Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


Soup Season is Coming!

You don’t want to miss out an all of the bounty soup provides – long, slow simmering, delicious aromas, and incredible tasting food.  Here’s a beautiful recipe for shrimp bisque from today’s post and my soon-to-be-released new book:

Luscious crab bisque recipe from The French Cook - Soups and Stews (Gibbs Smith, Sept. 1, 2014). Photo by Chia Chong.

Luscious crab bisque recipe from The French Cook – Soups and Stews (Gibbs Smith, Sept. 1, 2014). Photo by Chia Chong.

Bon appetit!


Revolutionary in More Ways than One

 The Obstinate Daughter

Here is a link from yesterday’s post on The Permant Tourist Charleston about this brand new, shining restaurant on Sullivan’s Island:


Peas and Carrots (lower left) and SC Peach Salad from The Obstinate Daughter.

Peas and Carrots (lower left) and SC Peach Salad from The Obstinate Daughter.


Looking Back, Moving Forward

In some ways, 2012 was, for me, the year that wasn’t. At least six months of it weren’t fun, were definitely very painful, and the last three months of the year, even walking wasn’t possible. So, nearly all of the things I enjoy in work and life (dining, cooking, writing, tennis, long walks) were off the table for much of the year. Fortunately, reading was a readily indulged passion and I finally found the pesky pain culprit (avascular necrosis in my left hip ball). With oustanding medical help, a great surgeon and the passage of healing time, it’s now fixed and the future looks bright in 2013.

Thank goodness and there is so much on the plate. Starting with a new book (that I was able to complete last winter and summer) release on March 1, 2013. The French Cook: Sauces is a fun, saucy and informative cookbook on classic French sauces and I’m really excited about the recipes, design, photography – everything!

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick

The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbes Smith, March 1, 2013) by Holly Herrick


And, here’s a picture of one of my favorite recipes in the book,  luscious, sweet Lowcountry shrimp married with a beautiful, buttery red curry sauce. Like all of the recipes in the book, I had a ball balancing classic French technique with fresh product and flavor pairing inspiration. There are over 50 recipes in the book. I can’t wait to see it and I hope you feel the same way.

Beautiful Lowcountry Shrimp in a Rich, Buttery Curry Sauce

Beautiful Lowcountry Shrimp in a Rich, Buttery Curry Sauce

So, as I start looking forward to 2013, I have the promise of promoting this book in the spring, and several new projects to begin. First, the second book in the same (new) series,  The French Cook: Eclairs and Cream Puffs (Sweet and Savory).  I’m underway in my kitchen and having a ball, literally, within the extremely diverse and beautiful world of cream puffs and eclairs.

In between takes, and likely on weekends, I’m going to begin work on my first-ever novel,  a debut in a culinary romance novel series. I have a top-secret title I love (I always begin with a title) and am getting an airtight  case on the plot which will involve at least one French chef and will take place in Paris and somewhere else in the U.S. Voila! It promises to be slightly naughty, but nice, and full of all things delicious and fun.

Finally, it’s time to put together a revision to The Charleston Chef’s Table Cookbook. First published in 2009 (Globe Pequot Press), so many wonderful, exciting and delicious additions to the dining scene have since happened and many new trends developed, especially in 2012.  Certainly, Sean Brock and Husk lead the extreme localvore, Southern devotee parade with the opening of  this award-winning restaurant, a trend we saw deliciously extend its march onward (much of it on or near Upper King) in restaurants such as The Lot, Butcher & Bee, Two Borough’s Larder ,The Grocery, and The Macintosh to name just a few.

I think 2013 will bring Charleston continued culinary excellence. My personal wish list includes a greater expansion into ethnic restaurants or dining options (as we have seen in food trucks),  such as the Vietnamese twists we’re seeing with CO and Phuong. Maybe add Moroccan to the list (ideally at the exotic former Saracen location) and/or some crazy good out of this world Chinese? As an admitted francophile, I’d be delighted to see a very romantic, very French bistro serving exquisitely prepared yet price accessible French bistro fare somewhere in another area that is growing nearly as fast as Upper King, North Charleston, peut-etre?

Meanwhile, I have plenty of targets on my list to visit, research and write about on this blog for the new Chef’s Table revisions as we begin unpeeling the delicious Charleston restaurant layers in 2013. These include closer looks at The Ordinary, Stars, Carter’s Kitchen, Rutledge CAB Company (when it’s open), and many, many more.

Yes, indeed, I think that 2013 will bring many wonderful culinary surprises to beautiful Charleston and I look forward to uncovering them and describing them to you on this blog. So thankful to be “kicking” again and for your loyalty. Bon appetit and a Happy, Healthy New Year!



Bechamel Embellished

Voila!  The stock and fumet chapter is put to bed, so now it’s onto bechamel in the new sauce book. Some might argue, and in fact some of my friends have, that bechamel is boring. One of the five French mother sauces, I agree that it is certainly basic. It’s a simple white roux, sometimes flavored with a bit of onion and finished with milk and/or cream and seasoning.

But to me, that’s a huge part of bechamel’s beauty. The simple flavor backdrop and creamy, slightly thick consistency sets a dynamic flavor potential stage that help it evolve into anything from a Nantua to a Soubise with the addition of herbs, stock, cheese, or really just about anything that makes sense depending on what you’re pairing it with. Consider a chive and Parmesan bechamel over soft-scrambled eggs and toast or seasoned with mushrooms and wine as a tasty pasta topper? The possibilities are literally endless!

Not just a sauce, bechamel is also the tasty glue that holds together casseroles and gratins, as it does in this recipe I tested in my kitchen yesterday.

Crunchy Crustacean Gratin


The inspiration for the recipe came from a visit to my local fish monger. I found some gorgeous seasonal shrimp and some beautiful fresh stone crab (one pound of each). I crushed the crab with a mallet, leaving the raw flesh in place, and peeled and de-veined the shrimp. Both the crab and the shrimp shells went into a large pot with a bit of butter and a finely chopped leek and a finely chopped small onion. After it softened, I deglazed the pan with a fat splash of Chardonnay, reduced it down, added 8 cups of water, and allowed the whole thing to simmer lightly, skimming along the way (see previous post) until it reduced by half. Then, I strained the entire fumet, discarding the solids, returned it to the pan and reduced it until it was down to a cup of liquid. The result is known as a glace – in this case a crustacean glace. Two tablespoons of this were whisked into the bechamel, along with some herbs and seasonings to top the beautiful fresh shrimp and some more lump crab. The result was creamy, rich goodness that utterly defies the concept of a boring bechamel! Sacre bleu!

Crunchy Crab and Shrimp Gratin

(Makes 8 to 10 portions)

Basic Bechamel

1 shallot, finely chopped

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons All Purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cold skim milk

1 cup cold Half & Half

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and shallot and sweat to soften, for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the flour and whisk to incorporate. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes, whisking, and avoiding coloring the roux. Add the milk and Half and Half all at once, whisking to incorporate smoothly. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the bechamel up to a gentle boil. Reduce heat slightly, and continue cooking until thickened enough to coat a spoon and the flour flavor has cooked out – about 5 minutes. Season careful to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve warm for the gratin recipe, which only uses half of this recipe. The rest will store fine in the refrigerator for a couple days until you’re ready to make those eggs!

For the gratin:

1/2 recipe Basic Bechamel (above)

1 tablespoon sweet Vermouth

2 tablespoons of crustacean glace (see top of the column for instructions on preparation) OR substitute best quality fish stock or clam juice

2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Generous dash Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 pound shrimp, peeled, de-veined and coarsely chopped

1 pound lump crab meat

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs tossed with 4 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare the basic bechamel. Divide in half reserving the remainder for future use. While still warm, whisk in the Vermouth, glace, scallions, parsley, Old Bay Seasoning, Tabasco, lemon juice. Taste carefully and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, arrange the shrimp in the bottom of a shallow,   baking dish or pie pan. Top with an even layer of the crab. Pour the bechamel over the top, spreading with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with a layer of the bread crumbs. Bake until golden and bubbling, 20 – 25 minutes. Serve warm! All this needs is a small salad to be a meal, and also makes a great appetizer with toast points.

Bon appetit!


Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats Set Sail For Seamless Entertaining

The last year and a half has been so crazy busy in my world, I’ve rarely had time to settle into one of my favorite things in the world to do, simple, joyful cooking. The only thing that has that beat, is cooking for friends, which is something I enjoyed doing this weekend. Planning the menu, doing the prep, setting the table, and all the things that go into making a successful meal, set the groove for a happy mood and an enjoyable meal.

Appetizers are the starting point for any meal, and as such, are perhaps one of the most crucial components to set a successful, tasty entertaining stage. I came across some beautiful, fresh local shrimp at the market, and decided to put them to use in appetizers. I liked the idea of shrimp salad – a Southern staple after all – but wanted to keep it super light and sophisticated. So, the mayo and calorie count is really low, and the flavor comes mostly from fresh lime juice and zest, and oodles of finely chopped fresh chives. Instead of bread, I decided to use delicate, crunchy endive leaves to “wrap” the salad into individual bites. It works nicely, but bread will do just fine, too.

For this salad, I roasted the shrimp, a trick I picked up from The Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten. Roasting at a high heat takes just minutes and really helps preserve the flavor and the nutrients of the shrimp. The best part about all of this? You can prep the salad the day ahead and scoop the salad into the boats as your guests are arriving, which is exactly how it played out at my house on Sunday night.

These would look beautiful on your Easter or any spring holiday table. Happy holidays and happy cooking!

Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats


Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats

(Makes about 12 appetizer servings)

3/4 of a pound fresh, shelled shrimp, de-veined and rinsed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Generous dash Tabasco Sauce

1 shallot, finely chopped

Zest of 1 lime, finely chopped

Juice of 1/2 lime

3 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 – 2 Belgian endive lettuce heads, trimmed, rinsed, separated and patted dry.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Arrange the shrimp on a roasting sheet and toss to coat with the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 3 minutes, or until just opaque and lightly pink. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, chop the shrimp very finely (see picture). Place the chopped shrimp in a medium bowl and combine with the mayonnaise, Tabasco, chopped shallot, lime zest, lime juice, and chopped chives. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Note: This can be prepared up to one day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator).

To prep the endives, trim a bit from their root base and remove any tattered, browned outer leaves. The leaves that are inside are a bit sturdier and best for the boats in this recipe. They can also be prepped ahead, but store them in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel. They should not be exposed to open air or they may discolor.

To finish the boats, simply scoop a rounding, heaping tablespoon into the center of each boat. Top with a drizzle of fresh chives, if desired. Arrange prettily on an attractive service plate.


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