Sean Brock serves fried chicken and gravy on THE Dish

Chef Sean Brock brings southern comfort to Th... 05:00

Sean Brock was born and raised in a small town in rural Virginia. The town had no restaurants or streetlights, but it's there that Brock learned to appreciate food and cooking from an early age, watching his family grow their own food.

Brock has become one of the South's most favored sons and a culinary ambassador, especially about Lowcountry cuisine. He is now the award-winning executive chef and partner of four restaurants: McCrady's, Husk and Minero in Charleston, South Carolina, and Husk in Nashville, Tennessee.

His long-awaited first cookbook, "Heritage," is a New York Times bestseller.

From that book, here's how to make fried chicken and gravy, cracklin' cornbread, butter-bean chowchow, chocolate Alabama stack cake and a copperhead to drink.

Fried chicken and gravy (or the way I make fried chicken at home)

Excerpted from "Heritage" by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014

Serves 2

I've worked on my fried chicken for many years, researching every recipe that i could lay my hands on, from early antebellum instructions to the kentucky colonel's secret technique. This recipe uses five fats, and each one contributes to the flavor of the result.

To do the chicken right, you need an old black cast-iron skillet with a lid. Sure, you can make it in a deep fryer (like we do at the restaurant), but i prefer the old-fashioned way, which is nearly impossible to pull off in a restaurant. The skillets take up so much stove space that you can't make more than ten orders at a time. So this isn't the fried chicken you're going to eat at husk. This is the way grandmas cook fried chicken in the south, and it's the way everyone should be making fried chicken at home.

This recipe takes a lot of time and attention, way more than most conventional approaches (the chicken must be brined for 12 hours, so plan ahead). But it's good. Be sure to ask your butcher for the chicken skins to render for fat and to save the cooking fat, which makes mighty fine gravy. I've thrown that recipe in here too, to complete the meal just like my grandma would have.


1 gallon water

38 regular black tea bags or 4 ounces loose tea, such as charleston plantation tea

1 cup kosher salt

1 cup sugar

1 chicken (about 3 pounds)

2 quarts whole-milk buttermilk

3 tablespoons husk hot sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1½ pounds chicken skins cut into ½-inch squares

6 cups flour, preferably anson mills white may flour

1 cup fine cornmeal, preferably anson mills antebellum fine white cornmeal

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

1½ teaspoons onion powder

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon smoked paprika (see resources, page 326)

1 cup rendered fresh lard

1 cup canola oil

2 ounces benton's slab bacon, diced

2 ounces benton's smoked ham, diced

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt

Gravy (recipe follows)

For the brine:

1. Put the water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the stove, add the tea bags, and let them steep for 8 minutes.

2. Remove the tea bags, or strain the liquid if you used loose tea. Add the salt and sugar to the hot water and stir to dissolve them. Pour the brine into a heatproof container and cool it to room temperature, then refrigerate until completely cold.

3. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breast pieces. Rinse with cold water. Place in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 12 hours.

4. After the chicken has spent 12 hours in the brine, make an ice bath in a large bowl with equal amounts of ice and water. Place the chicken in the ice bath for 5 minutes. (the ice will rinse away any impurities.) Remove the chicken and pat it dry.

5. Combine the buttermilk, hot sauce, and 1 tablespoon of the black pepper in a large container. Add the chicken to the buttermilk mixture, cover, and let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.

6. While the chicken is marinating, put the chicken skins in a small saucepan over very low heat, adding a small amount of water to prevent the skins from sticking and burning. Cook the skins, stirring frequently so that they don't burn, until their fat is rendered. Strain the fat; you need 1 cup.

7. Drain the chicken, quickly rinse under cold water, and pat dry.

8. Combine the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, the remaining 1 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and toss to coat thoroughly. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes, then shake off any excess, transfer the chicken to a wire rack, and let sit for 15 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, put the chicken fat, lard, and canola oil in a large, deep cast-iron skillet. Add the bacon and ham and heat the fats to 275°f. Turn the heat off and allow the bacon and ham to infuse the fats and oil for 10 minutes.

10. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the bacon and ham from the skillet (discard them or eat as a snack) and heat the oil to 300°f. Add the breasts and thighs and cook for 3 minutes. Add the legs and wings and cook for 5 minutes. (remove the fat needed for the gravy at this point and start the gravy.)

11. Turn the chicken over, cover the skillet, and cook until the pieces of chicken are the color of hay, about another 5 minutes. Remove the lid, turn the pieces again, cover, and cook the chicken until golden brown, another 3 minutes. Add the butter and continue cooking, turning the pieces once, for another 2 minutes or so on each side. The chicken should be crispy and golden brown. Let the chicken rest and drain on wire racks or on a plate covered with paper towels for about 8 minutes, but no longer.

12. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with the gravy.


If you use a large, deep cast-iron skillet and the recommended 3-pound chicken, a small bird called a fryer, you shouldn't have any trouble frying all the chicken at one time. If that isn't possible, use two skillets and mix two batches of fat to achieve the flavor and crispness imparted by the combination of fats.


Makes about 2½ cups

¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon cooking fat from the fried chicken

¾ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. After the chicken has fried for 8 minutes and is ready to turn, carefully remove the fat needed to make the gravy from the skillet. Put ¾ cup of the fat in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in the flour to make a roux, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the gravy, stirring occasionally to be sure that you don't have any lumps, for 15 minutes to cook out the taste of the raw flour.

2. Add the salt, pepper, and soy sauce, then whisk in the remaining tablespoon of cooking fat to make the gravy glossy. The gravy can be kept warm, covered, over the lowest heat for up to 20 minutes.

Cracklin' cornbread

Excerpted from "Heritage" by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014

Makes one 9-inch round loaf

My favorite ball cap, made by billy reid, has a patch on the front that reads "make cornbread, not war." i'm drawn to it because cornbread is a sacred thing in the south, almost a way of life. But cornbread, like barbeque, can be the subject of great debate among southerners. Flour or no flour? Sugar or no sugar? Is there an egg involved? All are legitimate questions.

When we opened husk, i knew that we had to serve cornbread. I also knew that there is a lot of bad cornbread out there in the restaurant world, usually cooked before service and reheated, or held in a warming drawer. I won't touch that stuff because, yes, i am a cornbread snob. My cornbread has no flour and no sugar. It has the tang of good buttermilk and a little smoke from allan benton's smokehouse bacon. You've got to cook the cornbread just before you want to eat it, in a black skillet, with plenty of smoking-hot grease. That is the secret to a golden, crunchy exterior. Use very high heat, so hot that the batter screeches as it hits the pan. It's a deceptively simple process, but practice makes perfect, which may be why many southerners make cornbread every single day.

4 ounces bacon, preferably benton's

2 cups cornmeal, preferably anson mills antebellum coarse yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1½ cups whole-milk buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 450°f. Put a 9-inch cast-iron skillet in the oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes.

2. Run the bacon through a meat grinder or very finely mince it. Put the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold it in one layer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn't burn, until the fat is rendered and the bits of bacon are crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the bits of bacon to a paper towel to drain, reserving the fat. You need 5 tablespoons bacon fat for this recipe.

3. Combine the cornmeal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and bits of bacon in a medium bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and combine the remaining 4 tablespoons fat, the buttermilk, and egg in a small bowl. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just to combine; do not overmix.

4. Move the skillet from the oven to the stove, placing it over high heat. Add the reserved tablespoon of bacon fat and swirl to coat the skillet. Pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. It should sizzle.

5. Bake the cornbread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm from the skillet.

Butter-bean chowchow

Excerpted from "Heritage" by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014

Makes 3 quarts

People say that the name "chowchow" comes from the french word for cabbage, chou, and that it was brought south by acadians when they were expelled from nova scotia and made their way to what became cajun country. Of course, a chow chow is also a breed of dog, so maybe we should just call this dish a relish. This version can be made with any southern bean or pea you find fresh at the market. If you leave out the butter beans altogether, you will still have a great recipe for a simple, classic chowchow that can be modified as you see fit.

If you make this recipe for canning, process the full 3 quarts. But if you want to make a quick pickle only, you can halve the recipe, as it won't keep for very long in the refrigerator.

12 ounces butter beans, assorted varieties

6 cups apple cider vinegar

1½ cups packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

1½ teaspoons celery seeds

1 tablespoon turmeric

1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1 medium sweet onion (about 1 pound), cut into small dice

2 red bell peppers (about ¾ pound), cored, seeded, and cut into small dice

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 small head green cabbage (about 1½ pounds), cored and finely chopped

3 green tomatoes (about 1½ pounds), cored and cut into small dice

½ cup yellow mustard

1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the butter beans and cook for 4 minutes. Drain the beans and spread them out on a baking sheet to cool.

2. Combine the vinegar, brown sugar, and salt in a medium stainless steel pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook the mixture for about 20 minutes, until reduced by half.

3. Add the mustard seeds, celery seeds, turmeric, and red pepper flakes and stir well. Add the onions, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper, cabbage, and tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. Fold in the butter beans and yellow mustard and remove the pot from the heat.

4. Divide the chowchow among three clean quart canning jars. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days before eating. Tightly covered, the chowchow will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Chocolate alabama stack cake

Excerpted from "Heritage" by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014

Serves 10 to 12

A couple of years ago, i became infatuated with stack cakes. They aren't traditional layer cakes-they look more like a stack of pancakes piled up with a sweet filling between the layers. Unless you have a cousin in the hills of east tennessee or the fields of lower alabama, stack cakes can be hard to come by these days. The story goes that people in the south were so poor that wedding cakes were built out of layers each guest brought to the ceremony-the more layers, the more popular the couple, i guess! But it's more likely that stack cakes required less equipment to produce and could be more easily packed for travel or picnicking, which has always been a very southern pursuit. I've also heard that you can measure the skill of the baker by the tenderness of the crumb and how many layers the cake has, but i just find them fun to make.


½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature, plus more for the pans

3 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

12 ounces 67% bittersweet chocolate, preferably olive and sinclair, chopped

2 cups sugar

5 large eggs

1 cup evaporated milk

½ cup water

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


2 cups sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


At least two 9-inch round cake pans, preferably more

For the cake:

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°f. Lightly butter as many 9-inch round cake pans as you have-you want to create a total of 10 layers, baking 2 or 3 layers at a time. If you only have two or three pans, cool them between batches and butter them again as needed.

2. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a small bowl and stir to combine well. Set aside.

3. Put the chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Fill the bottom of the double boiler with water, insert the top, and set the double boiler over low heat; the water should never be hotter than a simmer. Stir the chocolate with a silicone spatula until it melts, scraping down the sides as necessary. Remove from the heat.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the evaporated milk and melted chocolate and beat just to combine. Add the water and vanilla, beating until well combined.

5. Place a scant ? Cup batter in each prepared cake pan and use the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to spread the batter evenly. Bake 2 or 3 layers at a time for 8 to 9 minutes-a layer is done when you hold it near your ear and do not hear it sizzle. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn them out onto baking racks, using a metal spatula to ease them out of the pans, and let cool completely.

Meanwhile, for the icing:

Combine the sugar and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Add the chocolate and butter and heat, stirring, until they have melted. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, until the mixture has emulsified and is smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, stirring to combine. The icing will be thin, but it will thicken as it cools. Let cool completely.

To assemble:

1. Place one layer on a cake plate and, using an icing spatula, spread 2 or 3 spoonfuls of icing on top. Repeat with the remaining layers (don't worry if a layer tears; no one will see it when the cake is finished). Then cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Scrape up any icing that runs onto the plate and spread it back on the cake. If the icing hardens before the cake is iced, place the icing back over low heat.

2. Let the cake stand for 1 hour before serving it.

In a cake keeper or cake box, the cake will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature or 5 days in the refrigerator.

The copperhead

Excerpted from "Heritage" by Sean Brock (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014

Makes 1 drink

Chipped ice

2 1/2 ouncs rye whiskey, preferably wild turkey

1/4 ounce absinthe

6 dashes wormwood bitters

Juice of 1/2 lemon

A lemon twist

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add the rye, absinthe, wormwood bitters, and lemon juice, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into a chilled rocks glass, garnish with the lemon twist, and serve