Recipe remix: Chef Jerome Grant takes on a trend and a tradition for two crowd-pleasing recipes

Just in time for fall festivities, acclaimed chef Jerome Grant shares his takes on the Tik Tok favorite butter board and soul-pleasing greens.

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Do you smell that? That hint of pumpkin spice in the air? That’s big autumn energy, bringing a new season of flavor to the table. After two very cautious holiday seasons, that energy also includes safely gathering with family and friends — and where there are gatherings, there should always be great food.

With that in mind, theGrio tapped Chef Jerome Grant, the James Beard-nominated founding chef of Sweet Home Café at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (and co-author of its acclaimed cookbook) and chef-owner of Washington D.C.’s Mahal BBQ, to cook up some crowd-pleasing dishes perfectly suited to the season.

“You know, I really enjoy the fall, and wintertime is my thing,” Chef Jerome tells theGrio. “One of the things that I know that I do very well for my family is to use these two hands that I was given … Especially around the holidays, to be able to gather. For the Grant family, that means hosting their D.C.-Maryland-Virginia-based loved ones. “We enjoy throwing parties, enjoy people coming over and we enjoy impressing them,” he says. “Being able to entertain people has always been something that I enjoy doing, and to do it for my family and my friends and my close friends outside of my workspace, is very therapeutic.

“And at the same time, the foods that are available … all the root vegetables that come out, the apples … the air smells different,” he continues. “It feels clean but a little chilled. When it got cold a few weeks ago, it tasted like fall. You know, like you were looking for apple pie and looking for that sweater. And I just enjoy that … this feels like family time.”

As Chef Jerome further explained, inviting more people to the table means making the most of those seasonal flavors, colors, and aromas in his cooking — and taking on both trends and traditions alike. “It’s taking some of the classic flavors that you have during this time, as well as some of the smells, and figuring out how we can twist them a little bit,” he says. “Like, how can you do something a little different? It’s just highlighting those flavors that you enjoy, highlighting some of those traditional dishes during [this time of the year], and let’s kind of just rework them.”

That includes putting his own spin on one of the buzziest culinary trends as of late, the “butter board.” Ostensibly picking up where the charcuterie trend fell off, flavored and heavily decorative platters of butter have been overwhelming Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest as the ultimate in appetizers. While Chef Jerome remains a charcuterie devotee, he couldn’t help but challenge himself by trying his own take on the trend, which you can watch take shape in our video above.

“They were just popping up everywhere and I was like, ‘how did this become a thing’?” he says, conceding: “And then, when I tasted it after we put it together with my wife and [the crew], they were like, ‘This is really, really good.'”

For his version, Chef Jerome aims to both hit every part of the tongue’s taste map and incorporate a bit of history through the use of black garlic, sorghum syrup, pickled berries and dill.

He explains, “Well, I think especially with those flavors, like they all have their cool ups and downs, right? Like butter, it’s like, ‘oh, that’s just so fatty.’ And then you take something like the black garlic where it’s like … we’ve kind of grown up with roasted garlic in our veins; how can we add that savory flavor to it, but also kind of give it that extra funk, you know? 

“And then you kind of balance it … and you have this sorghum syrup,” he continues, noting that sorghum — which was at one point traded as currency — was introduced to the States as an import on the same boats as enslaved Africans. It has since become synonymous with the South.

“You’ll get a little bit of smokiness to it, and that really caramel sugar type of thing,” Chef Jerome explains. “But then you pair that with the butter and that savory black garlic and it has that savory-sweet balance. And then everything else, I think it was just like a bonus to it.” The bonus includes a “goodbye to summertime” in the form of sunflower seeds “and then just berries … quick pickled berries for a little acid … it felt like this cool fall flavor.

“And then, fresh herbs, like the dill kind of balances it out,” he adds. “So as you’re going through and eating it with toast, you have like this buttery, savory, tart type of pop to it and it’s like you get all those complete flavors in that bite — and then it looked really cool.”

Black Garlic, Sorghum + Pickled Berry Butter Board

For Black Garlic Butter

  • ¾ pound sweet cream unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 cloves black garlic

For Pickled Berries

  • ¼ cup blueberries, halved
  • ¼ cup blackberries, halved
  • ¼ cup raspberries, halved
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • 1 ½ tablespoon Sugar

Toppings

  • 2 tbsp. sorghum syrup
  • 2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
  • 1 orange, zest only
  • 1 tbsp. flaky sea salt
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, pulled from a large stem
  • edible flowers (optional)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into sticks
  • ½ stalk celery, cleaned, cut into sticks
  • 1 European cucumber, sliced into moons
  • 4 baby radish, sliced
  • 2 small loaves of rustic bread, toasted, sliced

1. Place butter at room temperature in a bowl with black garlic and mix with a spatula, gently blending and continuing to soften the butter. Once black garlic is incorporated and the butter is spreadable (like peanut butter), begin to layer it onto the serving board, while leaving light indentations for the remaining toppings.

2. In a separate bowl, add berries, lime juice, and sugar. Lightly toss these ingredients until the sugar is dissolved. Let sit for 5 minutes.

3. Lightly drizzle sorghum syrup over butter.

4. Strain the berries from the liquid; evenly layer them over the butter mixture.

5. Liberally sprinkle the butter with sunflower seeds, orange zest, and flaky sea salt.

6. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs and edible flowers.

7. Serve with carrots, celery, radishes, cucumbers, and warm bread.

Butter board Chef Jerome Grant theGrio.com
Chef Jerome Grant’s Black Garlic, Sorghum + Pickled Berry Butter Board
Still: theGrio

Of course, a party cannot subsist on a butter board alone; the season also calls for comforting classics that evoke warm memories for family and friends alike. For Chef Jerome, whose heritage is African American, West Indian and Filipino, that calls for a culture-fusing twist on a soul food classic: greens.

“I mean, this recipe goes two different ways for me,” he explains. “My stepfather is from Hampton, Virginia. My Aunt Teresa — before I went to culinary school and got serious about cooking — she always cooked Thanksgiving dinner, so she’d cook the greens for two days … it was just good, Southern-style greens. When you find that batch of greens, they’re great.

“But my mother and the Filipino side, they do this other dish that’s similar, which is like a taro leaf version called Laing. And they cook it down with fermented shrimp, coconut milk, chilies, and various greens,” he says. “I remember my grandmother would put coconut milk in everything, from the rice to the seafood and stuff like that. So all those flavors and that particular style of vegetables were always around in my life.”

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In fusing these flavors, Chef Jerome again presented himself with a challenge: “How can we kind of change it up and build something that kind of feels a little lighter?”

The answer was to make a meat-free version of the classic dish, which can be enjoyed as a side or main dish. “I think utilizing that coconut milk helps make it lighter, but it also gives a lot more lusciousness to it — you know, the creaminess to it,” he notes. “Utilizing fish sauce to pick up a different type of flavor and not solely focusing on meat to flavor the whole dish … And just getting a good mixture of greens, cooking them down with some chilies and just going low and slow [until] they get to that point when the greens are just teeth soft and you can really push it on the roof of your mouth and it melts.

“Once you get that — the coconut milk’s reduced down and you get a little bit of that mushroom powder that kind of gives it an additional bounce of umami at the end; it’s just a good hearty greens dish.”

More important, he adds, “It’s an homage to the women that got me into cooking.”

Braised Coconut Greens

  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 large onion, small diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1½ inch knob of ginger, thinly julienned
  • 1 tbsp. red chili, minced (adjust to preferred heat level)
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ¼ cup cane vinegar (pref.) or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock, or more as needed
  • 2 tbsp. aged soy sauce or (tamari for gluten-free)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. mushroom powder
  • 2 pounds mixed greens (kale, collards, chard, mustard) stems removed, cleaned, cut into ribbons
  • salt, as needed
  • fresh cracked black pepper as needed

1.    Add sesame oil large pot over medium-high heat.

2.    Add the onions and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they are clear and soft.

3.    Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, and let them begin to brown.

4.    Slowly add the fish sauce, vinegar, stock, soy sauce, and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add mushroom powder and let simmer for 2 minutes.

5.    Add greens and stir until they become wilted. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes, or until the greens are totally tender. If the simmering liquid starts to dry up, add a few splashes of stock as needed.

6.    Season the greens to taste with salt and fresh cracked black pepper and serve with Carolina gold rice.

Chef Jerome Grant’s Braised Coconut Greens
Still: theGrio

So, trend, tradition, or both? Try these recipes out for your next gathering, and stay tuned for more recipes perfect for seasonal social feasting from Chef Jerome Grant, here at theGrio.


Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s lifestyle editor, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, great books and aesthetics, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body (Words of Change series).


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