With Juneteenth coming up, Ricky Moore and fellow chefs in Durham, North Carolina, sought out a way to make sure no one shows up empty handed to this year’s cookout.
“With Juneteenth cookouts, and cookouts in general, you’ve got a whole slew of people putting their best dish forward. Pies, ribs, corn casserole, the whole thing. But, you’ve always got those few that show up with noting but an empty plate and empty stomach,” chuckles Ricky Moore.
Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint and fellow Durham chefs from Chez Moi, Mike D’s BBQ, Nzinga’s Kitchen, and Ideal Bartending Co., are determined to have no empty hands at the Juneteenth community potluck this year. They’ve organized a ready to-eat, curated “Durmnik” (Durham and picnic) boxes of Southern cookout classics. These boxes are individually portioned, with St. Louis style ribs, fried chicken thighs, baked mac and cheese, cucumber salad, pickled shrimp, deviled eggs, butter cookies, and a watermelon mocktail to wash it all down. The intention is to bring community-wide participation in celebrating Juneteenth and take a day to focus on togetherness, inclusivity, and celebration.
Looking back over the years, Moore vividly recounts his cookout memories. Cookouts would often happen right after church. You’d see a steady stream of church ladies walking out with their covered dishes: dish coordinated with their outfit, a source of pride, and a visual extension of reputation. “You wouldn’t want to miss Mrs. So and So’s deviled eggs, you’d be waiting all morning for that after-service blessing,” Moore remembers. These covered dishes would go through endless shuffling, each jockeying for prominent placement on the table.
While the church ladies participated in the quiet competition of selective side dishes, Moore describes the distinct dress and behavior of the men. “You’d have a male figurehead at the grill. His outfit was almost always the same: a captain’s hat, short set, and dress socks with sandals. It’s important to leave that grill attended at all times, or all hell breaks loose”. However, the men were not without their levels of competition, getting grilled chicken that perfect brown, rushing to see who could clean the fish the fastest, or filling their arms with as much PBR, Miller Lite, or Schlitz they could carry.
The sentiment holds steady throughout all these memories: Time together is a place of comfort. And, what better way to facilitate time together than with food?
Moore hopes to continue these picnic boxes as an annual tradition, showcasing new contributors from around Durham each year. “They don’t even have to be part of the culinary scene. Maybe, they’re a school teacher with a ridiculously good egg salad, one that they’re ready to share with others,” he says.
The Durham community has shown a lot of resilience in recent years, supporting local restaurants and chefs with a vigor and acting as their spokespeople for any visitors. Moore calls it a “boot and cheek” community, adding, “You start as a rockstar in your own neighborhood before you bring that anywhere else.” Durham’s culture of collaboration is something Moore holds dear to his heart. He’s proud to be in a city that consistently values camaraderie over competition.
When asked why we should take the time to celebrate, Moore said, “Celebration is medicine. Sharing space with others and experiencing new things, building new memories; we need it. We are what each other has.” With this sentiment, Moore and fellow chefs wish you a full (and we mean that in all senses) Juneteenth celebration.
Juneteenth Lunchboxes Menu
These chicken thighs pop with smoky paprika, garlic, Texas Pete, and savory lemon pepper. The result: an undeniably crispy skin with succulent, soft chicken underneath.
This is not your momma’s mac n’ cheese recipe. Incorporating hot sauce and muenster cheese into toasty, creamy pasta, this mac comes out of left field swinging.
If there’s something Ricky Moore excels at, it’s taking a classic and adding something fishy. These deviled eggs incorporate basics, North Carolina icon: Texas Pete, apple cider vinegar, and are topped off with chili-crunch and flaky smoked trout.
Seasoned with bay leaves, garlic, Moore’s go-to: Texas Pete, and the nostalgic flavors of 7 Up, this pickled shrimp recipe packs tangy flavor into each bite, making them the ideal shareable snack.
This recipe produces nine dozen crisp and lemony cookies, and you’re going to need that many. Place a tray or tin of these anywhere near the table, and it will soon be swimming with hands and left with nothing but crumbs.
Watermelon and hibiscus are integral ingredients for Juneteenth, as both have African origins. This mocktail incorporates these flavors with layers of citrus for a refreshing companion to a heavy picnic meal.
If you’d like to pick up one of Ricky Moore’s Juneteenth boxes, order here. These are in limited supply, so plan ahead!
- by Erin Byers Murray