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Sunny Anderson's patriotic recipes

Menu has military twist

Sunny Anderson has left the kitchen -- her set kitchen, that is, where she tapes “Cooking for Real” on the Food Network. And, don’t worry: It’s only temporary. For a special episode, Anderson, an Air Force vet, travels to North Carolina and Virginia to show us the military through food.

"Sunny's All American Celebration" aired at 10 a.m. ET, July 2 and 6 p.m. ET, July 4 on the Food Network. Anderson showed viewers how the military trains its chefs, shops for care-package food with mothers whose sons are overseas and cooks a meal for war veterans at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

The recipes featured on the show might inspire your own patriotic menu. Read on to find out the main dish -- it's not conventional cookout food like kebobs or burgers. Anderson gives a classic military dish a much-needed upgrade on the grill and makes sweet and spicy Firecracker Coleslaw for the side. German Chocolate Cookies come with a touching back story that is revealed in the show. (Find all of the recipes after the story.)

Anderson chatted with SheKnows about making the Food Network special, finally getting to cook in her grandma's kitchen and a truly genius makeover for hot dogs.

Sunny Anderson

SK: Where did you come up with the idea for "Sunny's All American Celebration?"

SA: Truthfully, it's something that I've wanted to do since before I was on the Food Network. I grew up in the military; my dad was in the Army. I was in the Air Force.

My dad went to Vietnam and my granddad was in World War II. My brother was over in Saudi. My uncle did two waves and commanded them in Afghanistan.

I love the military so much. I love what it stands for. And I just want more people to know what everyone (in the military) does, and what the day-to-day operations are. I thought, there's no better time than the 4th of July to put a special together.

SK: You have a dish called Sunny's S.O.S. for S.O.S. that you cook for the war veterans in the show. You're saving something – but what?

SA: You know, S.O.S. means Save Our Souls. But S.O.S. in the military means -- and excuse my French -- "Sh*t on a Shingle." It's basically chipped beef with cream sauce over toast tips – it's horrible. But in essence, the idea of it is nice, if you do all of the parts right. I put together a recipe called my S.O.S. for S.O.S., so that explains the title.

It's all capable of being made on the grill -- even the sauce -- but it's not a typical grill dish. It's a flank steak so it's something people are really familiar with. (Find the recipe below).

SK: The show takes us inside in your grandma's kitchen in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where you prepare the food for the war veterans. You spent many summers growing up at your grandma's house. Did you cook with her when you were a kid?

SA: She cooked for me. I was not able to get in her kitchen. I don't know of anyone who's been able to be in my grandma's kitchen with her there.

SK: So, she's the queen of her kitchen?

SA: She is the king of her kitchen. For the purposes of this show, I asked if I could get in there. Of course she's not going to tell me no -- it's for work! It was pretty amazing to cook in the kitchen that fed generations. Growing up, we moved around so much, it is the one kitchen (that was constant).

SK: Let's talk about more cooking ideas. What's your suggestion for fancying up a hamburger?

SA: The basics for me for a hamburger are salt, pepper and oil, and put it on the grill. But I love to add stuff to it. I add in some cumin and red onions, and maybe chop up some cilantro and garlic and put that in the ground beef and make it a nice Southwest burger. I serve it with some sliced avocado and Monterey Jack cheese.

Q: Now for a real challenge: How do you make a hot dog interesting?

SA: I could totally see myself making a banh mi hot dog. You'd take the hot dog and split it in half. Get some fresh ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper, OJ and scallions, and let that hang out in a (plastic) bag with the hot dogs. Make sure you have carrots, and put those on the grill, then chop them down (into matchsticks). Put the carrots on top of your hot dog that has been marinated and grilled. To that, add some cabbage that you've tossed in apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar with a little bit of oil, salt and pepper to loosen it up. Then, add sriracha. It's a banh mi dog.

Check out recipes from Sunny's All American Celebration >>

Photo courtesy of Food Network

SUNNY'S S.O.S. FOR S.O.S.

Recipe by Sunny Anderson

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

For the steak:

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Frank's Red Hot
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound flank steak

For the gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed (6 ounces)
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated on a rasp
  • Salt
  • 4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 pint heavy cream

For the toast:

  • 8 slices Texas toast, or unsliced bread cut to 1-inch thick slices
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste with some salt

Directions:

  1. For the steak: To a large resealable bag, add the red wine vinegar, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and lime zest and juice. Mix together and add the flank steak. Marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium-high.
  3. Remove the steak from the marinade and discard the marinade. Pat the steak dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked to medium-rare, 5 to 6 minutes per side. Let rest 10 minutes, loosely covered with aluminum foil, before slicing.
  4. For the gravy: In a large pan with straight sides, add the butter, olive oil, onions and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and cook gently until the mushrooms are tender and darkened, about 5 minutes more. Add the Worcestershire sauce and horseradish. Sprinkle the flour over the entire pan. Stir to help the flour to soak into the vegetables and cook a minute more to lose the flour flavor. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the beef stock. Cook until slightly thickened, then slowly stir in the heavy cream. Simmer until the cream is thickened slightly, about 4 minutes more. Taste and season with salt, if needed.
  5. For the toast: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or a grill to medium heat.
  6. Arrange the sliced bread on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. In a small pot, add the butter, onion powder, thyme and garlic and season with salt. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Brush the garlic butter evenly onto the bread. If baking, place in the oven and bake until the edges are golden, about 10 minutes. If grilling, place the bread slices buttered-side down on the grill and grill until toasted and grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. To serve, layer the toast, then slices of beef and pour over a spoonful of gravy.

Fire Cracker Cole Slaw

Recipe by Sunny Anderson

Makes 15-18 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce, plus more as needed
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, shredded
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, cored and shredded
  • 2 Bosc pears, cored and shredded
  • 1 head red cabbage, shredded or sliced thin
  • 1 head Savoy cabbage, shredded or sliced thin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, adobo sauce and chipotle pepper.
  2. Taste, season with salt and pepper and, if needed, add a bit more adobo sauce to make it spicy to your taste.
  3. Add the carrots, dried cranberries, raisins, apples, pears and cabbages and then toss to combine.
  4. Taste and season with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

German Chocolate Cake Cookies

Recipe by Sunny Anderson

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, such as Hershey's
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut, such as Baker's Angel Flake Coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a stand mixer or large bowl using a hand mixer, blend the butter, both sugars, vanilla and eggs.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and blend until combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips, coconut and pecans.
  5. Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet, and bake 8 to 10 minutes. Cool on a baking rack.

Cook's Note: To make bars, press the dough into a buttered 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into squares when cooled.

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