It was a heat April morning in Humble, and Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ squinted by means of the smoke as he leaned over a grill made from concrete blocks and metallic grates at Houston BBQ Fest. Standing on the unshaded concrete lot, sweat poured as he flipped dozens of rooster legs for the group gathering on the gate. Gatlin and his government chef, Michelle Wallace, had marinated the rooster for twenty-four hours in a jerk sauce they have been testing for the primary time on a big viewers. I acquired an early pattern and was shortly smitten. Once I would get to style this at their restaurant was my subsequent query.
Wallace and Gatlin mentioned the jerk rooster can be on the menu at their new restaurant when it opened, however they wished to ensure the flavors have been dialed in. These drumsticks have been fall-off-the-bone tender with a pleasant char, and the heat from the jerk seasoning was extra inviting than difficult. When Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers opened in July, the jerk rooster made the menu, and I had a brand new dish to covet. I lastly made it to the brand new spot this previous week for a late lunch. Although the jerk rooster is just on the dinner menu, Wallace mentioned they will make it for anybody who asks at lunch.
Within the Gatlin’s BBQ kitchen, the cooks brine half chickens for a full day in water infused with allspice, habanero peppers, garlic, and inexperienced onions. The brined rooster is then transferred to the thick jerk marinade for an additional full day earlier than getting smoked, chilled, and transferred to the sister restaurant, somewhat greater than two miles away. At Fins & Feathers, the rooster is grilled to order by chef Darius King and paired with coconut-lime rice. “Hopefully the rice has a cooling impact for the spice of the rooster,” Wallace mentioned, however I believe Texas diners can stand somewhat extra spice on their meat. On the plate you’ll get 4 items of rooster with a coloration as deep as gumbo. Battle to safe a leg or a thigh when it hits the desk. Although I had some doubts about reheated rooster, the meat stays extremely juicy, and the pores and skin is crisp.
The Fins & Feathers menu melds Southern delicacies together with New Orleans touches—equivalent to crimson beans and rice, barbecue shrimp, and a dark-roux gumbo—and Mexican affect just like the roast duck with mole rojo. Although Wallace, who hails from St. Louis, and native-Houstonian Gatlin don’t have household recipes for jerk marinade, Wallace famous the connection between the transatlantic slave commerce and trendy Caribbean delicacies. “It stems from us touring over from Africa, relying on the place we landed and what we had entry to,” she mentioned, including, “our jerk rooster that we serve right now is an homage to that.”
In addition they wished selection on their menu, in order to not pigeonhole the Black-owned restaurant with a Black chef and Black government chef as serving soul meals. “Issues are very soulful, nevertheless it’s not soul meals,” Wallace mentioned. Whereas the restaurant’s title would possibly recommend it merely serves rooster and fish, “this house offers us a strategy to be inventive past barbecue,” Wallace mentioned. To me, that was most evident within the catfish sandwich, impeccably fried and topped with Viet-Cajun scorching sauce. The sauce, made from onions, garlic, lemongrass, and Thai chiles, didn’t coat the fish—letting the sides retain their crunch—and the burn was tamed a bit by the contemporary basil slaw contained in the brioche bun. It struck me as a very Houston model of fusion cooking that can be discovered within the appetizer of fried rooster wings, that are crunchy beneath the spicy miso glaze sweetened with honey.
Smoked jerk rooster is what drew me to Fins & Feathers, however there’s a lot extra to get pleasure from, even for barbecue lovers. At lunch, you will get a smoked rooster salad sandwich and a smoked turkey membership topped with bacon and cheddar. The dinner menu contains smoked rooster enchiladas. Nevertheless it appears to me these classics will doubtless get starved for consideration subsequent to the Caribbean import.