Chef Ricky Moore’s new cookbook is out and I think he’s written the finest seafood cookbook you’ve ever seen and probably ever will see if you’re like me and love the flavors of the North Carolina coast.
The chef and owner of the Salt Box Seafood Joint here in Durham, N.C., Ricky has done something really special with the Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook, published this month by the University of North Carolina Press.
My family and I have been regulars at the Salt Box Seafood Joint since it first opened in a tiny little cubbyhole of a take-out stand (but with outdoor seating) in Old Five Points.
From my first visit I swooned. When I’m away from my family’s homeplace on the North Carolina coast, I ache for the fish that we love down there, but that I never seem to find up here.
I’m talking about jumpin’ mullet, bluefish, spots, hogfish and the like—the kind of fresh, local fish that coastal people recognize as the finest anywhere: sweet, delectable, complex—the kind of qualities borne of only our salt marshes and bays and tasting like nowhere else in the world.
It’s a quality that the French, when they talk about wine, refer to as terroir—the way the land, the weather and even history shape a local food’s taste.
If I haven’t been home for awhile and I have one of Ricky’s charcoal mullets or one of his unearthly good fried hogfish, I just about cry, it makes me feel so homesick and so at home all at once.
I’m going to be giving my brother and sisters, my children and everyone of my nieces and nephews a copy of Ricky’s Saltbox Seafood Joint Cookbook. No hard choices for Christmas gifts this year!
Ricky’s grandparents and great-grandparents were icons in Harlowe, the coastal community where my grandparents lived and where my family’s homeplace still is.
Our families go way back and I can’t help feeling a little bit of pride in where I come from when I read this wonderful cookbook.
The only question now is where to begin—one of Ricky’s chowders or stews? His fish cakes or crab cakes? Fried hard crabs or scallop fritters?
Maybe I’ll start by making something really down home, like a fish muddle or a Cedar Island fish pie? Or maybe I’ll go for something really elegant, like griddled amberjack collars with fresh thyme!
All I know is, if it’s one of the SaltBox Seafood Joint’s recipes, it’s going to be good.
So don’t expect me to be going out much for a while. I’m going to be busy in the kitchen.
Thank you, Ricky Moore.