Southern Hospitality Defined with Whimsy Chef Josh Brander
Originally written in May 2017 -
First thing I did when I woke up on the morning of my scheduled brunch with Josh Brander was a quick gut check, was I hungry enough to really go deep into some Southern Hospitality? Not quite. A bit of cardio & a bit of coffee and it was time to pack my camera and head to the good doctor's house. I was in for a special treat; Southern Brunch served up the way it was meant to be with a New Orleans native, spending some temporary residency time here in Seattle. This was the moment I had been waiting for and I was downright hungry.
Josh Brander is in Seattle for a couple years as a surgical resident. He and his wife, Luci and three charming littles have been local for just ten months. When I arrive at his place it's warm and inviting. The kids greet me at the door, little Luke just at 4 is already a proper gentleman, he showed me around a bit and then took me to the kitchen for a refreshment.
Josh is throwing down some comfort food, no holds barred. We started with Bloody Marys and quickly moved onto Milk Punch, the liquor brings up the volume a bit on the country music and the conversation. There is a heavenly smell of smoked barbecue coming from the back patio. At the center of it all is a tall southern gentleman with a broad smile and happiness in his heart. A chaotic kitchen filled with friends and his beautiful family and he's home. With each sip, his drawl is getting thicker and the smiles are getting bigger. Everyone is pitching in, holding babies, making drinks, passing around kitchen tools.
The chef loves his cast iron. His favorite being an oversized fryer that has been in his family for generations; nearly lost in Katrina Josh found it covered in rust, it took it home sanded it down and re-seasoned it until it was back working hard in the kitchen again. There are deep ties to home that keep Josh in check with his soul.
He's fixin' some southern style Eggs Benedict, made with Brined & Smoked Pork Shoulder, served on Scratch Biscuits and topped with a Whipped Hollandaise. That's not all, we're also getting some Goat Cheese Grits & Blackened Fish. You know there's also something sweet; Luci is making Waffles that are lighter than air, served with strawberries, whipped cream and Cane Syrup. Hungry yet? Me too.
The Brined & Smoked Pork Shoulder is just coming off the grill (Big Green Egg). Josh likes to brine for 10-12 hours in a bath of: , then smoke for another 4-6 hours. The meat rests for a bit on the counter as the biscuits and hollandaise are put together. We all snitch a taste, it's insane, the brine gives a definite hint breakfast that will play so well on a Benedict. Fill the drinks, chat some more, we still have some work to do before we're ready to plate.
Luci is talking to me as she rolls out her biscuits, she chats about how she likes her biscuits, not quite as her grandma taught her. Her quick smile and well practiced Scratch Biscuit Recipe leads me to believe grandma approves. Of course they are perfectly soft and airy on the inside crumbly on the outside, heavenly.
As the meat rests and the biscuits bake, Josh goes to work on the Hollandaise. He whips so much air into the eggs that his sauce is velvety soft and light. This sauce is so light and airy that it's the perfect compliment to the biscuit and pork; the perfect ratio of comforting but not heavy. Brunch is a fragile balance. Josh nailed it.
Back out on the patio our Josh still is still adding to the menu, Fish & Grits. This is fun to watch. Northwesterners just don't get a chance to tuck into grits often enough. Luci makes the grits and Josh blackens the fish in his great grandma's cast iron. The fish is simple, coat it with seasoning and put it on a hot dry pan. Lucy's Goat Cheese Grits, however, those take some time and some love. Here I was thinking I couldn't possibly finish a serving; of course I did and it was amazing. The balance of the lightly charred fresh whitefish on the comforting grits was also that perfect brunch taste of comforting but not heavy.
As brunch is winding down and I'm making easy conversation with all these friends and neighbors Josh and Luci have made in just short time; I realize how lucky we are to have folks like this spend time in the Northwest. How this brand of hospitality is the perfect medicine to eradicate the Seattle Freeze. I wanted to stay all day and have brunch segue into happy hour while listening to stories about Louisiana, fishing, family and their history. I hope there is a sequel to this fun country music and whisky drenched amazing southern brunch. Thank you for sharing your Brander Hospitality.