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CoastLine: Holiday Place At The Table With Dean Neff

Wikimedia Commons / Anthere
Dean Neff says the colder months are perfect for oysters -- making them a great choice for holiday meals.

It’s the season of casseroles and pies and heavy meat dishes.  It’s the season to loosen dietary restrictions and enjoy the abundance.  According to a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and reported by MSN, the average American's weight increases by almost half a percent over Christmas and just two-tenths of a percent over Thanksgiving.   

It’s only problematic, according to researchers, because most people don’t lose the weight – and so each year, the scale ticks up. 

But chefs around the country are talking about the holidays this year in a slightly different way.  The 2019 holiday food trends have less to do with unrestrained indulgence and more of a focus on delicious, high-quality, yes—even healthy food – food that’s as satisfying as that sweet potato casserole layered with all the unnecessary sugar and marshmallow baloney.

This is a food and cooking philosophy that Chef Dean Neff has adhered to long before it was trendy.  


Dean Neff, Chef & Owner, One South Front (to open in June 2020), 2019 James Beard Award semi-finalist


6-7 Cloves Black Garlic

1 Tablespoon Sambal Chili Paste

1 Tablespoon Smoked Paprika

½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper

2 Tablespoons Dried Pulverized Dry Ancho

2 Tablespoons Chile de Arbol

3 Roasted Red Peppers Peeled, Seeded and minced

¼ Teaspoon Turmeric Powder (or ½ teaspoon fresh shaved or minced)

½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ Teaspoon Cracked Black Pepper

½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 Tablespoon Minced Preserved Lemon Rind (Optional)

1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds

Mix all ingredients into a mortar. Gently pulverize all ingredients together with a pestle until they come together and form a paste. You can also pulse in a food processor gently if you do not have a mortar and pestle. Store refrigerated for up to a month.

Gingerbread Cake: ½ sheet pan VS doubled

  • 255 g // 18 oz Butter 

  • 128 g // 9 oz Water 

  • 264 g // 28 oz Molasses 

  • 240 g // 480g Honey 

  • 255 g // 510g Brown Sugar 

  • 432 g // 864g AP Flour 

  • 8 g // 16g Baking Soda 

  • 3 g // 6g Salt 

  • 4 g // 8g Ginger 

  • 5g // 10g Cinnamon 

  • 1 g // 2g Allspice 

  • Pinch // 1/8  Clove 

  • 3 // 6 Eggs, room temp 

  • 120g // 240g Milk 

  • 15g // 30g Fresh Ginger

Combine Butter through Brown Sugar in saucepan and heat until butter is melted

Pour mixture into large bowl and let cool

Sift dry ingredients together

Whisk eggs, one at a time into cooled liquids.

Whisk in milk

Gradually Whisk in dry ingredients.  Add Ginger. Strain if Clumpy.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.