We are certainly living in interesting times in the foodservice world. As operators are laying the ground work to return to (hopefully) a profitable restaurant scenario, many are re-thinking not only their style of service but how to effectively make use of outdoor dining and cooking. Men and woman have been cooking over live fire since the beginning of time. So, It’s no mystery that this form of cooking will be with us for ages to come. I’m particularly fond of this style, being a Pitmaster of two competition BBQ team as well as spending many years in Italy honing the fine art of cooking in wood burning ovens. As Custom Culinary® chefs, we have the ability to navigate the globe with our international portfolio of sauces, rubs, and condiments.
If we look at American Regional BBQ style’s for example, we can see the most common low smoked meat accoutrements. Mustard based, tomato based, vinegar based, and even mayonnaise based as in Alabama White BBQ sauce, made famous at Big Bob Gibson’s, circa 1925 in Decatur. Custom Culinary® has developed many of these sauces, mops, and brines and have a number of them in our portfolio with a twist such as our Gold Label Harissa and Gold Label Bourbon Sauce. One of my favorite all around mops/brines for mesquite smoked pork shoulder is our Gold Label Latin Citrus Chili sauce. A great versatile product that can be folded into any smoked meats.
Of course, at many locations around the world, live fire is seen in streets, under roadside BBQ “Joints” and now more than ever, being done on patios at upscale chains and independents. On the west coast, the Santa Maria grill is a popular piece of equipment that has a rack with a pully system, moving the raw seasoned meat up or down over the flames to adjust cooking temperatures. Most commonly used for Tri Tip, a triangular cut of meat from the bottom sirloin sub primal. I love to mix our Gold Label Craft Toppings Jalapeno Relish half and half with apple cider vinegar and mop the charred trip tip as it cooks to medium rare.
One of my fondest memories is attending a live fire event, a chestnut festival in Colonnata Italy, famous for its ancient method of curing Lardo, the fat back from a pig and a Tuscan delicacy. The wonderful matriarch of the family business set a large out door fireplace under a shingled roof and in 3-foot-wide paella type pans, cooked a quiche like dish in pastry made from chestnut flour, Tuscan Kale and Parmigiana Reggiano. Along with that were Chestnut Meringues wrapped with lardo and toasted over the coals then drizzled with an aged balsamic and fig reduction, until they melted in your mouth.
Even colleges and universities are getting into the game by creating “Tailgate Themed” open fire cooking stations outside in the courtyards of on campus dining facilities. Recently operators such as the Mediterranean Style-Bavel in L.A. where one of their specialties, grilled prawns marinated in harissa, picks up the smoky charred flavors of the wood fired ovens, the flavors of live fire are found everywhere on the menu. Another great example is the 3-star restaurant, The Charter Oak in one of my favorite spots St. Helena, CA. Their black cod grilled in corn leaves is a fantastically balanced dish. But if you want to get to the heart and essence of live fire flavors and cooking look nowhere else but the Netflix Chefs Table series episode with one of my favorite South American chefs, Francis Mallmann. From the minute he pulls a fish out of the waters of Patagonia in a small wooden boat and throws it onto a hot plancha fixed to the side you will be hooked. Custom Culinary® has many sauces and flavors that work so well with food cooked over fire no matter what part of the world you’re experiencing them in. So, put some flavor on your fire and enjoy the fine art of dining Al Fresco.
1. Add fresh squeezed orange and lemon juice along with chopped garlic and cilantro to our Gold Label Latin Citrus Chili for a delicious Mojo Mop, good on slow smoked meats such as pork, goat and lamb.
2. Try using our Gold Label Tomatillo Serrano as a quick Chimichurri base by blending in fresh parsley, cilantro and garlic. Great as a side condiment for any Churrascaria flame grilled meats.
3. Another favorite is taking our Gold Label Harissa and adding olive oil to brush onto char grilled flatbread, pita or pizza crust as a base for wood fired handhelds with goat cheese and roasted mushrooms. The ideas are endless by adding grilled artichokes or smoked olives for example.
David Russell, CEC, AAC
Corporate Executive Chef
Custom Culinary, Inc.