After the success of last year’s soiree, we decided to make our Virtual Holiday Potluck an annual tradition. So once again, we contacted a collection of notable North Carolinians with one question: What would you bring to a holiday potluck? 

Without further ado, let’s (virtually) gorge. 


  • Durham Distillery
  • WRAL anchor Ken Smith
  • Duke football coach David Cutcliffe
  • Attorney General Josh Stein
  • Raleigh Mayor-elect Mary-Ann Baldwin
  • Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane
  • Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry
  • First Lady Kristen Cooper
  • Fashion designer Alexander Julian
  • Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
  • Actress Amy Sedaris
  • Theatre in the Park executive director Ira David Wood III
  • Elementary school student Stella Freelon
  • “Local Dish” host Lisa Prince


Durham Distillery offers two libations for our virtual feast. The first is a Gin Martinez, a twist on the classic martini. The second is a concoction to fill your punch bowl, featuring the distillery’s Damn Fine chocolate and coffee liqueurs. 

Ken Smith, meanwhile, shows off Guavaberry rum, a holiday favorite his mother made for Christmas Eve carolers on Tortola in the Virgin Islands. 

Conniption Gin Martinez 

  • 1.5 oz Conniption American Dry gin
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 bar spoons Luxardo
  • 4 dashes bourbon-barrel bitters
  • Orange peel garnish

The Naughty List

  • 1 375 ml bottle Damn Fine Chocolate Liqueur
  • 1 375 ml bottle Damn Fine Coffee Liqueur
  • 12 oz. Irish whiskey
  • 3 oz. simple syrup (turbinado or demerara preferred)
  • 20 dashes of bitters (Bittermens elemakule preferred, or Angostura)
  • 25 oz. of skim or 2% milk

Serve on ice with orange peel and cracked cardamom pod as garnish.

Guavaberry rum

Serves 24 (4 oz. servings)

  • 1 cup red guavaberry, divided
  • 1 cup yellow guavaberry, divided
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 bottle dark rum (750 ml)
  • 1 cup prunes
  • 1 cup raisins
  • Vanilla beans
  • 1 cup sorrel
  • Gingerroot
  • Cinnamon sticks

Prep: Rinse berries and clean by popping them and removing seeds. Rinse seeds, strain, and save liquid. Put seedless berries into a large pot, but reserve 1/2-cup yellow and 1/2-cup red berries for later. Add liquid saved from rinsing seeds into the pot and add brown sugar. Boil mixture until berries are soft. The juice should have a medium syrup consistency or be sticky when cool. Mash or grind saved berries and mix with strongest old rum available. To the cooled mixture, add prunes, raisins, vanilla beans, sorrel, ginger root, and cinnamon bark. Pour into bottles and cork. 

Store in a dark place for several months. When guavaberry liqueur fully ripens (the taste will tell), strain and re-bottle for use. Careful: Guavaberries can leave a permanent stain.


For his first dish, Duke football coach David Cutcliffe brings us a healthy chicken salad with apples, cranberries, and sour cream, served with whole wheat crostini and endive dippers. His second: blue deviled eggs (get it?) in two varieties. One has blue cheese stirred into the yolks; for the other, the whites are soaked in a blue dye bath until they are a true, brilliant Duke Blue.

Attorney General Josh Stein says that, when he was a kid, his mom’s sweet potato rolls always got the best of his self-control: He’d eat as many as he could. His mother and now his sister-in-law still make the rolls—the recipe came from Leah Chase’s The Dooky Chase Cookbook—for him every year.

Incoming Raleigh mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin shares her Bloody Mary shrimp, a zesty blend of fresh shrimp, vodka, horseradish, and siracha, garnished with avocado and served as a single bite on a porcelain Chinese spoon.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Makes 12 to 18 rolls

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 5–7 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • More butter

Prep: Put warm water into a small bowl and dissolve yeast, then set aside. Scald milk; add sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter. Stir until butter is melted. Pour over potatoes, add lemon juice, and beat until smooth. Cool to lukewarm, then add egg and the dissolved yeast and mix well. Stir in 2 cups flour and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. Add enough flour to make a fairly stiff dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead until satiny. Place in a greased bowl, grease top of dough, cover, and let rise until it doubles in bulk. Punch down and knead once more, then shape into rolls. Place in a greased pan, cover, and let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Brush tops with melted butter.

Bloody Mary Shrimp

Makes about 40–50 hors d’oeuvres

  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 3 to 4 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup Absolut Peppar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish (or more, to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • Garnish with diced avocado 

Prep: Bring large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add shrimp, then remove from heat and let stand in water until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain in colander and cool to room temperature. Cut shrimp into four pieces and put in large bowl with celery and scallions.

Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Stir sauce into shrimp mixture. Spoon shrimp mixture into Chinese soup spoon or shot glass and arrange on tray.


Baldwin’s also making Collard Green Gratin, a recipe she snagged from the culinary site Epicurious and made her own, using pancetta instead of country ham or prosciutto and sometimes adding muenster cheese on top. 

The woman she’ll replace next week as Raleigh mayor, Nancy McFarlane, is bringing a sweet potato pudding, an update of the familiar sweet potato casserole that you can top with either marshmallows or tropical coconut. McFarlane got her recipe from a well-worn, stained page in a cookbook of submissions from politicians’ wives.  

Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry will be leaving office next year, which means another face will grace the state’s elevators. Her contribution is a twist on the Thanksgiving standby mashed potatoes. She adds butter during boiling, then adds, um, mayo (Duke’s, of course) during the mashing. 

Once again, North Carolina’s first couple will sup with us, and Kristin Cooper is supplying the traditional cranberry sauce, sans can. She took a recipe from Southern Living and adapted it over time. 

Amy Sedaris—star of Strangers With Candy and Divorce—will join us with either her homemade spanakopita, spinach turnovers made with phyllo dough, or a Mediterranean macaroni-and-cheese-like dish made with ground lamb and long tubular noodles called pastitsio.

Collard Green Gratin

8 servings

  • 4 oz. thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto (alternative: pancetta)
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan, divided
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 bunches collard greens (about 1 pound), center ribs and stems removed
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Prep: Preheat oven to 325°. Place ham on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until crisp, 20–25 minutes; let cool and break into pieces.

Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet; toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, 10–15 minutes. Remove from heat and add thyme and 1/4 cup parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Mix in ham and set aside. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

Cook collard greens in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Drain and squeeze dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop greens and place in a large bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened and golden, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with greens; set aside. Reserve saucepan.

Increase oven to 400°. Melt butter in reserved saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and pale brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, 1/2 cup at a time; add nutmeg. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 5–8 minutes. Whisk in remaining 3/4 cup parmesan. Add béchamel to collard greens mixture and mix to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer collard greens mixture to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or 9-inch pie dish and top with breadcrumb mixture; place pie dish on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until gratin is bubbling, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. 

Sweet Potato Pudding

6–8 servings

  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup marshmallows

Prep: Blend potato, butter, and sugar.  Add eggs, beating after each addition. Add spices and milk.  Mix thoroughly. Bake in buttered 9-inch square pan at 375° for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle on coconut or marshmallows. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes or until top is toasted. Serve warm.

Cranberry Sauce

  • 4 cups fresh cranberries (two bags)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind 
  • 1/2 cup orange juice 
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted 

Prep: Combine the first five ingredients in saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until the cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. (It will seem runny. That’s OK: It doesn’t firm until chilled.) Cool, cover, and refrigerate. 

Toast nuts in microwave on plate for 1 minute; stir. Toast for additional 15 seconds if needed. (Caution: They burn quickly.) Cool and stir into the sauce just before serving. 


Alexander Julian is the fashion designer behind the iconic UNC argyle. He’s also an Eastern NC barbecue evangelist. He brings us “a nice warm, aromatic bowl of Eastern North Carolina barbecue from The Pig in Chapel Hill. It’s organic, and it’s whole-hog, and I think it’s got more flavor than anybody’s.”  

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, an alpha-gal sufferer, is allergic to meat. He’s bringing a Honey Baked Ham anyway.

Ira David Wood III, executive director of Theatre in the Park, one-ups the commish with his very own country ham, which he boils for 4–6 hours on low heat in a deep pan. 

The trick, he says, is to pour off the salty water every hour or so and refill the pan with fresh water; for the last two hours, swap the water for apple cider. 


Stella Freelon’s father is currently running for state senate, her late grandfather was an iconic architect, and her grandmother is a renowned jazz singer. That’s quite the pedigree. 

Young Stella, who’s in elementary school, is a budding chef with a unique take on a yogurt parfait. She layers the yogurt with honey, blueberries, granola, and chocolate chips in a large vessel. It resembles an English trifle but is fresher and lighter.

Finally, we have two family recipes from Lisa Prince, host of the WRAL cooking segment “Local Dish”: peanut butter balls, a riff on buckeye candies with a creamy peanut butter center covered in a shell of Ghirardelli dark chocolate; and a classic chess pie made with cornmeal and vinegar.

Peanut Butter Balls

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 10 oz. Ghirardelli dark melting wafers

Prep: With a mixer, combine the powdered sugar, peanut butter, and butter. Shape peanut butter mixture into 1-inch balls, placing them on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. Let balls stand for 20 minutes until dry.

Melt dipping chocolate. Drop balls one at a time in melted chocolate. Using a fork, remove from the chocolate, letting excess chocolate drip off. Place back on the wax paper. Let stand until dry.

Cover and store peanut butter balls in a cool, dry place.

Classic Chess Pie

  • 1 deep dish or regular pie crust
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Prep: Stir together sugar and next 7 ingredients until blended. Add eggs, stirring well. Pour into piecrust. Bake at 350° for 50–55 minutes, shielding edges after 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool on wire rack.

Comment on this story at 

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.