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An opulent interpretation of the all-American gathering.
It is hard to think of a food more beloved, more redolent of our national history, more American, than barbecue. "It is a totemic food of the South," says John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance at the University of Mississippi. "And this notion that someone might reinvent that totemic food.…"
Well, most folks would not take kindly to it. But a new generation of chefs is stepping to the pit with a deep respect for tradition—and, indeed, transcending it. Tim Byres, the young chef and co-owner of Smoke restaurant in Dallas, is one of them. His menu for the Summer Host’s Guide’s ultimate barbecue is like a long road trip, or as he puts it: "When everyone
thinks of the Southwest, they think boots and barbwire and cowboys, and what we’re doing is about that: firewood, Gulf seafood, Mexican-inspired Southwest and Southern dishes. This is that whole regional Texan, firewood, cowboy thing."
Start with his chile-coffee-cured beef ribs. By default, especially in Texas, people expect that great, charred beefy flavor at a barbecue. The giant ribs satisfy that—and their richness is cut with the acid and fresh herbs of a chimichurri sauce. "It lightens it up," the chef says. "Softens it. Makes it a more balanced dish."
From there, Byres takes on a buffet table of nostalgia food. Pimento cheese is transformed into flaky, hot croquettes. Old-fashioned pickles are rethought as a pickled-beet salad with a light horseradish dressing and pickled mustard seeds. Shrimp are prepared more like a ceviche, cooked in citrus and vinegar, and become a cousin to the old-school, cubed-ham salad. Hominy casserole—a Southern potluck standard—is transformed with corn, jalapeño, and bacon.
To end the meal, there is Key lime pie, of course, but Byres gets dramatic with the meringue: A 4-inch swirled pompadour crowns the top. "That really delivers that ‘Oh, wow, Grandma’ fun factor," he says. That, and the mescal he puts in the custard.
"Somebody’s grandma," adds Edge, "did not make that pie."
The Chef Says
“My potato salad is made with pickled mustard seeds—they pop when you bite them, like caviar. You just soak mustard seeds for two days in the refrigerator, in a mixture of sugar, water, and lemon. Then, the salad is just potatoes boiled in salty water, chopped fresh herbs—basil, cilantro, parsley, and celery leaf are good in this— shallots, the pickled mustard seeds, and a sour cream dressing.”
MENU & RECIPE
By Tim Byres
Pickled shrimp ceviche with sea salt & grilled lemon
Pimento cheese croquettes with Tejano red sauce
Chile-coffee-cured beef ribs with fresh herb chimichurri
Whole grilled snapper with tangy carrots & tomatillos
Smoked duck tamales with pasilla chile mole
Pickled beet carpaccio with watercress & fresh ricotta
Mustard-seed potato salad
Spicy charro beans
Corn hominy & cheddar casserole
Mescal & Key lime meringue pie
Chile-Coffee-Cured Beef Ribs
? c. medium-hot chile powder, such as ancho or guajillo,
or a standard chile powder blend
? c. smoked paprika
2 tbsp. granulated garlic
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. finely ground cayenne pepper
? c. dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
½ c. kosher salt
? c. finely ground, dark roast coffee
8 lbs. short ribs
Combine the chile powder, paprika, garlic, cumin, and cayenne in a small bowl; set aside. In a food processor, pulse together the sugars and the salt. Add the spices in fourths, pulsing after each addition. Slowly add the coffee. Rub the mixture generously on the meat—about 2 tbsp. per pound. Cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Cook in a smoker, fat side up, under dry, indirect heat at a steady temperature of 190 degrees for 8 hours. Meat will pull away easily from the bone when it is done.