Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

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News about Holly Herrick, her books, appearances and writing.

See Southern Living’s May Issue – On Stands Now

Southern Living Magazine generously devotes three pages to my new book, Southern Farmers Market Cookbook (Gibbs Smith), in this month’s (May) issue. You’ll find it in the South Carolina People & Places section. Check it out and see why it’s important to “buy local, buy right.” Look for the book at major bookstores and around town (including the Charleston Farmers Market) after June 1. It can be “viewed” and/or pre-ordered now at www.gibbs-smith.com and www.amazon.com.

Here’s a seasonal recipe from the book to whet your appetite for the glorious, local bounties of May. In this case, strawberries. In a week or two, it will be high time for blueberries, which would make a fine substitute for the strawberries in this salad.

Spinach and Mesclun Salad with Fresh Strawberries and Sweet-Hot Pecans
(Serves 6)

The earliest yield of Southern spring harvests include sweet, plump, ripe strawberries and tender leaves of spinach, mesclun, and baby lettuces. Paired with sugar and paprika-coated pecans pulled hot from the sauté pan, a pert vinaigrette and the clean bite of mint, these spring produce belles are as beautiful, yet demure, as can be. If you come across a mellow, soft local cheese, it would be lovely scattered across the top before serving.

14 large strawberries, halved (vertically)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

For the vinaigrette:

1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon local honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon sugar
Dash of paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 cups fresh spinach
4 cups mesclun
8 leaves fresh mint

Up to 1 hour before serving, combine the strawberries in a small bowl with the balsamic vinegar. Toss and marinate for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 1 hour. Strain the berries, reserving the juices; place berries in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the vinaigrette, combine the strained juices from the berries with the shallot, mustard, honey, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually incorporate 1/2 cup of the olive oil, whisking well to emulsify. Taste and verify seasonings.
Meantime, in a small sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pecans, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. Toss and watch, toasting until the nuts turn a light golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
To serve, toss the spinach, mesclun, minute leaves and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper together in a large bowl with a light dressing of the vinaigrette (you probably will only need about half – save the rest for later). Serve on individual plates or on a large platter garnished with the marinated strawberries and warm pecans.

Recipe from Southern Farmers Market Cookbook by Holly Herrick (Gibbs Smith, June, 2009)

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Musical Chef Chairs

Chefs around town are shifting their toques faster than the Charleston tides.

While some – like Ryan Herrman (formerly at Fish and is now executive chef at The Boathouse on East Bay), Nico Romo (a Frenchman who totes a hefty resume from impressive digs like The Ritz Carlton in Atlanta and is now executive chef at Fish) and Jeremiah Bacon (a Charleston native with experience at famed kitchens like Le Bernardin and Per Se and now executive chef at Carolina’s) – are setting up shop in long-standing restaurants, others have ventured out from under the safety of corporate umbrellas to start their own businesses.

The latter category includes Fred Neuville with a brand new restaurant baby named Fat Hen after a seven year-long stint at 39 Rue de Jean and later the Holy City Hospitality group and Jason Ulak’s split from The Boathouse on East Bay to help start up Uno Mas, a Mexican restaurant in Mount Pleasant.

It’s all enough to make your head spin and is, in some cases, borderline incestuous. Why so much movement in these lazy, hazy dog days of summer? Fred Neuville decided to make the move when the time was right and after having numerous discussions about it with his wife. “It was the right opportunity at the right time. I’ve built two restaurant groups for other people, and I felt that I was ready to do it for myself. Besides, I was dying to get over here (Johns Island) because there is so much opportunity,” says Neuville, of the restaurant’s location – just 9.5 miles from downtown. The restaurant serves “French Lowcountry” dishes like Duck Confit with Butter Beans and Garlic Spinach and makes multiple nods to Charleston’s French Hugeunot culinary traditions in the menu Neuville created from scratch.

Since both restaurants are so new (Fat Hen is just 11 days old as of today and Uno Mas is just a few months old), I’ll let them settle down before I check them out, but the new chefs at the established restaurants have already staked some impressive culinary strongholds. Most notably is Bacon’s trimming the fat from Carolina’s once (in places) cluttered and muddled dishes. Where there were once too many ingredients, now there are just enough. Carolina’s recent fresh-produce initiative, supplied by owner Richard Stoney’s family’s plantation gardens, was poppin’-fresh-apparent in everything I sampled. Old school Carolina’s fans will be happy to know that Bacon’s left the Shrimp and Crabmeat wontons and Perdita’s Fruits de Mer untouched. Carolina’s has never been finer, indeed.

Meanwhile, over at The Boathouse on East Bay (also owned by Stoney), Ryan Herrman is on a similar path after taking over the helm here two months ago. His goal is to be “for real” local produce/fish and “for real” sustainable seafood and to continue to make subtle changes in the menu. Not surprisingly, with Romo’s French roots, the new, streamlined menu at Fish features a good amount of classic technique and Asian twists on multiple dishes such as Shrimp Grits with a Miso Broth and Kona Kapachi with Parsnip Puree, Kumquat and Mustard Miso Sauce.

Featured restaurants:

Fish
442 King Street, downtown
(843) 937-0406
http://www.fishrestaurant.net/

Una Mas
880 Allbrighton Boulevard, Mt. Pleasant
(843) 856-4868

Fat Hen
3140 Maybank Highway, Johns Island
(843) 559-9090

The Boathouse on East Bay
549 East Bay Street, downtown
(843) 577-7171
http://www.boathouserestaurants.com/

Carolina’s
10 Exchange Street, downtown
(843) 724-3800
http://www.carolinasrestaurant.com/

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