'Charred & Scruffed' Review
Chef Lang roughs, scruffs, and spackles his way to grilled perfection
By Mick Vann,
1:51PM, Wed. Jun. 6, 2012
Charred and Scruffed
by Adam Perry Lang, with Peter Kaminsky
Artisan, 280 pp, $24.95
Adam Perry Lang knows meat. He’s respected as one of the premier meat aging experts in the world, and was the chef at New York’s best steakhouse, Robert’s Steakhouse. He is an analytical chef, determined to come up with his own unique proven methods that often fly in the face of convention, and with his latest book, Charred and Scruffed, he’s done it again with the grilling process.
Convention dictates that once the meat goes on, mess with it as little as possible. Lang says no, that by constantly messing with the meat, you are building layers of complex flavors on top of each other, creating a superior piece of unctuous grilled meat. He starts with a seasoning blend, and then “scruffs” the meat, roughing or scoring the exterior to create more surface for the beloved Maillard reaction. He bastes after turning, and turns much more often than we mortals normally would, using a basting brush made from fresh herbs (an ancient practice used worldwide). He’ll even cook directly on the coals, a term he calls “clinching”, or use planks for the grilling surface.
He tempers the cooking momentum by controlling heat, often resting bigger cuts during the cooking process. After cooking Lang always rests the meat, collecting juices from the cutting board, mixed with the tips of the herb brush and other seasonings to create what he calls “board dressings”. It’s the almost-final layer of flavor just before that first bite enters the mouth. The denouement is what he calls “spackles”, flavoring pastes that compliment and punch-up the flavor of the grilled item.
The book contains 85-plus well-written and easy to follow recipes, each with copious notes and hints, covering every possible protein. There is a section of recipes for some creative sides, including dishes like carbonara potatoes, polenta with mascarpone and rosemary, and radish and mint salad. Techniques are clearly illustrated using brilliant photography and line drawings. From someone that has cooked whole herds of steaks through the years, believe me when I say Lang’s techniques are nothing short of revolutionary, and the finished product is as delicious as it reads on the page.