Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


A Creamy Co-Star to Share

A Creamy Co-Star to Share

Photo by Simon Wheeler. Excerpted from Charred & Scruffed by Adam Perry Lang (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.

Guest blogger Adam Perry Lang is a French-trained chef who has worked in top restaurants and now pursues his passion for barbecue. In his latest book, Charred & Scruffed, he shows you how to concentrate the flavors and textures of barbecue and reimagine its possibilities. Barbecue Bible asked him to give us his advice on how to excel at sides.

A shared meal strengthens family bonds, cements friendships, repairs enmities, establishes sacred communion. Fire, food, family, friendship: they all go together. Just like Thanksgiving and Academy Award night, barbecue meals are meant for a group of family or friends to gather and bond.

But few books or menus seriously consider the question “Isn’t the company you provide for the meat, fish, or fowl on the plate equally important to the success of the meal?” Instead, most people spend hours getting the main course ready, then pile on the baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, etc. at the last minute and leave it at that. The side dishes are usually an afterthought, but I suggest we get rid of the term “side dish” and talk about “co-stars.” A first-rate barbecue dinner requires that equal care and skill be given to everything that is served with the meat.

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Think about what’s normally on your plate at a typical barbecue. How do you approach it? Let’s say that you have some pulled pork, some coleslaw, and some baked beans. Nobody starts by eating all the meat and, when that is done, eating all the beans and then polishing off the coleslaw. You push some meat onto your fork, then a few sweet and hearty beans and some crunchy, creamy coleslaw, and you taste all three at once. Contrasting tastes and textures make that forkful interesting.

A smooth and creamy co-star calms down the strength of barbecue without getting in the way of flavor. In addition to tempering the mouthfeel of big, brawny barbecue recipes, a meltingly creamy co-star can add an unctuous quality that completes lean dishes such as fish or beef or pork tenderloin.

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Try one of my favorite creamy co-stars: Bubbling Bacon Butter Beans.
Herb Basting Brush

Pro Tip for Your Main Course:
Rather than using an ordinary basting brush, I prefer to make my own by securing a bunch of herb sprigs (rosemary, sage, or thyme, or a combination, or other herbs, depending on what you are cooking) to a dowel, the handle of a wooden spoon, or a long-handled carving fork. The herb brush flavors the baste, releases oils into the crust as it builds, and eventually becomes a garnish for the Board Dressing. Plus, it looks really cool and makes people think “Food!” when they see you using it.
Charred & Scruffed 3D Cover-225

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Join the Discussion

  • Randy Cali

    Excellent article, and a great way to think about sides – and putting as much care and focus into these as you do the meat (the “star”)