Distant relatives shed light on Plantation Cooking’s influence on American barbecue

Seasonal dishes like Carolina Golden Rice Grits, Burnt Black-Eyed Peas, Pulled Pork with Tamarind Molasses BBQ Sauce, and Brisket Sandwich with Green Bean Remoulade feature historical influence. Their ingredients – rice, peas, grains of paradise (an aromatic spice from West Africa), piri-piri (a chilli) and peanuts – are prepared using traditional African techniques that slaves brought with them to the West Indies and North America.

“Plantation cuisine is a big part of the evolution of American barbecue, and you’ll find that influence in soul food as well,” says Brockway. “Everything was done using live fire, and it’s important for us to highlight that, as well as incorporate smoke elements into the menu. Distant Relatives is about understanding and preserving that heritage and finding ways to modern applications for historic cooking ingredients and techniques.

Brockway traced his own ancestry to his maternal great-grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Virginia. He was born and raised in Connecticut, where he grew up gardening and cooking with his mother and two grandparents. “During the holidays, we would all get together for a barbecue in the garden,” he says. “It was always a potluck situation. My maternal grandfather was a meat and potato guy; he would heat up a cast iron skillet and add veal liver to it or make barbecue chicken or collard greens.

The chef also incorporates family recipes into the menu, such as peas with burnt ends, as well as those of his team: An ambrosia of golden rice and coconut with bird’s eye chili relish was inspired by a similar dish. which Mackey’s mother did on June 19 to educate him about his own heritage. “Our style of cooking comes from the heart,” says Mackey. “It’s close to home for me.”

The variety of cultural influences on Brockway’s cuisine results in rich and complex dishes. He methodically builds flavor using technique – fire, smoke, melting – and “root to stem, nose to tail” cooking born out of poverty. “Slaves could have private gardens outside their cabins,” Brockway says of the prolific and diverse range of cooking and preservation methods found in plantation cuisine.

At Distant Relatives, meat toppings and drippings are infused into dishes like lima beans with smoked pork butter, and charred ends replace ham hock in black-eyed peas. The smoked loin, or backbones, left over from the pit are turned into barbecue bone broth; vegetables are pickled; peanuts are smoked and served as a snack.

Damien Brockway (middle) and his team outside Distant Relatives

Brockway graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 2013. His foundation in classic French cuisine led to stints in some of the finest restaurants in San Francisco, Boston and Austin, but by the time Brockway arrived at counter 3. Five. VII, he wondered about his professional career.

“When you’ve been cooking professionally for over 20 years, you come to a point where you ask yourself, ‘Why am I cooking this?’ he says. “We used a ruler at Counter to measure knife cuts, and I thought, ‘Why am I here? Why do I stress about a leader? »

Counter’s shutdown in July 2018 left Brockway “rudderless”. His friendship with Jeffrey Stuffings, founder of Jester King, led to an overhaul of the brewery’s culinary program, but Brockway was already conceptualizing Distant Relatives.

Over time and hopefully a permanent restaurant, Brockway plans to expand what he and his team are building at Distant Relatives: an inclusive place that supports “farm, craft and underserved communities” through partnerships, education and vocational training.

“We’re always educating ourselves, reading about the historical context of these ingredients as a way to document our heritage,” he says. “It’s what I like to eat, how I like to cook, but I also cook to make people happy. I finally got to what I was supposed to do.

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