First thing I did when I woke up on the morning of my scheduled brunch with Josh Brandner was a quick gut check, was I hungry enough to really go deep into some Southern Hospitality? Not quite. A bit of cardio and plenty 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 a special invitation and I was downright hungry.
Josh Brandner 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.
He 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 in the kitchen again. There are deep ties to home that keep Josh in check with his soul, his grandma’s cast iron; now used regularly to feed the neighborhood and make new friends.
Josh is cooking up some southern style Eggs Benedict, made with Brined & Smoked Pork Shoulder, served on Scratch Buttermilk 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 with Cane Syrup, served with strawberries and whipped cream. 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, then smoke for another 4-6 hours (recipe below). The meat rests for a bit on the counter as the biscuits and hollandaise are put together. We all snitch a taste of the pork, it’s ridiculously good, the brine gives it a definite hint of 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; the perfect ratio of comforting but not heavy. Brunch is a fragile balance; whipped hollandaise is the perfect compliment to Luci’s Buttermilk Biscuits.
Back out on the patio, our Whimsy Chef is fixin to serve up some 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 in a hot dry pan. Luci’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. Lightly charred fresh whitefish on the tangy goat cheese grits also hit that perfect note of comfort, but not heavy.
As brunch is winding down and I’m making easy conversation with all the friends and neighbors of Josh and Luci; I realize how lucky we are to have these folks spending time in the Northwest. Their brand of hospitality is the perfect medicine to eradicate the Seattle Freeze. The open door invitation to share a drink, a meal, and swap stories. 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 whiskey drenched southern brunch. I left with my belly and my heart full. Thank you, Josh, Luci, Luke, Merritt & sweet Henry!
- 2 Gallon H2O
- 1C Brown Sugar
- 1C Salt
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 4T Red Pepper Corns
- 2T Minced Garlic
- Rosemary Sprigs
- Smoke: 4-8 hours