I recently dined at the Twisted Fork in Raleigh and had the best dish ever – sweet tea chicken. How someone ever thought of combining the two loves of North Carolina – chicken and sweet tea – I will never know. But I am so thankful that they did. I don’t know how you collect your Specialty of the House recipes, but this would be at the top of my list to see in The News & Observer.
One of the Rocky Top Hospitality restaurants (a locally owned group that also includes Draft, Tribeca Tavern and the new Daily Planet Café in the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences), Twisted Fork will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Key to the restaurant’s enduring popularity is a menu whose playful twists on American cuisine are matched by a dining room with a fun, family-friendly vibe.
Chef Monte Tunnell’s sweet tea-brined chicken is a prime example. A native of Eastern North Carolina, Tunnell got his culinary degree at Johnston & Wales and interned at 18 Seaboard in Raleigh.
The young chef went on to work at the acclaimed Print Works Bistro in Greensboro, where he found a mentor in executive chef John Jones. He credits Jones with the inspiration for a dish that has become a favorite at Twisted Fork.
“I stole it,” he said, quickly adding that he first got Jones’ permission to use the recipe.
Tunnell does give the formula a few tweaks of his own from time to time, among them omitting the lemongrass entirely. “I’ve found it doesn’t affect the flavor that much,” he said, in reassurance to home cooks who might have trouble finding the fresh herb in local markets.
In the spirit of the season, Tunnell also shares his variation on the sweet-tea brine for a holiday turkey. For anyone who just finished roasting a bird for Thanksgiving and would like to do something a little different with the Christmas turkey, it might just be the refreshing twist you’re looking for.
Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your name and city, to Specialty of the House, c/o The News & Observer or e-mail email@example.com.
For a printable copy of the recipes, click the links: