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A Chef-Inspired Father’s Day

By Kathy K. Martin

Who better to give advice for a flavorful Father’s Day meal than our own Mississippi chefs? Several culinary masters share their menu ideas and tips to give dads the special day they deserve.


A Trio of Chefs


Chef Cameron Bryant

Cameron Bryant (follow him on Instagram), executive chef of The Sipp on South Lamar in Oxford, comes from a family of great Southern home chefs, so he says that Father’s Day is a group effort. “For us, it’s as much about family time as it is about the food or celebrating Dad.” His family cooks outside on the grill and then spends time together playing board games, cards, and cornhole. Pork is usually on the menu in some way, either a tenderloin or chops, with simple side dishes such as sweet and sour green beans and buttery, mashed sweet potatoes. His sister, Carrie Browning, also usually makes her recipe for blueberry sour cream pie to end the day.


Chef Nick Wallace

Nick Wallace (see his Instagram profile), Jackson-based private chef and owner of Nick Wallace Culinary and father to six children, says that unless his mother cooks, he mans the kitchen for Father’s Day. Mississippi born and raised, Wallace represents the state on many national cooking shows such as Top Chef and Chopped, which he won in season 34. His traditional menu features pressed-brick chicken served with charred Brussel sprouts and whipped potatoes with his homemade butter. The sprouts are mixed with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and goat cheese. His chicken recipe, which he demonstrated on an episode of the Food Network Canada’s Fire Masters TV show, comes from his grandfather. “He taught me how to grill a de-boned chicken thigh on an open fire with garlic under the skin to make a good crust.” The foil-covered brick presses the thyme and rosemary-seasoned chicken firmly down onto the grill. The meal concludes with his old-school recipe for jelly cake. Wallace bakes a pound cake and cuts it into three layers. Next, he covers each layer with plum jelly. The entire cake is frosted with a combination of plum jelly and whipped cream cheese, which is topped with a little salt to balance all the sweetness. “I love complete meals, so I always have a vegetable with every meal and a dessert to end on a sweet note.”

Chef Melissa Cookston

As the only female to be named a world barbecue champion, Melissa Cookston (follow Melissa on Instagram) knows all about grilling for competition, as well as for family. While she has plenty of suggestions for grilling, she says that the best way to show Dad some love on Father’s Day is to not expect him to grill that day. “We take moms out to lunch on Mother’s Day and then on Father’s Day the dads have to grill their own food.” Since the heat is strongest in the summer, she advises simply ordering barbecue and having it shipped through an online company like Goldbelly. Her barbecue, Melissa Cookston’s Memphis BBQ, ships through the site, in addition to many other favorites. If you choose to grill at home, her first choice is ribs since they are the easiest to grill and they don’t take as long to cook. “My two biggest tips for grilling are to control the temperature and select the proper wood.” Her favorite wood for cooking ribs is apple, peach, or pecan.

Cookston pairs her ribs with a few cold salads, such as broccoli or grape salad, and some grilled fruit because she says, “I do all my cooking outside on the grill.” Pineapple and watermelon are two of her favorite choices for grilled fruit. She also puts a spin on the familiar Waldorf salad by using prunes or grapes and walnuts or another nut for texture. For dessert she even bakes peach cobbler in a cast-iron skillet on the grill.

Culinary Gifts for Dad

Wallace recommends supporting local Mississippi businesses with a gift of locally-made bourbon honey molasses or seasoning blends such as his own, Nick’s 26. This all-purpose seasoning blends 26 different seasonings that compliment any meat or poultry.

Bryant says that for his father it’s less about a gift and more about the experience of family time together. He usually gives him a bottle of his favorite wine and a card signed by everyone.

Grilling gadgets, gizmos, and other accessories make ideal presents, says Cookston. “I say skip the Italian silk ties and give dads a new spatula or tongs to accessorize their grilling toolbox,” she says. About two miles away from her Horn Lake restaurant, Memphis BBQ Company, her retail store, The BBQ Allstars, offers many culinary products that make ideal gifts.

However you decide to celebrate Dad, make this Father’s Day unforgettable with a focus on family, followed closely by the food.


Father's Day Recipes from Our Chefs

Cameron Bryant’s Spice Rubbed Pork Chops

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. light brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup kosher salt

  • ¼ cup sweet paprika

  • ¼ cup ancho chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder

  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder

  • 2 Tablespoons ground mustard

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger

  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander

  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar

  • 6 bone-in double cut pork chops

Method:

  1. Preheat the grill.

  2. In a bowl, combine the sugar and all the dry spices; mix well.

  3. In a plastic bag, combine pork chops and apple cider vinegar to marinate and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  4. Pour the dry spice mixture onto a dinner plate and press both sides of each pork chop into the spices to coat. Replenish the plate as needed to coat all the chops.

  5. Cook pork chops on the hottest part of the grill until marked on each side; move to the cooler side to finish cooking to your desired level of doneness without burning your spice mixture.

  6. Let rest for 10 -15 minutes before enjoying with corn salsa, a cold beer, and good friends.

Melissa Cookston’s Grape Salad Serves 6 to 8. This fresh summer side dish is the perfect accompaniment to heavy meats hot off the grill. Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 lbs. seedless green grapes, rinsed

  • 2 lbs. seedless red grapes, rinsed

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1½ cups pecan halves

Method: In a large mixing bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, granulated sugar, and vanilla until well blended. Fold in the grapes, then pour the salad into a nice serving bowl. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then arrange the pecan halves over the top. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Melissa’s Cayenne Grilled Peaches

Serves 4.

I’m big on different flavors in the same dish. This has the sweetness of the brown sugar, the luxurious freshness of the peaches, and a little kick in the back from the cayenne.

Ingredients:

  • 4 peaches

  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

  • Whipped cream for serving

Method:

  1. Prepare a hot grill.

  2. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits.

  3. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, vanilla, and cayenne. Place the peach halves in a baking dish cut side up and spoon the sugar mixture over the peaches. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.

  4. Place the peaches on the grill skin side down and cook for about 3 minutes or until they develop some char, and the sugar is slightly set. Turn over and grill for 1 minute, then quarter turn them to develop a nice diamond-shaped grill mark.

  5. Remove, place on serving plates, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Nick Wallace’s Pressed Chicken

Serves 6. 

Brick-pressed chicken cooks quickly and evenly. Spatchcock the bird, then press it down flat on the skillet with a foil-wrapped brick or cast-iron skillet.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Oregano 

  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme 

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil 

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt 

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 

  • 1 (4-5-lb.) whole chicken, split in half 

  • 4 lemon wedges

  • Nick’s 26 Seasoning (optional; available at www.nickwallaceculinary.com)

Method:

  1. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium. Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl.

  2. Spatchcock the chicken: place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Remove and discard backbone (or reserve for stock). Turn chicken breast side up; open the underside of chicken like a book. Using the heel of your hand, press firmly against breastbone until it pops. Tuck wing tips under. Loosen and lift skin from chicken with fingers; spread herb mixture under skin.

  3. Coat cast iron skillet with olive oil and place chicken in skillet, skin side down. Top with another cast-iron skillet or aluminum foil-wrapped brick on chicken to flatten.

  4. Sear chicken 8 minutes or until well browned. Turn chicken over and replace skillet (or brick). Sear for about more 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 165° F.

  5. Remove from skillet; let stand 10 minutes. Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with lemon wedges.

Nick’s Seasonal Vegetable Hash 

Serves 4.

Substitute your favorite diced seasonal vegetables for any of the vegetables in this deliciously easy and versatile recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 red beets, diced

  • 2 carrots, chopped 

  • 1 sweet potato, chopped

  • 2 zucchinis, chopped

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided

  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup fresh green peas

  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped

  • 1 cup smoked sausage, sliced 

  • 2 oz. goat cheese 

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.

  2. Add 2 Tablespoons olive oil and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in remaining vegetables, season with salt and pepper or Nick’s 26 seasoning. 

  3. Add remaining olive oil and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are soft and caramelized. Stir in sausage, sage and cook another minute or two.

  4. Remove from heat and top with crumbled goat cheese and serve. 

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