Unwrap a Charleston Food Tradition at Your Christmas Table
Shrimp and grits has become the epitome of elegance; the heart of Charleston cuisine in the minds of many. Originally a simple, quick stew served over long-simmered and stirred grits to feed fishermen after a day at sea, it’s now a principal player at many of Charleston’s best restaurants and locals’ holiday tables.
Donald Barickman, founding chef at Magnolias, often gets credit for putting grits on the elegance map with the addition of cream to his version dating back 30 years ago. But, I contend its rise to prominence has just as much to do with the excellence of its two main ingredients. The shrimp that inhabits through Charleston’s waters is uniquely delicious. The tidal flows and the grassy marshes both nurture and protect the shrimp, a prince of a shrimp habitat, that yields a sweet, buttery brine unlike any other, white and brown varieties alike. And, the grits. There are quick and mass-produced varieties available, but served over organic, stone-ground grits available from Anson Mills , you’re in for a toothsome, incomparable, and authentic treat.
This version from Old Village Post House Inn‘s former chef de cuisine, Jim Walker, and featured in The New Charleston Chef’s Table, uses both. I love this recipe because it’s not very complicated, it’s beautiful, delicious, and relatively easy to prep ahead and finish at the last minute. It’s one of the dishes most requested by my cooking class students and it’s especially enjoyable to prepare, the sweet and piquant fragrance filling the air as it cooks -shrimp, country ham, Cajun seasonings, and andouille sausage. A celebration not just of the season, but of Charleston, it would be a fabulous choice to head your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day table. Do try and get your hands on fresh, wild caught shrimp if you cannot find fresh, local Charleston shrimp and serve it over stone-ground grits. It really makes a difference. I use the shells from the shrimp to cook down with some water into a quick glaze to add to the final sauce or “gravy,” which can be strained and whisked in with the butter (see directions) at the last second.
Old Village Post House Inn Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits
(Serves 4 to 6)
For the grits:
8 cups water
3 cups stone-ground grits
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the shrimp sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 3/4 pounds Thibodeaux’s andouille sausage (or substitute another brand), but into approximately 28 1/2-inch thick slices
1 cup cubed country ham (cut into a 1/4-inch thick dice)
1 1/4 pounds large (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup peel and seeded tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup scallions, finely sliced
4 teaspoons garlic, minced
4 teaspoons Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning (suggest R.L. Schreiber brand)
1 cup salt-free chicken stock
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To prepare the grits, bring the water to a boil over high heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the grits, stir, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk or flat-tipped wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring, until thickened (the grits should plop like thick cornbread batter), 30-40 minutes. Turn off the burner and let stand covered, so the grits can continue to slowly absorb the water, for 1 – 2 hours.
Just before serving, reheat the grits over medium heat, stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and heavy cream, stirring to incorporate. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before serving, prepare the shrimp sauce. Heat the oil over high heat in a large, deep saute pan. When hot and sizzling, add the sausage and country ham. Saute, tossing until the sausage and ham begin to turn golden and caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the shrimp, tomato, scallions, minced garlic, and Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning. Saute for another 3 minutes, being sure to combine well and coat the ingredients evenly with the seasoning. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the butter and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, another 1 – 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the grits into shallow bowls and top with the sauce. Serve immediately.
With best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful holiday and Christmas season. I promise you, your guests will love this. Not only is it delicious, it is beautiful. For all of these reasons and more, it is featured on the cover of The New Charleston Chef’s Table – which, by the way, makes a beautiful gift for the food and Charleston-lover in your life.
Bon appetit! You can always visit me here with any questions, comments or to book a cooking class or culinary tour. Look for details soon on Cracking the Cookbook Code, a cookbook writing, marketing, and photography retreat I’ll be hosting early next spring with my wonderfully talented friend, culinary professional, blogger, and photographer, Beckie Carrico Hemmerling. Until next time, stay safe, warm, happy, and well fed.
Buttery Parsley Rutabaga Mash
It may be considered a humble root vegetable, but the knobby rutabaga is transformed into nutty, buttery elegance in this sunset-yellow mash, lightened by a bit of Yukon Gold potato and made silky with butter, sour cream, and colorful flavor flecks of fresh parsley. The potatoes add fluff while the rutabaga adds girth and the kind of flavor that stands up perfectly to beef rib roast, pork, turkey or duck at the holiday table. It’s so delicious, I eat it straight out of the bowl. It could easily play a starring role at a vegetarian holiday table, as well. It is super easy to prepare and can be made a day or two ahead and reheated just before serving.
Ingredients and Method
(Yields 4 to 6 servings)
1 medium rutabaga
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
Water to cover
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Using a sharp paring knife or small chef’s knife, remove the outer skin as well as the tough 1/4-inch thick inner skin of the rutabaga. Cut into 2-inch cubes and place in a medium pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until the rutabaga starts to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to summer another 20 minutes, until both the potatoes and rutabaga are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
Strain in a colander and return to the pan with the sour cream, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash with a manual masher or immersion blender until chunky smooth. (If preparing ahead, stop at this point and refrigerate 1 – 2 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator). Just before serving, heat through over medium heat, stir in parsley, and adjust seasonings or add a few tablespoons vegetable stock, chicken stock or water, as needed. Serve warm.
Wishing everyone a beautiful holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate. May it be joyful, blessed, full of cheer, and especially delicious. Remember you can always check in here with any questions about my recipes, cooking classes, and of course, beautiful Charleston.
Lewis Barbecue’s Hatch Green Corn Pudding Makes Perfect Thanksgiving Fare
Everyone has favorite side dish traditions at Thanksgiving. In my house, it’s cornbread sausage stuffing, smashed rutabagas with parsley and butter, mashed potatoes, and shaved, butter braised Brussels sprouts. They’ll appear again this year, but I think it’s always a good plan to give the annual side traditions a little kick in the pan and try something new. Lewis Barbecue‘s John Lewis’s Hatch Green Chile Corn Pudding is as natural as barbecue is to his native Texas. This pudding is a top-selling side as his popular, big-as-Texas restaurant located on the upper peninsula in Charleston, SC, is utterly delicious and easy to prepare. It would shine as a side star with beef, ham, or turkey. It is featured in The New Charleston Chef’s Table Cookbook (Globe Pequot Press, May 2018). Here’s an excerpt from the book and the recipe:
…”They come in droves for his prime brisket (Lewis calls it the highest quality and so well marbled it practically bastes itself), beef short ribs, beef back ribs, and more, all cut to order and served on butcher paper. Lewis serves sauce on the side if desired. “Typically the Texas barbecue sauce is a red, ketchup-based sauce with a lot of black pepper and some chiles,”says Lewis.
Sauce or no, it’s not barbecue without the sides. Because Lewis wasn’t willing to share his smoking, rub, or sauce recipes, we decided to use this sweet, creamy, crusty on the bottom corn pudding (in this book). Lewis grew up in El Paso near his great grandparent’s chile farm in Hatch, New Mexico, where the chile in the pudding is grown. “It’s similar to an Anaheim, but it’s a bit spicier with a grassy flavor. It picks up the flavor of the terroir in Hatch,” says Lewis. If you can’t find one, substitute Anaheim peppers, or used canned Hatch peppers already roasted and peeled. Lewis prefers a top quality, high-end cast iron pan, because the iron is denser and less porous so stuff doesn’t stick to it too much. Get the cast iron hot in the oven first, before putting in the pudding mixture. It will ensure a super crispy bottom, “almost like a Detroit style pizza,” says Lewis.
Hatch Green Chile Corn Pudding
(Serves 4 – 6)
2-3 Hatch green chiles
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
3 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from one ear of fresh corn)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
Roast the Hatch green chiles over a hot, open flame until the skins blacken and separate (about 4-5 minutes on each side). Place the roasted chiles in a plastic bag and allow them to steam (in their own heat) for 1 hour. Peel the skins and remove the seeds, discarding both the seeds and the charred skins. In a food processor, roughly chop the chiles. This should yield about 1/4 cup roasted chiles. Defrost the frozen corn kernels and chop in a food processor until pureed.
Combine the flour, yellow cornmeal, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder, and granulated garlic in a mixing bowl and blend together until homogenous. In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the heavy cream. Add the frozen corn puree, chopped and roasted Hatch green chiles, cubed mild cheddar cheese, and fresh corn kernels. Pour the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients. Whisk together until homogenous.
Preheat the oven to 375F with a medium cast iron pan. When hot, take the heated cast iron pan out of the oven and add the butter. Allow butter to heat until foaming and milk solids are lightly toasted. Be sure to allow the butter to fully coat the bottom. Pour the corn pudding batter into the hot cast iron pan with foaming butter. Sprinkle the shredded mild cheddar cheese on the batter and return to the oven. Cook for 30 minutes at 375F. The cheese should be nicely browned and the pudding should be set, but not firm in the center. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and serve warm.
(Note: prep the base puree for this recipe ahead and finish/bake while the turkey is resting/sliced. It can wait up to 30 minutes before slicing).
Wishing everyone a beautiful, truly delicious, safe, and peaceful Thanksgiving! This is one of 80 delicious recipes in this beautiful cookbook/coffee table/travel book, which makes the perfect holiday gift for the cook and Charleston-lover in your life. It’s available at all major bookstores, many Indie bookstores, and Amazon.
Warm Up Thanksgiving with This Exceptional Soup Recipe
In the cooler months, my kitchen counter is permanently decorated with an array of winter squashes. Hubbard, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, turban – whatever I can find at the grocery store or farmers’ market. They serve the dual purpose of appealing to my aesthetic senses as well as fueling my appetite for seasonal cooking. All winter squashes shine especially brightly in soups, which magnify their flavor and color intensity and smooth texture beautifully. Thankfully, the heirloom varieties (my current favorite is Hubbard) are increasingly available. Lately, I’ve been roasting Hubbard squash, halved and skin-side down in a hot oven (425F) until very soft. Once cool, I mash the flesh with a splash of salt and pepper, cinnamon, perhaps a bit of maple syrup and a pat of butter. It has an exquisite bright orange color and possesses deep, rich winter squash flavor. With a sauteed filet of salmon or cod, it makes a complete and very satisfying meal.
The acorn squash in this soup is treated similarly and finished with minimalist ingredients so the clean, earthy squash flavor takes center stage. The maple syrup is cooked into the soup with just a few more ingredients and the elegance of shallots and a tiny bit of cream. It is pureed to a velvety finish with an immersion blender or a food processor. Because it is so elegant, delicious, seasonal, and just the right, light weight, it is the perfect way to kick off any special meal, especially Thanksgiving. The reverence and gratitude associated with Thanksgiving make soup the perfect starter – a slow and easy debut that gives you and your guests time to sink their hearts and minds into the occasion, pausing for reflection and slow sipping as they go. It also gives the turkey and the cook a little much needed time to rest before the gigantic feast begins.
This Maple Acorn Squash Soup from Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) was inspired by the maple syrup and butter-filled acorn squash halves my mother made often for my brothers and sisters when we were children. Do use real maple syrup. It makes a huge difference in the authenticity of the soup’s flavor.
Maple Acorn Squash Soup
(Yields 6 to 8 Servings)
2 large acorn squash, halved horizontally and seeded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and halved vertically
Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional but delicious!)
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Preheat oven to 425F (22oC). Place the acorn squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the flesh is very tender. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the interior of the squash, discarding the shells. You should have about 4 cups.
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until just softened. Add the ginger, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and bourbon; stir to combine. Cook until the bourbon has reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, water, squash, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer, cooking, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove ginger pieces and discard.
In the same pot, puree the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. Finish with the cream, heating through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot in individual soup bowls garnished with a flutter of fresh chives. (Note: The soup can be prepared ahead a day or 2 and refrigerated, but remember to add the cream and the chives when reheating, not prior).
Wishing everyone a beautiful, happy and delicious Thanksgiving!
Destination Heaven for Lunch and a Beach Stroll at The Sanctuary’s Jasmine Porch – And a Book Give Away
I’ve lived long enough to know, if you’re not careful, that it’s too easy to take people, places and things for granted. Even more so, perhaps, living in beauty and nature-kissed Charleston. It’s one of the most popular vacation and wedding destinations in the world, yet it takes a visitor from out of town this weekend to remind me of Kiawah Island, a gorgeous barrier island just about forty-five minutes from greater Charleston. Though short in distance, the travel along live oak and Spanish moss canopied drives with sweeping marsh vistas delivers a transformation so complete that by the time you’ve passed through the gates to Kiawah, you feel like you’ve landed someplace divine and are shifted into extreme relaxation gear as if by osmosis.
Initially, we had planned to visit Kiawah’s public beach, but since it was lunch time, we decided to visit Jasmine Porch at The Sanctuary, a luxurious destination anytime of the year, but particularly welcome at the debut of the week and the off-season. The massive, early 19th-century inspired and elegant lobby with views of a sparkling Atlantic almost within reach felt almost like our own private mansion, so scarcely was it populated on a recent Monday early afternoon.
Jasmine Porch is the sister restaurant to the ultra elegant Ocean Room and is situated on the ground floor at The Sanctuary off the main lobby. The food is described as Lowcountry bistro. Here, more than you might expect at a resort, the Lowcountry notes are strictly adhered to by purist and talented Chef Jeremiah Holst, who buys only from local (and seriously vetted) producers of local produce and fishermen. Strict attention to culinary detail is evident in the layered nuisances of the she crab bisque – the flavors of the long-simmered crustacean, the shells’ natural color, nutty butter, and just the right amount of sherry and thickening with Charleston’s own Carolina Gold rice. The same is abundantly evident in the flaky, hot biscuits, and smoky hot pimiento cheese spread, garnished with pickled okra.
Other notables on the lunch menu include the plucky fried green tomatoes, with a delicate touch of acidity countered by the cooling and extreme crunch of a well seasoned panko crust, and chef Holst’s pristine version of shrimp and grits. For dessert, try the moist, fragrant coconut cake layered with crispy shards of shaved coconut and butter cream and served on a cold, silky creme anglaise with notes of fresh vanilla. First-class service from the entire staff makes a visit to Jasmine Porch even more sweet. All this for just $100 (or so including a three-course lunch for two with cocktails and a tip) followed by a complimentary, lingering stroll on a wide and very lightly traveled off-season beach on a sparkling October afternoon felt like an investment with lifelong memory dividends. If you feel like staying for dinner, visit the luxurious Ocean Room, featured in my latest release, The New Charleston Chef’s Table.
The New Charleston Chef’s Table Give Away!
Just in time for the holidays, I’m offering a complimentary, signed and delivered copy of my latest cookbook, The New Charleston Chef’s Table (retails $29.95) featuring The Ocean Room and some eighty delicious dining destinations, recipes, Charleston history and culinary lore and gorgeous photography to a randomly selected individual from comments/responses to this blog post. Tell me what you love about Charleston, restaurants, or even just why you want this book for you or someone you love, and I’ll post the winner on Friday, November 9. I look forward to hearing from you.
Bon appetit! Holly