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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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