Southern Dishes by Top Chefs

From chicken and grits to banana fritters, 5 easy dishes you can prepare now.

Over the years, Top Chefs have tackled plenty of cuisines from around the world—but nothing gets our mouth watering quite like when they put modern spins on classic comfort foods from the South.

With summer in full swing, we've compiled five of our favorite dishes that will help you beat the heat.

dish-joes-crab-shack-oat-fried-chicken-aJeff’s Oat-Fried Chicken and Grits
Season 5, Episode 10
Ingredients: 1 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, Salt and pepper, 2 skinless, boneless whole chicken breasts (about 1 pound), butterflied, 2 ¼ cups buttermilk, Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 3 ½ tablespoons, 2 cups chicken stock, ¾ cup stone-ground or instant grits, 1 ½ cups heavy cream, 2 cups fresh or frozen kernels, 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 3 eggs, beaten, 1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch-thick sticks, Canola oil for frying.
1 hour prep, plus 3 hours for soaking. Serves 4.

1.    Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the oats, ½ tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste to combine. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and toast for about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Grind finely in a blender or food processor and set aside.
2.    Combine the chicken and 2 cups of the buttermilk. Soak for at least 3 hours, refrigerated.
3.    Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and pat dry. Season with thyme and salt and pepper. Lay one piece of chicken between two sheets of clear plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet and working from the center of the chick out toward the edges, pound gently until the chicken is very thin. Brush each breast with the melted butter and roll in 2 tablespoons of the oat mixture.
4.    In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat until it begins to foam. Add the chicken breasts and sauté until golden, about 1 minute. Flip the breasts and cook until the other side is golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to the oven to keep warm until serving.
5.    In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Whisk in the grits and stir well. Bring back to a boil. Cook the grits for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Lower heat to medium, add the cream and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons butter. Reduce heat to low and cook the grits, stirring occasionally, until they become creamy, about 15 minutes.
6.    In a separate sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the corn and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and then stir into the grits along with ¼ cup of the ground toasted oats.
7.     Season the flour with salt and pepper. Mix in the remaining ground oats. Whisk the remaining ¼ cup buttermilk into the eggs.
8.    Dip the zucchini sticks first into the egg mixture, and then roll in the oat mixture to coat. Lay the coated sticks on a wire rack as you work.
9.    Heat 1 inch of canola oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the zucchini until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
10.  To serve, mound a scoop of grits on each plate. Top with a chicken breast and a couple of zucchini sticks.

Stephanie’s Shrimp, Pork, and Banana Fritters
Season 4 Episode 13
Ingredients: ¼ pound medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, and chopped, ¼ pound ground pork, 1 banana, peeled and smashed, 1 yellow plantain, peeled and diced, 1 clove garlic, minced, Salt and pepper, ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, Juice of 2 limes (1/4 cup), 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 1 /2 cups peanut oil for frying, ¼ cup panko (breadcrumbs), 2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade.
45 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.
1.    In a small bowl, mix together with shrimp, pork, banana, plantain, and garlic. Season the batter with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2.    Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until browned, about 5 minutes. Pour the butter through a fine-mesh sieve to remove solids. Wash the pan and return it to a very low heat. Strain the clarified butter back into the pan. Add the lime juice, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved.
3.    Heat the peanut oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry ¼ tablespoon of fritter batter until golden on all sides. Taste to check the seasoning and add more salt or pepper if necessary.
4.    Spread the panko on a plate. Form the fritter batter into teaspoon-size balls; roll in panko to coat. Fry in batches without crowding the pan until golden brown, adding more oil if necessary. Remove the fritters from the pan with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5.    Serve the fritters immediately, drizzled with the sauce and sprinkled with the basil.

Mia’s Bean Salad
Season 2, Episode 6
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, ½ teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon capers, 1 tablespoon fresh mint, julienned
2 teaspoons ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup fresh, blanched, or canned green beans, drained, ½ cup canned garbanzo beans, drained, ½ cup canned kidney beans, drained, 2 fresh cooked or canned beets, drained,  cut into thin slivers, ¼ cup canned artichoke hearts, drained, cut into thin slivers, 4 cups baby mixed greens
15 minutes. Serves 4.

1.    Whisk together the mustard, sugar, capers, mint, black pepper, salt, and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
2.    Toss the beans, beets, and artichoke hearts in a medium bowl. Dress with some of the vinaigrette.
3.    To serve, heap a mound of greens on a platter. With a slotted spoon, remove the bean mixture from the vinaigrette and spoon it over the greens. Then drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the greens and serve.

Howie’s Vanilla Butter-Poached Lobster with Watercress-Citrus Salad
Season 3, Episode 2
Ingredients: 1 navel orange, 1 blood orange, 1 ruby red grapefruit, 1 tangerine, 1 lime, 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, 3 vanilla beans, preferably Tahitian, split lengthwise, Leaves from 2 sprigs thyme, Two 6-ounce lobster tails, in shell, 1/8 teaspoon minced habanero or Scotch bonnet chile, 4 tablespoons canola or olive oil, plus more for drizzling, Sea salt (preferably fleur de sel), pepper, and sugar (optional) for seasoning, 4 cups stemmed watercress, 4 grape tomatoes, cut into thin rounds, 1 kumquat, cut into thin rounds.
45 minutes. Serves 2.

1.    Supreme the citrus fruits: with a sharp knife, cut off the tops and bottoms of the citrus fruits. Slicing downward from top to bottom, cut off the peels and white ptih. Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to dislodge the segments of fruit. Reserve the citrus juice.
2.    2. IN a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the vanilla beans and thyme and heat for 1 minute. Add the lobster tails and cook until the flesh is opaque, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the lobster and set aside to cool.
3.    In a small bowl, combine the reserved citrus juice and the chile. Whisk in the 4 tablespoons canola oil in a thin stream. Whisking constantly, add 2 tablespoons of the vanilla-lobster butter. Season with sea salt, pepper, and sugar (if using).
4.    Gently combine the watercress and half of the citrus supremes in a bowl. (Save the remaining supremes for another use.) Toss with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
5.    To assemble, crack open the lobster tails and carefully remove the meat. Toss with a couple tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
6.    Divide the salad between 2 plates. Top with lobster. Garnish with tomatoes, kumquat, sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Crabcakes Benedict with Mango Cream Sauce
Season 2, Episode 7
Mango Cream Sauce: 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour,1 cup heavy cream, warmed to room temperature, 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and diced, ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper, ¼ cup minced fresh cilantro, Salt and freshly ground black pepper. Crabcakes Benedict: 12 large eggs, 12 crabcakes (homemade or store-bought), One 9-ounce bag corn tortilla chips, finely crushed), Olive oil, Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 6 English muffins, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish.

1.    In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk vigorously until the mixture is smooth and fragrant but does not change color. Add the cream and whisk until the mixture is well combined.
2.    Reserve ½ cup of the mango. Add the red pepper, cilantro, remaining mango, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick but smooth and the ingredients are cooked through. You may need to whisk the mixture from time to time to keep it from separating. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside until ready to serve. Gently reheat just before serving if necessary.
For the Crabcakes Benedict:
1.    In a small bowl, whisk 2 of the eggs with 2 teaspoons water. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of each crabcake with the egg wash. Dip each crabcake in the corn chips, coating both sides. Set the crabcakes aside on large plates.
2.    In a large skillet, heat 1 inch of oil over medium heat. Add the crabcakes, in batches if necessary, cooking until golden brown on each side, about 5minutes per side, adding more oil to the pan for a second batch if necessary. As the crabcakes are ready, transfer them to a tray and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.
3.    In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 10 eggs to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4.    Split the English muffins in half and toast them.
5.    While the English muffins are in the toaster, wipe out the skillet, add the butter, and melt over medium-low heat. Add the eggs and cook to desired firmness, stirring frequently. Add more salt and pepper to taste if needed. Cover with foil to keep warm if necessary.
To Serve: Put 1 English muffin half on each plate. Top each English muffin with a crabcake. Spoon some of the scrambled eggs over each crabcake. Top with the mango sauce and garnish with the reserves mango and the parsley. Serve immediately.


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