Chef Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May’s BBQ USA in Manhattan is busy creating a butchering empire. He shows his mastery of meat by preparing luscious beef short ribs for an inventive family seder.
Adam Perry Lang hasn’t yet served his main course, but already, crumbs litter the table. That’s what happens when six antsy kids all sit within arm’s reach of matzo. But the munching and giggling stop once the kids notice the chef bringing in his Passover centerpiece: a hefty platter of glistening beef short ribs perched atop a silky mix of matzo farfel, mushrooms and baby spinach.
Passover is all about tradition, like the annual reading of the Haggadah—the book that recounts and celebrates the Jews’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. But the Passover meal needn’t be old-fashioned. Perry Lang’s innovative food is a welcome change from the usual seder dinner. Creating Passover recipes can be difficult because holiday tradition forbids cooking with and eating any leavening, which is why matzo, an unleavened bread, is key. But Perry Lang loves a challenge.
After years of working in the rarefied kitchens of Daniel Boulud and Guy Savoy, Perry Lang veered off the predictable path when he discovered the elemental appeal of cooking with meat, wood and fire. Now the unlikely barbecue maven spends his time smoking all kinds of meat at his restaurant, Daisy May’s BBQ USA, in Manhattan. But Perry Lang’s passion for meat keeps driving him toward new projects. In addition to plotting an expansion of Daisy May’s and working on a cookbook, he’s blueprinting collaborations with culinary über-entrepreneurs Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich: an old-world butcher shop (“the antithesis of the impersonal supermarket meat department,” Perry Lang says) and the ambitious BBL Beef Brokers, which will oversee the entire meat-producing process, from raising and slaughtering cattle to packaging beef. Perry Lang is also heading up the dry-aged beef program at Batali’s new Las Vegas steak house, Carnevino.
On Passover, however, the chef ignores his constantly buzzing Black-Berry. He’s devoted to making this slightly unconventional dinner for his friend Charlie Walk, the president of Epic Records, and Walk’s family at their Tribeca loft. Perry Lang drops matzo balls into broth, watching them puff up to golf-ball size as they bob to the surface. “Little pillows of love,” he jokes, popping one into his mouth. Preternaturally light, these matzo balls will soon float in a lovely golden broth accompanied by a pistou of dill, horseradish (a seder staple) and olive oil for swirling into the soup.
At the table, all eyes are fixed on Perry Lang as he carefully carves into the gigantic rack of short ribs—the dish is a riff on Jewish cholent, which is a long-simmered stew of meat, barley, beans and potatoes. Even Walk’s 14-month-old daughter, Jewel, wants in, snatching a slice of the tender beef from her mother’s plate. From here on out, the matzo remains virtually untouched.
JJ Goode is a New York City–based writer who is co-authoring Adam Perry Lang’s barbecue cookbook, due out next year.