Editor’s Note: Local leaders shared their favorite recipes with Reporter Newspapers for our May edition. We hope you enjoy!

Alan Mothner at his Dunwoody home. (Photo by Isadora Pennington)

Alan Mothner
CEO, Spruill Center for the Arts

Alan Mothner has always been interested in cooking. But during the pandemic, as he spent more time at home, his passion grew for using the smoker.

Although raised in south Florida, Mothner said he loves some Southern cooking. “I feel like an adopted son of the South,” he said during a recent visit to his home in the Wyntercreek neighborhood of Dunwoody.

He wanted to share what he called the “weekend gathering meal” as he often invites his neighbors over for a feast. It includes ribs on the smoker, mac and cheese in the oven, and collards in the slow cooker.

His advice to chefs? “It should be fun. The point isn’t necessarily just to eat. Enjoy the process.”

Ribs (Smoker)

Cover with rub of choice and refrigerate in foil overnight to let the rub sink in.

Use the 3-2-1 method. Set smoker at 250. Cook for three hours uncovered in the smoker. Then, sauced and wrapped in foil for 2 hours. And finally, one hour unwrapped with sauce. If you prefer a bit more of a burnt sauce finish, place under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.

(Photo by Isadora Pennington)

Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Oven)

1 box (16 ounces) noodles of choice

1 (10.75 ounces) can condensed cheddar cheese soup

1 cup milk

8 ounces of shredded Colby cheese

8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar

Cook pasta and drain. Return to the pot and add cheese soup and milk. Mix well. In a casserole dish add a layer of noodles mix, top with cheese, and repeat until full. I use the sharp cheddar on the final top layer. Cover and set aside until ready to cook. Takes about 30 minutes at 375 degrees.

Collards (Slow cooker)

1 bag chopped collards (2 ½ pounds)

1 yellow onion, diced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

32 ounces of chicken broth

1 ham hock

Throw everything in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Remove ham hock and trim away the fat and dice up the meat. Add the cooked meat back into the collards, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir. Best served with your favorite hot sauce.

Jim Durrett in his home kitchen. (Photo by Joann Vitelli)

Jim Durrett
President, The Buckhead Coalition

Executive director, Buckhead Community Improvement District

Who knew Jim Durrett, who leads two prominent Buckhead organizations, was such a gourmet chef?

The aroma from his home kitchen was amazing on a recent visit. Durrett had made linguine tossed with fresh pesto and veggies. “I like it simple and clean,” he said.

Durrett has been cooking since he was a kid, always volunteering to make meals during Boy Scout camping trips. For the past 10 to 15 years, he said he’s been the principal cook at his home and has a knack for creating meals from ingredients he already has in the fridge. He especially appreciates good cutlery and equipment such as a mortar and pestle.

“It’s a zen experience for me,” Durrett said of cooking. “It allows me to forget about work and all the things that worry me.”

(Photo by Joann Vitelli)

Vegetarian pesto pasta

Basil pesto (recipe follows)

1/2 pound pasta (linguine, fettuccini)

Vegetables: one can drained, rinsed and dried chickpeas, one yellow or red bell pepper, one red onion, grape tomatoes

Pesto –
1/4 cup pine nuts

1 clove garlic

2 cups basil leaves tightly packed

2/3 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil

  1. Use mortar and pestle to grind the pine nuts to a fine powder. Coarsely chop the garlic clove and add to pine nuts and pound into pine nuts until a paste forms.
  2. Cut the basil leaves into slivers and place in a small electric processor with salt and pine nut and garlic mixture. Chop to blend well. Place mixture in a small bowl and stir in the olive oil and the cheeses.
  3. While pasta water is heating, cook 3/4 cup rinsed and dried (important!) chickpeas, coarsely chopped bell pepper, 1/2 of a coarsely chopped red onion in olive oil. Begin with the chick peas because they take longer. I use a wok to handle oil splatter.
  4. Cook pasta. When pasta is almost done, add about a cup of grape tomatoes cut in half to the vegetables. Stir until tomatoes are heated and remove from heat.
  5. Mix all together and figure out how to adjust the recipe to your liking later. Salt, pepper, grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top to finish.

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch with her Coca-Cola brisket. (Photo by Joann Vitelli)

Lynn Deutsch
Mayor, City of Dunwoody

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch enjoys cooking for family occasions and wanted to share her mother-in-law Gay Winter’s brisket recipe.

The classic Southern dish uses Coca-Cola as its secret ingredient.

“This is a pretty easy recipe,” Deutsch said during a recent visit to her home, when she cooked the brisket for Passover.

She’ll admit she wasn’t much of a cook before marrying her husband, Barry, and learning from her mother-in-law. But now, time spent in the kitchen can be a welcome reprieve from her mayoral duties, she said. “Cooking can be relaxing and a distraction,” Deutsch said.

(Photo by Joann Vitelli)

Coca-Cola Brisket

4 to 6 pounds of brisket

12 ounces of Coca-Cola

12 ounces of chili sauce (or ketchup with hot sauce)

One onion soup mix

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pat the brisket dry with paper towels. Place it in a glass baking dish that’s just large enough to fit the brisket snugly. Mix the Coke, chili sauce and onion soup mix in a bowl and pour it over the brisket. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Roast the brisket for about 30 minutes a pound. Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Then, thinly slice it against the grain. You can save the pan juices, skim the fat from the surface and serve on the side.

John Funny with his lemon pound cake. (Photo by Joann Vitelli)

John Funny
District 4 representative,
Brookhaven City Council

Brookhaven councilmember John Funny wanted to share his mother’s pound cake recipe, which she made for him when he was growing up in Georgetown, S.C.

“I like the lemon because it is a very refreshing, nice tasting cake,” Funny said. “​​I used to watch her make it, and what was interesting about my mom is she didn’t use a lot of measuring devices. She just did it based upon her knowledge.”

Funny inherited her love of cooking and baking, saying for him it’s a therapeutic activity.

“I love to cook Southern-style meals in a healthy way,” he said. “I use a lot of smoked turkey for seasoning, like my vegetables and greens and beans, versus the traditional Southern pork. I love baking cakes, sweet potato pies and cookies.”

(Photo by Joann Vitelli)

Lemon Pound Cake

For the cake:
3 cups of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 ½ cups of sugar

6 large eggs at room temperature

1 cup or sour cream at room temperature

2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the glaze:
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ cups of powdered sugar

1. Place the rack in the center position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Generously grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

4. In a separate bowl, use an electric cake mixer to cream together the butter and sugar. At a medium speed, mix for approximately 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well after adding each egg.

5. Set the electric cake mixer to a low speed and alternately add half of the flour mixture, half of the sour cream. Mix thoroughly and then add the remaining flour mixture, sour cream, lemon juice and lemon extract. Mix at medium speed until all ingredients are just combined. Do not overmix. Just mix enough to combine all ingredients. Approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Transfer the batter to the bundt cake pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and firmly tap the pan on the counter to release any air pockets.

7. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test at 1 hour with a toothpick. Bake until a few moist crumbs stick to the toothpick inserted in the center.

8. Cool cake in the pan for 25 minutes before turning out onto a wire to finish cooling completely.

9. For the glaze, add the powdered sugar into a bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice with a spoon until completely smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow to harden and set.

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst shares his family’s pancake recipe. (Courtesy of City of Brookhaven)

John Ernst
Mayor, City of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst loves his family pancake recipe.

 “My dad at some point started making these pancakes that were so good and easy (and not out of the box,” he said. “They were made during family trips when I was out of school.”

The best part? They are easily customized to your liking.

“The things one could add to the ‘normal’ pancake are infinite,” Ernst said. “Chocolate chips, blueberries, nuts, oats, cornmeal, strawberry bits are all right answers. I hope people enjoy the basic [pancake] and then go from there by adding flavors they want. There really is no wrong answer.”      

Basic Pancakes       

Place the following in a small bowl:

1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking power (double acting)                           

1⁄2 teaspoon salt (optional)                           

1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda

Place following in separate two-quart bowl:

1 cup low-fat buttermilk (add a little more later if the batter is too thick). If you want to use regular milk instead, eliminate the baking soda ingredient.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted or vegetable oil

1 large egg

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.                                                
  2. In a two-quart bowl, whisk together milk, butter (or oil) and egg.                                         
  3. Add dry ingredients to the milk mixture, whisk until just moistened. Add a little more milk if too thick. (Do not over mix, a few small lumps are fine).
  4. Lightly oil griddle or large skillet surface by rubbing folded paper towel moistened with vegetable oil. Heat to about 375 to 400 degrees.
  5. Use 1/3 measuring cup to pour batter onto the cooking surface and use the bottom of the cup to spread batter into a round pancake. No need to completely empty the cup between scoops. Should yield about 12 pancakes.
  6. Cook until the surface of the pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst. (1 to 2 minutes). Flip carefully and cook until browned on underside. Transfer to a loosely covered cooking sheet or heatproof platter in a warm oven (170-200 degree) to hold while remaining batter is cooked. Re-oil cooking surface as necessary.
  7. Place your favorite toppings on top of pancakes and enjoy.

Linley Jones with her deviled eggs. (Courtesy of Linley Jones)

Linley Jones
District 1 representative,
Brookhaven City Council

Brookhaven councilmember Linley Jones recently decided to turn leftover Easter eggs into deviled eggs. “I tend to change the recipe a bit each time,” she told Reporter Newspapers.

Here’s her deviled egg recipe, which includes the addition of diced ham.

Deviled eggs

12 hard-boiled eggs

3/4 cup Hellmann’s light mayo

1/4 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup finely diced ham (or turkey bacon)

Lawry’s seasoned salt to taste

Freshly ground pepper

Minced parsley

Peel the eggs and slice them in half. Remove the yolks and beat them with a mixer adding in the mayonnaise and remaining ingredients until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Reserve some ham to garnish the top. Sample freely and adjust the ingredients as necessary until it’s irresistible. Using a pastry tube, decoratively pipe the creamy mixture into the hollow of each egg and garnish with diced ham or parsley.

Amy Wenk

Amy Wenk

Amy Wenk was editor of Reporter Newspapers in 2021-22.