Gourmet Shot: Sean Brock

These days, it’s hard to find a chef not talking about American whiskey. But for Sean Brock, it’s been a lifelong obsession.

Bourbon’s my passion,” he says. “I love the history of it, I love its connection to the South, I love how it tastes.” And naturally, his restaurants, McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston, S.C., and the new Husk outpost in Nashville, each stock more than 50 whiskies.

And he has a personal collection any whiskey aficionado would kill for. There’s a wall of rare half-century-old bottlings in Brock’s home that aren’t just antiques—they’re for drinking. “I prefer the stuff from the ‘50s and ‘60s,” he says. “I feel like that was the golden era of bourbon.”

It makes sense, since he is after all a Southern boy through and through. Brock grew up in rural Virginia, attended culinary school in Charleston and worked in Richmond, Va., and Nashville before returning to South Carolina to take over McCrady’s in 2006. He’s been nominated for four James Beard Awards there and was named Best Chef: Southeast in 2010, the same year he opened Husk.

Brock changes his menus daily, highlighting local and seasonal produce. He even calls out the farms he works with by name. Husk, he says, is “not about the chef or creativity; it’s about shining a light on the producers and artisans.” Brock also started a large garden in nearby Wadmalaw Island that grows an array of rare heirloom crops to save them from extinction.

While Brock is a big fan of enjoying bourbon with food, he draws the line at his kitchen. “I’d say that cooking with bourbon is sacrilege,” he confesses. “When you use it for cooking, you ruin all the work that went into it.” (If you must incorporate bourbon into food, Brock suggests adding it without cooking it.)

He also has strict rules for himself when it comes to cocktails. “I stick to four drinks: bourbon neat, Last Words, Micheladas and Gin & Tonics,” Brock says. Though he taste-tests every new tipple before it’s allowed on one of his restaurants’ lists, he leaves the actual bartending to his skilled mixologists. “At the bar, my thoughts and ideas are secondary—we allow the bartenders to really have 100 percent free reign and creativity,” he says.

Now that’s one rule we’ll happily drink to…

The Copperhead

Contributed by Sean Brock
INGREDIENTS:

  • Herbsaint, in a spritzer or small spray bottle
  • 1 Natural sugar cube
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 6 dashes Wormwood bitters (such as Cocktail Kingdom Wormwood Bitters)
  • 2.5 oz 100-proof rye whiskey
  • Garnish: Lemon twist
  • Glass: Rocks

PREPARATION:
Generously spritz the inside of a chilled rocks glass with Herbsaint and set aside. In a shaker, muddle the sugar, lemon juice and bitters. Add the rye whiskey and fill with ice. Shake for 20 seconds and strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Grilled Chicken Wings with Burnt-Scallion Barbecue Sauce

Contributed by Sean Brock
INGREDIENTS:

  • .5 gallon Water
  • .25 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp Sorghum syrup
  • 6 Whole chicken wings, split into two pieces each
  • Hardwood charcoal
  • 10 Scallions, roots removed
  • 1 tbsp Peanut oil
  • 1 cup Barbecue sauce
  • 1 tbsp Bourbon barrel-aged soy sauce
  • 1 cup Cilantro leaves
  • 3 tbsp Green peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp Barbecue rub spice mix
  • 1 lb Hickory chips, soaked overnight in water
  • Garnish: Scallions and peanuts

PREPARATION:

Combine the water, salt and sorghum syrup in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add the wings, seal and refrigerate at least overnight or up to 24 hours.

Prepare a charcoal grill and place the rack as close to the coals as possible. Toss the scallions in the peanut oil and season with salt. Grill until heavily charred on one side, about 8 minutes. Remove from the grill and let cool for about 5 minutes. Add to a blender with the barbecue sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Blend until smooth.

Drain the chicken wings and toss with the green peanut oil. Season with the barbecue rub and grill until they no longer stick to the grate, about 5 minutes. Turn the wings and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the wings from the grill, move the coals to one side and top with the hickory chips. Put the wings on the opposite side of the grill, cover and smoke for at least 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove the wings from the grill and toss with the barbecue sauce mixture. Garnish with sliced scallions and chopped peanuts.

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