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    The SIF Hot Seat with Chef Bob Cook

    The SIF Hot Seat with Chef Bob Cook

    It’s easy to know that Chef Bob Cook is a SIF fan -- one is sitting right outside his restaurant kitchen’s door at Edmund’s Oast in Charleston, SC, habitually fired up by the kitchen staff to cook menu items. Although Cook grew up in the Midwest hunting and camping, these days he’s just at home on the waterways of the South Carolina Lowcountry, and he and his partner Cris Miller love to fish and camp when they’re not working. She can pull in the big fish just like he can, and after a day on the water, they love to cook what they’ve caught.

    Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?

    As a young adult in the Midwest, my buddy had a cabin, and we would often go up there for the opening day of trout and walleye. We’d fish all day, and then cook whatever we’d randomly caught first. Everything was just so good. The smoke would be all over you, you’d be dirty from all day, but cooking fresh fish over fire is extremely simple and satisfying.

    What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF Kettle?

    I’m not like some people. I LOVE leftovers. So on my day off, sometimes I like to go old school. Once such dish is BBQ chicken. I cook all of it at one time, fill up the grill, and since the Kettle utilizes real wood, you get a ton of smoky flavor.

    What is something you’ve cooked on the Kettle that surprised you?

    Living here, I love to go crabbing for blue crab. We catch a lot, and then lighting that fire and cooking them, they are so good. I don’t know what people complain about that blue crab are too much work. They are delicious, and picking them is part of the fun.

    How would you describe your style of cooking?

    Really I like to take what is simple and make it the best I can. For instance, I might have chicken noodle soup on the menu, but it will be the most flavorful, the best version of that classic soup I could possibly make. It’s the stuff I want to eat taken in a cheffy direction. I like to sum it up by saying I make fun food.

    What type of wood do you like for your Kettle?

    I like oak and pecan, those two together. The oak burns for a long time and makes a nice bed of coals. And if you can get about 25 percent pecan or fruit wood, it adds a smoky sweetness to the mix. I especially love persimmon, but that’s hard to find. At the restaurant, it’s all oak and pecan.

    What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?

    Let the fire get down to a bed of coals, and take under consideration the fat is is still on the meat. Fat is fuel, and it will render out, so you can either move the grill around, or take a shovel and scoot the coals to one side. Cooking over wood isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of cooking. You need to pay attention. That fat will flame up, and you have to work with it if you want that nice char (such as on a steak) or not.

    What is your favorite element of the Kettle?

    I love how showy it is, how great it looks, especially when it’s all loaded up with food. We did an event here where I used fresh hams, and it just looked so good. It was a centerpiece of the event.


    Half Shell Fish


    Bob Cook, Edmund’s Oast, Charleston, S.C.


    1 ½ tbsp. (25g) fresh turmeric, chopped

    3 tbsp. (45g) galangal, chopped

    1 ½ tsp. chopped garlic

    4 medium shallots, chopped

    2 Thai chilis, ribs and seeds removed, or more if you like it spicy

    2 tbsp. fish sauce

    3 tbsp.  honey

    1lb/450g Greek yogurt

    2 tbsp. Dill, chopped

    3 scallions, chopped

    2 tsp. turmeric powder


    Fresh fish, dressed (guts removed but bones and skin intact, head and tail optional)


    1. In a blender, combine fresh turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallot, chilis, fish sauce, and honey. Blend VERY well on high until it is a smooth paste. Combine paste with yogurt, dill, scallion and turmeric powder and use immediate or refrigerate up to two weeks.
    2. Spread 3 tbsp. yogurt mix on fresh skin on fish (i.e. redfish or other white, fleshy fish) per side and marinate for 8-24 hours.
    3. When ready to grill, place fish skin side up on hottest area of a even fire for 2 minutes. Flip to skin side down and move to a more medium heat area of the grill and cook for 3-6 more minutes depending on size or until cooked through.

    Written by Stephanie Burt

    The SIF Hot Seat with Chef Cory Bahr

    The SIF Hot Seat with Chef Cory Bahr

     

    (Photo credit to Brad Arender)

    Meet Chef Cory Bahr and within minutes there’s no doubt he’s a “Louisiana boy” through and through. A major advocate for Louisiana foodways, Bahr not only talks the talk (notice that accent) but walks it too, focusing on Delta cuisine and local ingredients in both Parish Restaurant and Heritage Catering & Events based in Monroe, LA. He was raised an outdoorsman, so open fire cooking comes naturally to him, but these days cooks more often on a SIF set up for special events than a campsite after rising with the sun. And since he loves the intersection of style mixed with authentic experience, that’s a great fit. Whether camping or cooking for a invite-only event, Cory’s cooking draws a crowd around the fire, and he’s ready with hospitality and good food to keep them hanging around for the next bite.

     

    Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?

    My first vivid memories of outdoor fire cooking were at my grandfather’s deer camp in Lake Providence, LA. I had jobs, I was the gopher kid, but I was attracted to being out there with the smokiness, the cracking of the fire.

    What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF?

    Really any kind of hearty vegetables: cabbages, whole cauliflowers, whole root veggies. They work well on the racheted grill, and I can baste right there. A whole cabbage might take a bit of time to grill through, but it’s impressive when brought to the table, and I get to stand around this work of art that I get to cook on. And I’m usually not alone -- the SIF magnetizes people to it.

    What is something you’ve cooked on the SIF that surprised you?

    How great pan-roasting and braising is on it. With the jack plates, the attachments, I can put a cast iron skillet on indirect heat and really do some nice work with it. I love multitasking, and being out there with the fire and doing grilling and pan roasting really activates a primordial gene, you know?

    How would you describe your style of cooking?

    I’d describe my style as really inspired by what’s in front of me. It’s improvisational, and more than just seasonal, although that’s definitely there too. It’s about reconfiguring ingredients in the most delicious way I can. So I’m always thinking about how can I make what’s in front of me even more delicious?

    What type of wood do you like for your SIF?

    I use local white oak that’s been split for at least 3-5 months, and more often than not a year. I get a delivery every two weeks, and I like it because it burns hot but slow, kind of even. It’s doesn’t make sense to replicate non-Louisiana flavors, and this is one of the things we like that are available to use.

    What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?

    Control is a big thing to chefs. These days, we can flip switches and turn a knob a lot of times. But live fire is alive, and it changes with the wind, the outdoor ambient temp, all sorts of things. You lose that control, but you can have fun interacting with it. But in order to interact, you need to tend, be there, work with it. It’s not a set thing.

    What is your favorite element of the SIF?

    Really, it’s the thoughtfulness of each piece and how that work together. Each piece actually works, and that is kind of unusual in today’s world. It’s not one specific part but how they all really work together.

    Grilled Oysters with Calabrian Chili Butter

    Cory Bahr, Parish Restaurant, Monroe, LA

    Makes 36 Oysters

    The Butter

    1 lb good quality unsalted butter, softened (I use Plugra because it’s easy to find)

    2 lemons, zested and juiced

    2 calabrian chilies, chopped (or your favorite spicy chili paste)

    4 garlic cloves, grated on a micro plane

    ½ cup untoasted panko breadcrumbs

    ½ cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

    ½ cup finely chopped parsley

    3 tsp. kosher salt

    1. Fold together all ingredients, set aside.
    2. When the fire is hot, raise your grill and remove from the fire.
    3. Place oysters on the grill, top each with ½ tablespoon of the butter.
    4. Lower the grill with oysters onto the fire and top with the cooking dome.
    5. Allow the oyster 3-4 min to grill. They’re done when the juices are lightly bubbling.

     

    Written by Stephanie Burt