Home cooks and hallowed chefs share their secrets for cast-iron cooking.
On the farthest edge and centermost point of the Atlantic Coast, land gives way to water and the broad Delmarva Peninsula narrows into the Eastern Shore of Virginia at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Here, two tiny counties of the Old Dominion State are only connected to the rest of its mainland by a nearly 20-mile bridge-tunnel, where it feels like, at any point, you might drift off into the ocean’s waves. On this tiny stretch of sandy soil, life moves slowly, and a handful of farmers, watermen, chefs, home cooks, historians, and neighbors are working with that sense of timelessness to preserve one of America’s most unexpected foodways. Or, as James Beard Award-nominated folklorist Bernie puts it, after New Orleans with its bayou and Charleston with its Low Country, the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the lower Chesapeake Bay stand out as “the third great Southern coastal cuisine.”
If M.F.K. Fischer were still alive and well today, we’d think she’d want to share a sherry and pâté with Kara Mae Harris. Few writers have spent more time deeply considering the art of the recipe, with the Baltimore historian devoting the last decade to collecting some 60,000 of them for her online database and regionally beloved blog, Old Line Plate. But more than just archiving these meals for the culinarily curious, she also delves deep into the history behind them, discovering the ways in which they have shaped the Mid-Atlantic’s sense of place along the way. Just in time for Thanksgiving, we caught up to talk about the weird and wonderful of what we eat, especially around the holidays.
If you had asked Jess Pryles a decade and a half ago if, one day, she’d become a bona fide expert on American barbecue, the Australian native wouldn’t have seen it coming. But one bite of brisket on a trip to Austin would change her life forever, leading the self-taught chef and Hardcore Carnivore author down a path toward mastering the ins and outs of all things meat—so much so that she even got a master’s degree in meat science from Iowa State University. Read on for a quick primer on shopping at your local butcher’s counter, cooking in cast iron, and seeking out her favorite cuts. We’ll be buying a picanha this week.
For even the greenest of home cooks, making grits is pretty easy. But not for Greg Johnsman of Marsh Hen Mill, a small-batch stone-miller of heirloom grits, cornmeal, and other pantry products based in South Carolina. From the time he was a young boy, the now 45-year-old Greenville area native learned how to make ground corn the old-fashioned way—a slow, steady, mechanical process taught to him by the local old-timers and more akin to an art form than the mass production of modern day. Eventually, he met his wife, Betsy, and the duo moved down to her hometown of Edisto Island, where a treasure trove of almost-lost crops awaited him.
Two hundred miles into the heart of West Virginia, a small gravel drive leads to the dinner table at Lost Creek Farm. Beneath the old maple trees, a couple dozen strangers will sit down to a meal together, made by husband-and-wife duo Mike Costello and Amy Dawson, whose family has lived, farmed, and cooked here since the 1880s. Yes, there is cast-iron cornbread, but also what they’re really serving up is the region’s rich history, robust foodways, and deep-rooted sense of place. At the end of summer, we shared a meal and meditated on the power of food for rural communities. We will forever be in awe of the brilliance of vinegar pie.
It’s not every day that a barbecue legend is born in Virginia. But Tuffy Stone is anything but your average pitmaster, with the former Marine, French-trained chef, and six-time World Barbecue Champion standing tall amongst the titans of the Carolinas or Kansas or even the great Lone Star State of Texas. In 2018, he was induced into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, and even without that knowledge, it doesn’t take long to realize that “the professor,” as Stone is fittingly known, is a legend among us, teaching his hard-earned wisdom with a cool grace and sly sense of humor to anyone who asks. On the eve of Independence Day, and in the thick of grilling season, we did just that. Read on to learn for yourself.
It’s safe to say that there wouldn’t be a Butter Pat Industries without the Cowboy Cauldron Company. And founder Mike Bertelsen is the man to thank, igniting our founder’s encouraging cast-iron collecting side hustle into cookware obsession. The Utah native has been a man of many lifetimes—fly fishing guide, law school student, Senate lobbyist—with his steel devices speaking directly to a lifelong love of the live flame. Read on for his no-nonsense advice, such as how to build a proper cooking fire and his go-to ingredient: a glass of wine.
Chef Harley Peet is making waves on the Chesapeake Bay.
It’s no small feat, bringing big change to a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. But leave it to a Midwestern son of a meatpacking dynasty to transform the culinary caliber of this rural landscape, where the rarity of high-quality cuisine has long felt like finding a pearl in an oyster shell. Thanks to Harley Peet’s top-notch ingredients, perfectionist precision, and a bare-knuckled work ethic, both “from heres” and “come heres,” as the locals say, are flocking to Bluepoint Hospitality.
When she’s not slinging sweets with her small-batch Milk Glass Pie bakery, hosting Sunday supper on her Old North Farm in North Carolina, or writing about food for the likes of Southern Living and Bon Appétit, Keia Mastrianni can be found schooling us on how to make a mean crust (no Lily White Flour, folks) and exuding the warmth of her “love is pie” ethos. We chat about her home state’s foodways, the wonder of local grapes, and her other must-have ingredients.
It was big news when Sean Brock took off his toque in Charleston, South Carolina, and moved closer to home in Nashville, Tennessee. His renowned restaurants, Husk and McCrady’s, would undoubtedly be tough acts to follow, but the Virginia son and James Beard Award-winning chef has always made a name for himself by reinventing the wheel. Now at his all-star lineup of Music City restaurants—from his fast-food ode at Joyland to his rebirth of heyday hotel dining at The Continental to his flagship Audrey—he is digging even deeper into his culinary roots and breaking new ground on the Southern cuisine’s sense of place.
He might now live in the Lonestar State, but John Tesar will always be a New Yorker at heart. With an ever-so-slight accent, the 65-year-old Manhattan-born chef suffers no fools—he’s a firebrand, an iconoclast, the self-destructive Jimmy Sears in Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and once dubbed the “most hated chef in Dallas,” all with an undeniably expert eye for a damn good steakhouse. So much so that he just received his first Michelin star. One bite of his dry-aged strip and you’ll understand why.
Jean-Paul Bourgeois’ cooking is the best of both worlds. One minute, the classically trained chef is sharing a recipe for cacio e pepe from his days with Danny Meyer’s revered Union Square Hospitality Group in New York, and the next, he’s showing off his downhome Louisiana roots—from crawfish etouffee to wild-game gumbo—as seen on his popular Duck Camp Dinners series from MeatEater. Consider his culinary wisdom as universal, too.