To share and celebrate the season, the INDY held a virtual holiday potluck, inviting notable Triangle personalities—from TV hosts to mayors to musicians—to share their favorite recipes of the season. Rather than wonder at the sanity of the request, most generously shared not only a recipe but a glimpse into their own holiday traditions and memories.

The exercise has also given us ample inspiration for our own holiday get-togethers—if you don’t have a go-to recipe, deciding what to bring to a potluck tops our list of holiday stress-inducing panic. From cheesy starters to a sweet-and-creamy finale, we’ve got holiday entertaining all wrapped up.


Lisa Prince, TV Host: Cheese Ball

Fuquay-Varina native Lisa Prince, host of the PBS shows Flavor NC and From the Vineyard, celebrates the holidays surrounded by family and food. One of Prince’s contributions for Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners—and her most-requested potluck recipe—is her mom’s cheese ball. The cheese is cream cheese, the salt is old-school seasoning salt, and the surprise guest star is canned pineapple, which explains why the ball is pineapple-shaped. Put it all together and you’ve got a retro crowd-pleaser that doubles as a conversation-starting centerpiece. Get the recipe here.

Deborah Ross, Politician: Spicy Pimento Cheese

Deborah Ross, the former head of the North Carolina ACLU and U.S. senatorial candidate, counts on her spicy pimento cheese to guarantee a potluck win. The recipe, which she created with her husband Steve, features fresh jalapeños, chipotle peppers in a spicy adobo sauce, and roasted red bell peppers. Every holiday season Ross looks forward to trimming the tree in their Boylan Heights home and taking a walk with their dog before Christmas dinner. And if midnight snack cravings call, Ross can attest that this pimento cheese makes an excellent open-faced sandwich topped with sliced avocado.

Nancy McFarlane, Mayor of Raleigh: Hot Artichoke Dip

For Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane and her family, it’s not the holidays without artichoke dip. The dish has been in McFarlane’s family for so long, no one remembers when and where the recipe originated. She’s been making it herself since college and serves it at every Christmas gathering. The dish features a blend of artichokes, cream cheese, and mayonnaise spiked with garlic, dill, and Parmesan. It’s baked until bubbly and the smell of baked cheese lures the party into the kitchen—it’s the perfect dish to ensure that you get to snack and visit with guests while you finish cooking dinner.


Steve Schewel, Mayor of Durham: Latkes

For Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, latkes are a treasured component of Hanukkah. The fried potato pancakes have been on Hanukkah tables since the turn of the eighteenth century, and the oil they’re fried in represents the miraculous oil that kept temple lamps burning for eight days. Schewel has been making latkes according to a friend’s mom’s recipe for several decades and has learned that the secret to obtaining a crispy texture is to “squeeze, squeeze, squeeze” the moisture from the grated potatoes before mixing with the rest of the ingredients. Try making them and serving them with traditional accompaniments such as apple sauce and sour cream. Get the recipe here.

Cherie Berry, N.C. Commissioner of Labor:‘Holy’ Succotash

Cherie Berry’s face may be the most familiar at the potluck because as North Carolina’s Commissioner of Labor, her photo hangs in every public elevator in the state. Her contribution is a generations-old family recipe for succotash from her late husband Norman. Succotash, a typical Southern dish consisting of corn, lima beans, and sometimes other vegetables, starts the same way many respectable Southern dishes do: with fatback. Berry’s recipe calls for canned lima beans and corn, making the dish an easy-but-still-authentic fix. The lima beans and corn are cooked slowly, which means that leftovers taste better after a few days in the fridge.

Steve Troxler, N.C. Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs: Potato Salad

If there’s one dish Steve Troxler could make for a potluck, it’d be his mom’s old-fashioned, Southern-style potato salad, made with mustard, dill weed, pickle relish, eggs, grated onion, and mayonnaise. It was a fixture at every family get-together, but he hasn’t enjoyed the dish since his mom passed away. Like many cooks of her generation, Troxler’s mother didn’t follow a written recipe, preferring to adjust the flavor with a bit more of this or that until it was right. This reminds us that we should write down recipes for family favorites for future generations.

Ken Smith, WRAL-TV Reporter and Anchor: Fried Sweet Plantains

Raised on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Ken Smith’s holiday vista may have featured palm trees instead of firs, but he still fondly remembers the aroma of his mom’s baked holiday treats and waiting up late on Christmas Eve for carolers. Here in North Carolina, Smith brings the islands to holiday get-togethers with caramelized, sautéed sweet plantains. It may sound like dessert, but in the Caribbean, it’s typically served as a side, acting as the perfect foil to slow-roasted meats such as pernil, pork shoulder liberally seasoned with garlic and bitter orange. Get the recipe here.


Pierce Freelon, Musician and Founder of Blackspace: Birthday Cake Protein Bites

Pierce Freelon is known as a lot of things—he’s a rapper, educator, founder of Blackspace, a hub for Afrofuturism, digital media, and social entrepreneurship, and a former Durham mayoral candidate. But one label he wouldn’t dream of adding to that list is ‘cook.’ His eight-year-old daughter Stella is the cook in the family, taking after her grandmother, acclaimed jazz singer Nnenna Freelon. One of Stella’s go-to holiday treats are Birthday Cake Protein Bites, a no-bake vegan recipe she learned to make from website The Edgy Veg.

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper: Pineapple Fluff Pie

Though she now calls herself First Lady of North Carolina, Kristin Cooper was raised in Oklahoma City and grew up eating a dessert called pineapple fluff pie. Many years later, she came across the recipe online, though it went by the name pineapple millionaire pie. It’s an icebox pie with two layers: the bottom is an American buttercream-custard hybrid while the top features fluffy whipped cream folded with crushed pineapple and toasted North Carolina pecans. It’s now a favorite dessert of the governor and their three daughters, too, with a mandatory slot on all holiday menus.