By Stephanie Burt of The Southern Fork
Bluffton, South Carolina is a land shaped by tides, slow moving, brackish water filling into marshes that first attracted the tide of wealthy planters who wanted to tame them to grow rice, and then later, vacationers who wanted to experience the natural side of the Lowcountry, from hunting to fishing. Now there’s new, sparkling private communities which boast opportunity for both. Chef Brandon Carter followed that second tide with his move to Bluffton as head of culinary operations for Palmetto Bluff, but he soon made his own name beyond the confines of the community by opening FARM Bluffton, which looks to that Lowcountry landscape for its daily menu inspiration, then melds it with imaginative preps from cultures far beyond the state. The open-fire cooking tradition is found all over the world, and Carter uses the Sea Island Forge kettle to bring those far flung traditions to the South Carolina countryside.
Do you have a grilling or campfire memory that started your love of outdoor cooking?
Dad always like to grill outside. And I remember this moment, when my parents had just divorced, and I was at my dad’s new apartment. He’d just gotten a new grill and was explaining how it works as we put it together. I began to understand and crave the taste of smoke, you know, when something like chicken fat hits the coals. It was a time of transition, but that was something we could continue together.
What’s one meal that really shines on your SIF Kettle?
We do this Peruvian grilled chicken with a marinade that is interesting and complex. We’ll spatchcock the chicken and it really works well on there.
What is something you’ve cooked on the SIF Kettle that surprised you?
The brussel sprouts we did on it at Charleston Wine + Food last year. I thought they would do well of course (since I’d planned the dish) but I was so surprised how much easier it was to cook on the SIF that I even realized. To raise and lower the grate, we had total control of it. We’d let it rock and roll over the flames then flip and swing that grill off.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
[Chuckles] Aggressive. Our food is bold. We find inspiration from around the world, but root ourselves in how we source and the seasonality. From there, we let the imagination flow.
What type of wood do you like for your SIF Kettle?
I am always an oak guy because it burns hotter. I loved smoked meat, but I want intense heat, so it’s always White Oak.
What’s something tricky about open fire that the average cook needs to know?
The most important thing is you have to get your fire right, so you have to give it enough time. The first round of wood should be down to coals, and the second round should be getting there. You need a really nice coal base. If you you start cooking too early, you’re going to have trouble.
What is your favorite element of the SIF Kettle?
The grate arm, but I also like the aesthetic. It’s multi-functional, and you can stand around it after and sip bourbon and roast marshmallows.
Pollo a la Brasa
from Chef Brandon Carter, FARM, Bluffton, SC
4 chicken leg and thigh quarters
2 quarts brine (see recipe below)
1 c. marinade (see recipe below)
2 ripe but firm avocados, cut into chunks
¼ c. red onion, fine julienne
¼ c. picked mint leaves, torn
¼ c. picked cilantro leaves
½ c. cucumber, peeled, seeded and large diced
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt, to taste
- Combine brine and chicken in a plastic container. Place in the refrigerator and brine for 4 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, pat dry, toss with marinade and allow to marinate for 4-12 hours.
- Prepare Sea Island Forge kettle grill by starting a fire in the middle of the kettle. When coals are hot and ready, swing the grate over the fire to also get it hot.
- Remove chicken from marinade, then discard marinade.
- Place chicken pieces skin down on the grate. Turn pieces as needed until the skin is crispy and a little bit charred.
- Flip chicken over to the flesh side and elevate the grate slightly. Continue to cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove from the grill and allow it to rest in a warm area until ready to serve.
- In a separate bowl, combine the avocado, red onion, mint, cilantro, cucumber, lemon and olive oil. Season with salt to taste, and toss to mix.
Plate chicken with avocado salad, and serve immediately.
For the Brine
2 quarts water
¼ c. kosher salt
1 bunch sage
1 sprig rosemary
4 cloves garlic, smashed
- Place all ingredients in a pot over high heat.
- Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes.
Strain and chill completely before using.
For the Marinade
½ c. soy sauce
3 tbsp. lime juice
4 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. chopped green onion
1 in. ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. annatto seed
2 tsp. chopped, fresh oregano
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tbsp. canola oil
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée. Store in the refrigerator until needed.