Sorghum has myriad uses. A member of the grass family, it’s grown all over the world and used to make flour, syrup, alcohol and even fuel. Chefs use the natural sweetener in place of honey or molasses, as it adds another level of complexity to baked goods, meats and even grits.
Dressel's Public House
At Dressel’s Public House in St. Louis, executive chef Ray Reinneck uses several different sweeteners, including sorghum and malt extract. “I like to use multiple sweeteners depending on the kind of sweetness I’m looking for,” he says. In his poutine, for example, Reinneck cures pork belly with sorghum and serves it atop steak fries, cheese curds and smoked pork au jus. “The dark sweetness lends itself nicely to the barbecue seasoning we use on our poutine fries,” he says, “as well as the jus.” No judgment if you want to get your sorghum fix for brunch: Reinneck will top your poutine with a farm egg any time of day. At home, Reinneck suggests using sorghum to replace a dark sweetener such as honey, brown sugar or molasses. “The sky’s the limit – experiment with it,” he says. “It also makes a damn good molasses cookie, which is my favorite.”
Dressel's Public House, 419 N. Euclid Ave., Central West End, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.361.1060, dresselspublichouse.com
For executive chef John Brogan of Rye in Leawood, Kansas, using sorghum in his pork brine was a no-brainer. “It adds a different depth of flavor than sugar, honey or molasses,” he says. “Pork naturally pairs with sweet; sorghum also caramelizes nicely, and has a subtle earthiness unlike the floral qualities of honey or even the sometimes sulfuric qualities of molasses.” Brogan’s sorghum brine is used on Canadian bacon, bone-in Berkshire pork chops and a wood-fired double-cut Duroc pork chop. He’s also featured sorghum in breads, pastries, vinaigrettes and sauces at Rye. Brogan, who grew up in Chicago, became more familiar with sorghum after he moved to South Carolina. “I like using sorghum because it’s a bit obscure [but] bountiful, affordable, and it needs more recognition,” he says. “It’s a very important crop worldwide [because] it’s drought resistant and grows everywhere – especially in arid regions like Kansas.” At home, Brogan recommends starting by using sorghum in baked goods; it’s incredibly versatile, and sorghum flour can be particularly useful in gluten-free cooking.
Rye, 10551 Mission Road, Leawood, Kansas, 913.642.5800, ryekc.com
Watson's Shack & Rail
Watson’s Shack & Rail has been using sorghum syrup as a glaze since opening in downtown Champaign, Illinois, in February 2016. The self-described “fine-casual” spot specializes in Nashville-style hot chicken, but also serves other Southern-inspired specialties such as chicken and oyster gumbo and crab hushpuppies; don’t miss the Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery pimento cheese with housemade pickles. Right now, chef-owner Mark Hartstein uses sorghum to glaze Heinkel’s Packing Co.’s bacon, but he’s also used it as a drizzle for whipped local sweet potatoes, grits, baked beans and in cinnamon rolls. “We once tried to make brittle with a little [sorghum] in place of corn syrup, and it turned the candy a murky green!” Hartstein laughs. Watson’s currently sources sorghum from Maasdam Sorghum Mills in Lynnville, Iowa, but “I’ve been prodding our local growers to plant some sorghum for us to play [with]," he says.
Watson's Shack & Rail, 211 N. Neil St., Champaign, Illinois, 217.607.0168, watsonschicken.com