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Products Reflected In "The Great Gathering"

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Allow us to be so bold as to posit that a barbecue is an inherently medieval affair. From where do we arrive at this conclusion? Pray consider it, dear reader: the customary American cookout is a fundamentally Gothic idea, updated with modern values and cuisine. The gathering involves communal seating, shared plates, festive music and fire-prepared victuals shoved into food-messed face-holes sans cutlery. With those same descriptors, one harkens back to ye days of olde, to the court of Richard the Lionheart, to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, to Lords and Ladies locked in scenes of chivalry.

Preparations for the fête champêtre1 hatch in the spirit of simplicity: Bid some courtly dudes and dope-looking damsels hither, stock the larder with beauteous burgers (beef, turkey or veggie), augment the ale supply and call forth a noble disc jockey.

 

Maidens and squires arrive at their leisure, on their own time, with their own ideas about how the feast shall unfurl. Some are here to court the opposite (or same) sex—it is summer, after all—some to tipple, some to sup. There are rule-followers, regulators, rebels. Some are husking corn dutifully while others regale the group with over-embellished tales. A wily knave is oft climbing a tree while a newly minted Lord ‘n Lady lay in the grass betwixt the thickets, bashful in the afternoon glow of the late summer sun.

 

BBQ Favorites by Jackie Sappington of The Country Cat

Best BBQ Chicken Legs
Makes 4

4 large bone-in chicken legs

Stuart & Co. Bitchin’ BBQ Sauce

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. In a large glass baking pan or on a large baking sheet,arrange the chicken and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap,refrigerate and let rest for two hours.

2. Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill and let it burn down to glowing coals. Spread the coals evenly on the base and place the grill grate six inches above the coals. Let the grill grate get hot, then place the chicken on the grill over direct heat, skin side up. Brush on a thin coating ofStuart & Co. Bitchin’ BBQ sauce and close the barbecue cover. Grill the chicken until caramelized on the bottom,about 20 minutes.

3. Using a pair of tongs, flip the chicken over and grill,skin side down. Brush some more sauce onto the back side of the legs. Cook the legs until the skin is crisp and caramelized, about 20 minutes longer or until you can poke it with a fish fork and the juices run clear.Transfer the chicken to a large platter and let rest for five minutes. Warm up the rest of the bottle of barbecues sauce in a small saucepan. Brush the finished chicken legs with it and serve hot.

Crispy Fried Baby Yukon Potatoes
Serves 4

1 dozen baby Yukon gold potatoes, rinsed ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bottle Molonay Savory Ketchup
2 pinches of Laguna Salt Co. Truffled Salt

1. Place the potatoes into a medium stockpot and fill with enough cold water to just cover the potatoes. Add about 2 Tablespoons of kosher salt to the pot. Bring the potatoes to a simmer over medium heat. Cook uncovered until the point of a sharp knife can easily pierce the potato. About 10-15 minutes. Make sure the potatoes don’t boil too hard and split. Once the potatoes are done, turn the stove off and cover the pot. Let the potatoes cool for 10 minutes in the hot water. Drain the water and let the potatoes air dry. Slice each potato in half.

2. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat and add the oil. Let the oil heat just until just before its smoking point. Place each potato halve flesh side down in the oil. Do not crowd the pan. You may need to use 2 pans. In that case, divide the oil between the 2 pans.  Season with salt and pepper. Do not stir the potatoes. Fry the potatoes until the flesh begins to brown. Turn the heat down to medium and check the potatoes, using a fish fork to gently lift them. Once the potatoes have browned nicely, use a spatula to toss the potatoes and season the other side with salt and pepper. Potatoes are done when the flesh is nice and crispy. Turn out onto a platter  and sprinkle lightly with the truffle salt. Serve with Molonay Savory Ketchup.

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At once structured and chaotic, the great American BBQ is, indubitably, a rollicking repast. To create such a wicked wassail² demands, first and foremost, a cast of characters as colorful and damned as Dante ever envisioned.

Firstly, consider the SUMMONER, our noble host. His or her foremost duty is to implore the guests that they may gather at a particular time and place. As a tithe to their invitation of daylong indulgence, the Summoner may demand supermarket stops for last-minute necessities. “Fetch me alluring ales, sparkling sips, cheese puffs,” he or she requests via smartphone text message, “marshmallows for s’mores and a bag of baked goods to boost our bounty of buns.”

 

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The feudal Lord of the event is the GRILL MASTER. Sought-after and highly esteemed, this individual reigns supreme over the communal oven. Engaged in the smoky, primitive drama of an open flame, they place each hunk of well-chosen bellytimber on the grate just so, ensuring that each marvelous meaty morsel is neither too pink nor too charred.

Our villain, the TROUBADOUR (in modern parlance, Mister DJ) approaches his task with all requisite seriousness, with nary a token of regard for the sonorous inclinations of others. A fair damsel doth seek mellow music to accompany her meal? Let’s try Yoko Ono on eleven. Too much? John Cage at mid-volume then. What, you don’t like avant-electroacoustic? Okay fine, Laura Nyro. There, everybody’s happy.

 

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As the festivities reach their zenith, knights and knaves, jesters and jezebels, maidens and wenches claim their seats at a long wooden table in the backyard-cum-feasting hall, tearing into large portions of flavorful fleshes and vivacious vegetables doused in sensory overload inducing spices and sauces. Surreptitiously spiked punches are imbibed, corn is stuck in teeth, seconds and thirds and fourths and fifths are had. All assembled speak in the vernacular about the pressing Instagram-based concerns of the moment.

Fireflies appear as dusk descends. Grogs are guzzled, desserts devastated, and sparklers begin to scintillate. But first, the SUMMONER turns down the tunes, raises a glass and reminds the beautiful and unruly crew what a fine olde tyme this day has been. All may drink once more to midsummer’s magic. The gracious grasp the notion that it’s time to get the eff out. Ne’er do wells linger with the lightening bugs, weariness be damned.

 

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Footnotes:

1. A pastoral festival popular in 18th Century France, especially among courtesans who enjoyed a frolic in the gardens of Versailles.

2.  In early English times, a festivity including a salutation of health. The origin of the modern custom of a hearty “cheers” accompanied by clinking glasses.

Photography by Kathryn Barnad - Styling by Callie Meyer - Food by Kari Lauritzen

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