Black Barbecue Gets Its Due in an Inspiring New Cookbook

On the chapa, we cooked salmon dusted with Scott’s rib rub on an uncovered foil sling, set fat dollops of honey butter on top of it, and watched smoke reach over the top of the griddle to flavor the fish.

We also riffed on Scott’s grilled vegetable salad, grilling carrots, sweet potatoes, and a few other veggies which had been given a coating of rib rub.

Then we ate exceedingly well. The surprise star of the day was Scott’s apple hand pies, where a pre-baked filling of apple chunks, lemon juice, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt is nestled into half-moons of dough and finished in the oven. It reminded me a bit of chef Eric Rivera’s apple pie, particularly the audaciously buttery-flaky dough.

This was a great backdoor into an interesting side of Scott’s book; there’s a lot of it that isn’t barbecue. He’s got fried chicken in the “On The Stove” section. The “Snacks, Salads, and Vegetables” section has hush puppies and a salad of marinated tomatoes and onions. Strictly out of a sense of duty, we tried the Hemingway Golden Gate from the “Cocktails” section. It’s a tequila drink with lemon juice, lemon wheels that had been dehydrated on a sheet pan in a low-temp oven for a couple of hours, and Scott’s barbecue sauce with a bit of honey in it. I was a little skeptical of a drink with barbecue sauce in it, but the cocktails disappeared so quickly, it was as if we were doing shots.

Our second day of testing featured ribs. Another low-and-slow cook that relies on the basics: good technique, good meat—and his rib rub, a tradition-with-a-twist blend of black pepper, paprika, chili powder, light brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and MSG. When it’s time to flip the ribs, he mops both sides with his white vinegar sauce. Scott uses an actual mop in his restaurants, but you’ll be fine with a basting brush.

Starks and I made some slight grilling errors that left our ribs a little crispier than they deserved to be, but that didn’t keep us from putting away two big slabs between the three of us.

Elisabeth and I had to catch a ferry the next morning, which meant Starks had pork T-bones to himself, giving them eight hours in salty rib rub before grilling them on a hot fire—400 to 450 degrees—where they got a bit of vinegar sauce mopping.

These were nice, big Lan-Roc Farms chops, and I was jealous when I texted to see if he’d had one.

“Two,” he corrected. “They were yummy!”

Starks and I did particularly well with Scott and Elie’s book. The authors threaded the needle nicely, helping people create fantastic food at home, while making sure we all still put his restaurants on our Must Go list.

At one point, Starks got a call from an old colleague and walked off into his field to talk. The last thing I heard him say was, “I am leading an amazing life.” Every day is a good day, indeed.

It’s so past time that a book like Scott and Elie’s is finally seeing the light of day, that it’s both a true gust of fresh air and a slap in the face. I admire Steven Raichlen, his palate, and his cookbooks, but to simply use him as an example, if he is so far into his career that he’s just written a book about grilling vegetables (nearly his 20th book!) and that roughly coincides with the first cookbook by a Black pitmaster, something’s clearly out of whack. I’d love to see some overcorrection for a good, long while. For now, I will check out Adrian Miller’s new book Black Smoke, a historical reckoning with recipes, the just-released Netflix series High on the Hog, and next spring, will dive into The Bludso Family cookbook, by barbecue statesman Kevin Bludso. Mostly, I hope this is a turning point and that cookbook publishers will finally give these Black chefs and authors the attention they’ve deserved all along.

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