All across the industrial Midwest, a reinvention is going on. Chefs, restaurant owners, food purveyors and farmers are taking a fresh look at the food they make, serve and grow. Changing Gears’ contributing food writer Michael Nagrant brings you the first in an exclusive series called Reinvention Recipes — new ideas for the way we eat.
You might call Barry Sorkin, chef/partner of Smoque BBQ located in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood, the James Dyson of barbeque. For, like the designer behind the bagless vacuum cleaner and the scary efficient jet-like bathroom hand dryer, it seems everything Sorkin touches, at least when it comes to smoking meat, he makes better.
Sorkin started out by reinventing himself. Uninspired by a job in corporate IT, he attended night classes at Chicago culinary school Kendall College. After earning a certificate, he and his future partners, weekend warrior pitmasters, asked themselves why there wasn’t better Southern BBQ in Chicago? They planned, dreamed and traveled across the country studying the ways of America’s legendary grizzled pitmasters.
When he and his partners returned to Chicago, they wrote a BBQ Manifesto and opened up shop. Almost five years later, they’re one of the best smoke shops in Chicago, if not the United States. In a culture where side dishes are an after thought, the Smoque crew went through hundreds of iterations to get baked beans studded with golden sweet caramelized onion and smoky burnt ends, zippy bright cole slaw, and creamy mac and cheese.
And of course, they needed a dessert. In keeping with their plan to be unique, they settled on peach cobbler, commonplace down South but a rarity in many barbeque places up north.
Instead of relying entirely on pie spices or flavor-sapping thickeners like corn starch, Sorkin re-imagined traditional peach cobbler by flavoring his with almond and concentrating the flavor of his peaches by reducing them in the oven. If you want to try your hand at Smoque’s reinvented peach cobbler, we’ve provided the recipe below. If you need some help, check out this video of Sorkin making his cobbler in the Smoque Kitchen.
Smoque’s Reinvented Peach Cobbler
10 pounds peaches, sliced
4 lemons, juiced
1.3 ounces almond extract
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups sugar
For crisp topping
4 cups granulated brown sugar
3 cups flour
3 cups sliced almonds
1.5 pounds cold butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a large baking sheet, line up 4 ounce foil containers in rows.
Roughly chop the peaches. Place in a large bowl Add juice, almond extract, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside.
To make crisp topping, in a second bowl, combine flour, almonds, cold butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Cut the ingredients together until the mixture resembles wet sand. Avoid using your hands, which can warm the butter (topping will wind up soggy and not crispy).
Put a generous portion of peaches in each foil container. The peaches should be heaped high, because they will soften during cooking. Cover with a thick layer of crisp topping. Repeat until foil containers are filled.
Bake for 35 minutes. Cobbler is good warm or cold.