smoked burgers from grace meat & three photo by carmen troesser

Meet the team at St. Louis’ Grace Meat & Three

After years frying chicken and slinging fried bologna sandwiches for other people at restaurants like Quincy Street Bistro and Southern, Rick Lewis finally has the independent venture he and his wife, Elisa Lewis, always wanted. They took a break from the happy chaos of opening Grace Meat & Three in The Grove to share a meal with staff at their riverside cabin just south of St. Louis, a favorite retreat from restaurant life.

On the team at Grace Meat & Three:
“When I came out of fine dining, I was very much a drill sergeant – I would try to beat stuff into people’s heads very aggressively. Over the years, I’ve learned that some people respond well to pushing them to strive for more. But some people, you have to take the time to hands-on show them. Some people you have to kind of cradle a little bit – and teach them and talk to them about it, show them how to do it. Everybody learns differently, and that’s something that should be respected.” – Rick Lewis

“It’s a tight family of people that all take pride in what we do, and they’re all working toward the common goal. I take a lot of pride in my team, and feel super blessed to have all of them onboard. There’s a huge sense of camaraderie and a sense of honor. When it’s time to be serious, everybody’s serious and working hard, and when it’s time to play, everybody’s playin’ hard.” – Rick Lewis

Fried Catfish Nuggets
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
6 to 8 servings

1 12-oz. can Busch beer
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
¾ tsp. fine sea salt, divided
3 lbs. catfish, cut into nuggets
2¾ cups cornmeal
¾ cup flour
½ cup cornstarch
1¾ Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. creole spice mix
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup corn oil or vegetable oil
Comeback Sauce, for dipping (recipe follows)

• In a large mixing bowl, combine the beer, garlic powder, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Submerge the catfish in the mixture and marinate 1 hour.

• In a large shallow baking dish, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, the remaining 1 tablespoon black pepper, cayenne, creole spice mix and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside.

• Preheat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, until it reaches 350 degrees.

• Remove the catfish and discard the marinade. Shake off any excess liquid. Dip in the buttermilk, shake off the excess, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture until evenly coated.

• Fry the catfish 3 minutes on each side until golden-brown. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately with Comeback Sauce for dipping.

Smoked Burgers
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
4 servings

2 lb. 50-50 ground brisket and top round or 80-20 ground beef
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. seasoning salt
4 slices white cheddar cheese
4 brioche buns
Caramelized Onions, to taste (recipe follows)
Pickles, to taste
Comeback Sauce, to taste (recipe follows)

• Prepare a charcoal grill for low, indirect heat. Soak a small chunk of oak or hickory wood in water.

• In a large bowl, mix the beef with the pepper and seasoning salt. Evenly divide the meat into 4 8-ounce portions.

• Add the soaked wood atop the coals. Smoke the patties over indirect heat until they reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 30 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

• Add fresh charcoal to the grill and arrange the coals for high, direct heat.

• Sear the meat over direct heat 2 minutes, then flip and sear 1 minute. Add the cheese to each patty and melt 1 minute, until the internal temperature of the burger reaches 145 degrees.

• Assemble the burgers atop the buns with the onions, pickles and Comeback Sauce to taste.

Comeback Sauce
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
About 1½ cups

1 cup Duke’s Mayo
¼ cup Heinz Chili Sauce
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. hot sauce

• Combine all ingredients in the pitcher of a blender and puree until combined. Refrigerate overnight, then serve as a condiment.

Caramelized Onions
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
About 1 cup

4 yellow or white onions, julienned
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. dry red wine
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

• In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring gently, until golden, 30 minutes.

• Add the wine to deglaze, then simmer until the wine is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.

• Deglaze with the Worcestershire, then simmer until the Worcestershire is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.

• Deglaze with the soy sauce, then simmer until the soy sauce is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.

Home Fries
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
4 to 6 servings

1 lb. baby red potatoes
¹∕³ cup lard or vegetable oil, for frying
1 cup chopped mixed herbs, like basil, celery leaves, mint, dill or cilantro
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and boil until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool.

• In a large skillet, warm the lard over medium-high heat.

• Cut the potatoes in quarters. Working in batches, add the potatoes to the skillet and fry, turning until brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel-lined plate to drain.

• Place in a serving bowl and toss with the herbs, salt and pepper to coat.

Mac n Cheese
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
10 to 12 servings

¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. chopped onion
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
¼ cup flour
2 cups whole milk
½ cup Busch beer
About 5 oz. shredded cheddar
About 5 oz. cubed Velveeta
About 2 oz. shredded gouda
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. hot sauce
¼ tsp. cayenne
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb. macaroni
2 eggs
2 cups breadcrumbs

• In a large saucepot over medium heat, saute the onion in butter until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the flour and whisk over medium heat, until a blond roux is formed, 5 to 7 minutes.

• Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in the milk and beer until thickened. Add the cheddar, Velveeta and gouda and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the bechamel. Whisk in the Worcestershire, hot sauce and cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm and set aside.

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 9-by-13-inch casserole dishes with nonstick spray.

• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and boil until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain.

• In a large mixing bowl, combine 3½ cups cheese sauce with the macaroni and eggs. Transfer to the casserole dishes and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Top each with 1 cup breadcrumbs and serve.

Three-Bean Salad
Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
4 to 6 servings

1 lb. assorted fresh, canned or dried (soaked overnight) beans, like green beans, lima beans, purple runner beans or yellow wax beans
¾ cup sugar
²∕³ cup rice wine vinegar
¹∕³ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped mixed herbs, like basil, celery leaves, mint, dill or cilantro

• Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath.

• Blanch the beans 1 minute in the boiling water, then shock in the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let cool, then drain the beans.

• In a large serving bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, olive oil, celery seed, pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and herbs to create a vinaigrette. Add the beans and toss to coat.