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Chef John's Top-Rated Takes on 15 Classic American Recipes

Chef John goes all-American.

If you're like us, you crave the classic American dishes -- comforting foods like pot roasts, fried chicken, meatloaf, and chicken noodle soup. We don't just love to devour them, we love to discuss them, arguing about what makes a classic a classic. Naturally, there's no one recipe that defines each of these dishes as a classic. But when push comes to shove, we'll always turn to Chef John for his inspired takes on the American classics, including regional favorites. These recipes are the best of the classic American recipes! We've also paired each main dish with some of Chef John's best side dishes -- classics on their own. As the Chef himself might say, ENJOY.

1. Chef John's Buttermilk Fried Chicken

In this classic buttermilk fried chicken recipe, you’ll toss the chicken pieces with 11 spices and then marinate it in buttermilk. Give the chicken a quick dredge in seasoned flour, and it’s fry time! "I love the tangy tenderization that the buttermilk provides," says Chef John. "After the buttermilk soak, dredge the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, and fry them in hot oil until crisp and cooked." Serve with Chef John's Classic Macaroni Salad and his Perfect Potato Salad.

Chef John's Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Photo by Chef John

2. Classic Meatloaf

"The secrets to this meatloaf are fresh, very finely diced vegetables that give it moisture and flavor--and a light touch in mixing together the ingredients," says Chef John. "This hearty meatloaf is the perfect meal for cool fall and winter evenings, served with Chef John's Perfect Mashed Potatoes and simple Mushroom Gravy."

Classic Meatloaf

Photo by Sherri

3. Chef John's Juicy Lucy

Here's Chef John's take on a regional American classic. "This isn't just any old cheeseburger. Depending on whom you talk to, this cheese-stuffed burger is either called a 'Juicy Lucy,' or a 'Jucy Lucy,'" says Chef John. "That's because two restaurants in Minneapolis claim to have invented it, and they spell it differently. Make sure you thoroughly and thoughtfully press the edges of the two patties together to seal in the cheese stuffing, which keeps the meat juicier. Spread your favorite burger sauce over the bun." And pair your juicy burgers with Chef John's French Fries or Crispy Onion Rings.

Chef John's Juicy Lucy

Photo by Chef John

4. Chef John's Italian Meatballs

Now let's get into Chef John's trio of deliciously Americanized Italian dishes, starting with his homemade meatballs! "They're very easy to make," says Chef John. "And since we skip the very messy step of pan-frying these before they hit the sauce, it becomes downright simple. Here I use a standard half-beef/half-pork mixture. You can substitute water or beef broth for the milk, if preferred." You'll bake these meatballs until beautifully browned. Pile them on top of Chef John's Tomato Sauce and enjoy them in meatball sandwiches!

Chef John's Italian Meatballs

Photo by HappySchmoopies

5. Chef John's Lasagna

Part two of the Italian-American trio features cheesy, meaty lasagna. "There are only two things you need for great lasagna," says Chef John: "a thick, rich, super-meaty meat sauce and lots of it, and a ricotta filling where only the finest cheeses are welcomed. For the sauce, I love a combination of half Italian sausage and half lean ground beef. I also like lots of sauce." Pair it with Chef John's Panzanella Salad.

Chef John's lasagna

Photo by LoHo

6. Chicken Parmesan

Next, here's a staple of Italian-American restaurants. Chef John prefers a lighter touch than most: "My version of chicken Parmesan is a little different than what they do in the restaurants, with less sauce and a crispier crust." Compare this recipe to Chef John's New & Improved Chicken Parmesan. Pair your chicken parm with The Brutus Salad and Chef John's Garlic and Parmesan Dinner Rolls.

Chicken Parmesan

Photo by Samantha Wingler

7. Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese

Meet Chef John's famous "Thomas Jefferson-style" mac and cheese. He starts with a simple roux, adding herbs, spices, and cold milk. Then it’s time for grated nutmeg, Worcestershire sauce, and three kinds of cheeses -- along with a smidge of Dijon at the end for big flavor. "This easy-to-make old-school macaroni and cheese has a perfectly crispy crust," says Chef John. Match your mac and cheese with Chef John's Barbecue Chicken.

Chef John's Macaroni and Cheese

Photo by chefster

8. Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast

Pot roast is a Sunday dinner classic. This slow-cooked pot roast develops super-tender meat and deep, delicious flavors. "The real secret here is making sure you sear the meat before the long, slow braising," says Chef John. Compare this recipe with his Simple Beef Pot Roast recipes, a one-pot stovetop pot roast. Serve with mashed potatoes." 

Slow Cooker Beef Pot Roast

Photo by Chef John

9. Old-Fashioned Pancakes

Here's a recipe for classic American diner-style pancakes. These hotcakes are remarkably simple to make. Just sift a few common ingredients together and work the whisk. "Anybody can add water to a boxed pancake mix, but you're better than that," says Chef John. "These pancakes are not too thick, not too thin, but tender, light, buttery, and delicious." Pair your pancakes with Chef John's Breakfast Sausage Patties.

Old-Fashioned Pancakes

Photo by Chef John

10. Chef John's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Chef John's soul-satisfying chicken noodle soup is made with his homemade roasted chicken broth. "This soul-warming soup is deliciously simple -- just chicken and noodles," says Chef John. "What makes it so good is the homemade roasted chicken stock." Serve your soup with Inside-Out Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

Chef John's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Photo by KGora

11. Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

Chef John's pumpkin pie is rich and custardy, with an ideal texture. "After many years of experimentation, I've finally perfected what I think is the ideal formula for a rich pumpkin pie that's also much less likely to crack on top," says Chef John. "Serve garnished with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg." And pair your pie with Chef John's Roast Turkey and Gravy.

Chef John's Pumpkin Pie

Photo by foodelicious

12. Chef John's Sloppy Joes

This classic Sloppy Joe recipe calls for extra-lean ground beef. You just don't need the fat in this recipe. "The secret to a great 'Sloppy Joe' is a thick, rich, almost dry consistency, which allows it to be eaten two-fisted, sans fork," says Chef John. Serve your Joes with Chef John's Cottage Fries and, if you're feeling it, his Homemade Ketchup.

Chef John's Sloppy Joes

Photo by CookinCyn

13. Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Here's an easy baked version of classic baby-back ribs. The simple glaze-and-bake technique builds and builds flavor. "If you're in the mood for a little virtual trip into summer, give this technique a try," says Chef John. "This works with literally any dry rub and barbecue sauce combo." Pair it with Chef John's Classic Macaroni Salad and/or his Perfect Potato Salad.

Baked BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Photo by Chef John

14. Chef John's Shrimp and Grits

"Shrimp and grits is a very simple recipe, but make sure you have everything ready before you start cooking the shrimp," says Chef John. "They only take a few minutes to sauté, so you don't have time to run and chop scallions or juice a lemon. Once everything is assembled, this recipe is a snap. To make things even easier, you can make the grits a bit ahead since they stay hot a very long time." Serve with Chef John's Fried Green Tomatoes on the side.

15. Chef John's Chicken and Dumplings

"Not only is this American classic American and classic, it is also one of the most comforting things you'll ever eat," says Chef John. "And the great thing about this dumpling recipe is that it will work on just about any soup or stew!" The dumpling dough steams on top of a light chicken stew, emerging light, fluffy, and biscuit-like. And the best part? Chef John’s dumplings aren't exclusive to this recipe. Make these dumplings for any kind of soup or stew. Serve with something fresh and green like Chef John's Easy Broccoli Salad or Raw Kale Salad.

Chef John's Chicken and Dumplings

Photo by Allrecipes Magazine

Check out our collection of Chef John's Food Wishes Recipes.


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Carl Hanson

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