By SARAH KATHRYN WATKINS
Will Stokes grew up being the youngest of all his cousins and the youngest grandchild of Mary Walker. During the summers growing up, Stokes spent his time at his Nanny Mary’s house close to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Because Stokes was younger than his older cousins, he would spend his time in the kitchen.
Stokes is the son of James (Bubba) Stokes and Susan Walker-Stokes. Stokes graduated from Neshoba Central and attended Delta State University, where he was studying to get a degree in Political Science. Stokes changed his major after working at different camps during the summer for disabled adults and some adolescents. He realized he loved helping people and got his master’s at Mississippi State University in special education.
Stokes started teaching at Philadelphia Public school and stayed with them until 2019. In 2019 Stokes got a job in the transportation industry where he travels and sees the United States. The only places Stokes has not been to are North Dakota, Alaska, and Hawaii. Since Stokes is usually on the road, he enjoys trying different foods and mentions traveling has opened his palette for other foods. Stokes’s favorite state so far has been Maine, where there is always fresh seafood.
When Stokes returns home from being gone, he enjoys getting together with his friends and family. Stokes’ dad cooks for him, and then Stokes will cook for his father the next day. When Stokes cooks, he enjoys listening to jazz music and enjoying a fresh cocktail.
Cooking for Stokes is a huge part of who he is. He considers himself a triple threat because he can grill, cook on the stovetop, and bake. His red velvet cake recipe comes from his great great grandmother. Stokes cherishes this recipe.
Stokes mentioned that he likes to eat at local restaurants and try new food when he is in different states. He enjoys eating Indian food. Indian has become one of his favorite cuisines.
Stokes loves cooking for his friends and having a good conversation. His favorite part of cooking is trial and error; when Stokes finds a recipe he likes, he puts his spin on it.
RED VELVET CAKE
1 ½ cup sugar
2 cup cooking oil
1 tsp vinegar
1 oz. red food coloring
2 ½ cup plain flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick oleo
1 (8 oz) cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 box powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
Cream sugar and oil; add eggs and beat well. Add vinegar and coloring. Sift dry ingredients. Add alternately with buttermilk; add vanilla and beat well. Pour into greased pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
LEMON-BLUEBERRY CUSTARD PIE
1 Pie crust (store bought or homemade)
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
2 tablespoons rough grind cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 finely grated whole lemon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
OR 1 tablespoon vanilla extra. Plus a splash
4 large eggs, room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries
Roll out pie dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 13″ round about ⅛” thick. Transfer dough to a 9″ pie dish and allow dough to slump down into dish, leaving about 2″ overhang. Fold edges under and crimp all the way around, making sure dough extends to the outer edge of the lip of the pie dish (this will create a shelf for the dough to sit on, preventing it from sliding back into dish). Chill in freezer until dough is very cold, about 20 minutes.
Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Line pie dough with parchment paper or heavy-duty foil, leaving a 1½” overhang, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until crust is golden around the edge, 20–25 minutes. Remove from oven and lift out parchment and pie weights and bake until surface of crust looks dry and is golden, 10–15 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
Meanwhile, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Whisk cornmeal, salt, and ½ cup flour in a small bowl. Combine sugar, butter, and lemon zest in a large bowl and scrape in vanilla seeds or extract (or both like me); reserve pod for another use. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend after each addition and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Beat until well blended. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients; beat just to combine. With motor running, gradually add buttermilk; beat just to combine (mixture may look broken, which is okay). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Scrape filling into cooled pie crust just to fill to crust edge (you might have some left over). Bake pie until filling is puffed and golden and center wobbles slightly when jostled, 50–60 minutes. Transfer dish to a wire rack and let pie cool before slicing, at least 2 hours.
EASY BROWN BUTTER PASTA AL LIMONE
1 pound uncooked pasta (whatever your prefer)
Sea Salt or Kosher
1/2 cup (4 ounces) salted butter*
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 ounce freshly-grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta. Heat a large stockpot of generously-salted water until boiling. Add the pasta (at the same time you being browning the butter, see below) and cook until 2 minutes shy of al dente.
Brown the butter. At the same time* that you add the pasta to the boiling water, begin cooking the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the butter has melted and begins to foam, stirring frequently to ensure that the butter cooks evenly. Add in the lemon zest and a few twists of black pepper and continue cooking the butter, stirring frequently, until it starts to turn golden brown and smells toasty. (Keep a very close eye on the butter so that it does not burn; it can go from golden to burnt very quickly!)
Add the remaining sauce ingredients. Using a heat-safe measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of the starchy pasta water from the stockpot and immediately pour it into the brown butter mixture. (Be careful and pour slowly because it will bubble.) Let the mixture simmer and reduce for a few minutes until it has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Add in the grated Parmesan and lemon juice and whisk until combined.
Finish the pasta. Once the pasta is 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a strainer to transfer the pasta directly to the brown butter sauce. Then toss it with the sauce, stirring gently and constantly, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is thick and glossy and coats the pasta evenly. (If the sauce seems too dry, just add in an extra 1/4 cup at a time of the remaining starchy pasta water as needed.) Taste and season with extra salt, if needed.
Serve. Serve immediately, garnished with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan and cracked black pepper if desired, and enjoy!