Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


WildFlour Makes Charleston Sundays Even Sweeter

Sundays are all about Sticky Buns at WildFlour Pastry in downtown Charleston.

Oven-warm cinnamon bun from WildFlour's Sticky Bun Sunday.

Oven-warm cinnamon bun from WildFlour’s Sticky Bun Sunday.

Here’s the link from yesterday’s The Permanent Tourist Charleston

post to learn more about this special weekly event:

Bon appetit, and remember to come visit me there and invite any friends who may be interested in learning about all of the wonderful things to do, places to see, and wonderful restaurants in beautiful Charleston.



Feisty Fried Shrimp and Grit Pockets

As Super Bowl mania mounts,  my thoughts (and likely yours) turn to feeding the hungry, fervent, largely male masses on game day. There are so many more delicious options than blah pigs in a blanket, team! Get out of the pocket with these tasty little morsels, one of my favorite recipes from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, and Sweet. They’re really perfect for entertaining any day of the year.

(Adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory, and Sweet, Gibbs Smith, October 2011)

These surprise hot pockets, with their perfect crunch and ooze factor, make idyllic party food or can be a central player for a Sunday brunch buffet. The best game plan is to prep the fillings and the pastry the day before, fill them on cooking day, keep cold for several hours, and fry or bake just before serving.

Feisty Fried Shrimp and Grits Pockets. Photo by Helene Dujardin.


Feisty Fried Shrimp and Grits Pockets

(Makes 24  pockets)

Equipment needed: 4-inch round pastry cutter, large pot for deep-frying

2 batches Master Savory Pastry

2 1/2 cups White Lily all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

2 sticks (1 cup) AA grade unsalted butter, very cold and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

About 3 tablespoons ice -cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together

Grits Filling

3/4 cup yellow stone ground grits

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

3/4 cup grated Gouda cheese

Shrimp Filling

3 strips bacon

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 stalk celery, trimmed and finely chopped

1/4 dry white wine

1 1/2 cups boxed seafood stock

Generous dash hot sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped

4 scallions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoon cream

1 tablespoon herbes de Provence or dried thyme

3 thin slices prosciutto, cut into thin strips

1 teaspoon honey

1 pound fresh white or brown shrimp, peeled, deveined, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable, canola or peanut oil

Sliced scallion, for garnish, optional

Chopped parsley, for garnish, optional.

Begin by making the pastry, ideally a full day ahead. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour and salt until blended. Add the butter. Quickly, pulse the butter 40 – 50 times until it’s the size of large grains or very small peas. Drizzle the ice cold water through the mouth of the processor, pulsing as you go. Stop pulsing when the pastry comes together in a clumsy, bumpy, loose ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into the form of a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least three hours or overnight. Prepare a second batch using the same master savory pastry recipe and repeat the directions outlined above.

The day before service, prepare the grits filling. Bring the grits, half-and-half, water, salt and pepper to a boil in a medium pot over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Reduce to a low simmer and continue whisking regularly. Add more water as needed and adjust seasonings carefully along the way. Count on about 30 minutes for the grits to cook. The grits are done when they’re tooth-tender but still have a tiny “bite.” Remove from the heat, whisk in the cheese until melted, and set aside to cool. Refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.

To prepare the shrimp filling, cook bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and golden, turning once or twice. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Discard all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat and continue. Heat over medium-low heat and add the butter, garlic and celery. Cook about 5 minutes, until just softened. Add wine and seafood stock and cook over medium heat until reduced by two-thirds. Add hot sauce, Worcestershire, tomatoes, scallions, ketchup, cream, herbes de Provence or thyme, prosciutto, and honey. Cook through for a few minutes. At the last minute, season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble the reserved bacon and stir in along with the raw shrimp. Stir through just to coat. (Note: You don’t really want to cook the shrimp at this point, as they will cook when frying. Be careful to barely heat the shrimp through, or they will be tough. Remove shrimp from the heat and refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.)

On the day of service, several hours before serving, roll out the pastry, one batch at a time, into about 1/4-inch thick, even thickness. Cut the pastry into 4-inch rounds, lightly dusted with flour, and arrange neatly on a baking pan. Chill the rounds for 20 minutes to 1 hour. To fill the pockets, place 1 tablespoon of the cold grits on the right side of the circle, flattening gently with the back of a spoon. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the cooled shrimp mixture, leaving 1/4-inch naked pastry border. Seal gently with your fingertips, then press the border gently with the tines of a fork to seal. The pockets should look like fat, crimped pastry crescent moons. Continue until all the pastry and filling has been used. Chill pockets for 30 minutes and up to several hours, covered lightly with plastic wrap.

About 40 minutes before serving, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Heat oil of choice in a large pot over medium-high heat, until 360-375 degrees F., or until the oil begins to squirm and zigzag around the bottom of the pan and sizzles aggressively when the pastry enters the pan. Fry in batches of 2 or 3 pockets, gently placing each into the hot oil (do not plop or you might get burned)! Cook for 7 minutes, or until the pockets float on top and are deep, golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Keep warm in the preheated oven while frying the remainder. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh scallions or parsley if desired.

(Note: If you want to save calories and avoid frying, ditch the oil/frying step and simply preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the prepped pockets, spaced and in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 25 minutes, or until golden. Be sure to give the pockets a gentle egg wash glaze before popping them into the oven).

Game on! May the best team (and pocket!) win.

For more sample recipes from Tart Love, or to buy the book, please visit the link below.


Summertime is Peach and Sweet Tea Time

What a summer it’s been! Record-breaking heat, rock’n roll world economy, riots in London – craziness! It all just makes you want to reach for a peach – the ultimate heat-buster and soul-soother. And, the great news is that, at least in South Carolina, it’s been a banner year for peaches. They are as sweet and juicy as I can ever remember.  This tart, adapted from Tart Love – Sassy, Savory and Sweet (Gibbs Smith, October, 2011) makes sweet use of one of summer’s sweetest, coolest fruits. Happy cooking!

(Photo by Helene Dujardin)

Sweet Green Tea Cream and Fresh Peach Tart with “Grawnola” Crunch

(Makes about 12 servings)

In the Deep South, where I live, sweet tea is consumed by the thirsty gallons during the sweltering months of July and August, which also happens to be peak peach season. Voila! Inspiration for these refreshing and light tarts!

The creamy filling, which forms the flavor backbone of the pastry cream, is infused with both green and peach tea. Underneath the pastry cream sits the curious crunch of a fabulous “raw” variation on granola that can be purchased online at Or substitute another lightly sweetened granola of choice. In addition to the pleasing crunch, putting the granola underneath the pastry cream protects the pastry from getting soggy. Enjy these pretty-as-a-peach fresh treats!

(Note: Do NOT substitute the cream with a lower fat product like milk or half-and-half or the cream will curdle once the lemon juice is added.

Equipment Needed: Two 13 X 4 X 1-inch rectangular tart pans with removable bottoms

1 Recipe Master Sweet Pastry

2 1/4 cups White Lily all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

Generous pinch sea salt or kosher salt

2 sticks (1 cup) AA grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ cubes

About 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, or just enough to hold the pastry together

Egg wash (yolk, splash water, pinch salt blended together)

Pastry Cream:

2 1/4 cups whole cream 

1 bag each green tea and peach tea

6 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of 2 lemons

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Tart Filling:

1 cup grawnola or branch of your choice, crumbled into small pieces

8 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup peach or apricot jelly

Confectioners sugar for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare the Master Sweet Pastry.  In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade, pulse together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse, 40 – 50 times, or until the butter is crumbly like large sand. Very slowly, drizzle the cold water through the mouth of the processor, pulsing constantly, until the pastry begins to form a very clumsy, loose ball. Turn out onto a floured surface, quickly form into a 2″-thick disk. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

Once chilled, turn out the pastry onto a floured surface. Cut it in half. Roll out the first half to 1/4″ thickness and line one of the tart pans with it, leaving a slightly elevated border, about 1/4″ high. Repeat with the second. Chill the lined tart pans for 20 minutes. Line both tarts with parchment paper and fill completely with dried beans or pie weights. Blind bake for about 25 minutes, until golden. Remove the pie weights and brush the sides and top with the egg wash. Bake 15 – 20 minutes more, or until the crust is completely baked and golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (Note: The tarts can be baked, cooled and sealed in an airtight container up to a full day in advance of filling them).

Prepare the pastry cream. Bring the cream up to a simmer in a medium-size pot over medium-high heat. Drop both tea bags into the cream and set aside to steep (i.e., infuse) for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whick eggs vigorously until they are light and lemon-colored. All at once, add the sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, zest, and juice. Continue whisking until thoroughly combined and light. Set aside.

Remove tea bags from the milk and squeeze gently to release any additional tea flavor. Discard bags. Bring the milk back up to a simmer. Secure the bowl containing the egg mixture by wrapping a damp kitchen towel, rat-tail style, around the bottom of the bowl so it will not move while you’re working. Slowly stream the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Once all of the milk has been poured into the bowl, return the entire mixture to the pan and continue cooking over medium heat a very gentle simmer, whisking constantly. The cream will thicken quickly, in about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and turn out into a clean bowl to cool. Cover the top tightly with plastic wrap, pressing onto the top of the cream to prevent air pockets. Refrigerate to cool and set completely, about 4 hours. (Note: This can be done a day in advance).

To assemble the tarts, crumble grawnola evenly into the bottom of each shell. Top with equal quantities of the cooled cream, spreading evenly with a spatula. Arrange sliced peaches into two attractive vertical rows. Keep the slices tight to one another, avoiding gaps. Heat the jam with a few drops of water in a small cup in the microwave on high for 3 seconds, or until soft and melted. Stir to blend, then brush the tops of the peaches, cream and edges of the tart with the glaze. Garnish the edges with a flurry of sifted confectioner’s sugar , if desired. Refrigerate until serving, no more than 3 or 4 hours for maximum freshness. 






Tasso Tussled Sweet Potato and Arugula Tartlets

These savory beauties would be perfect on any Easter or spring holiday table…Adapted from Tart Love – Savory, Sweet and Southern (Holly Herrick/Gibbs Smith). The lovely photo is by Helene Dujardin. Happy Easter and enjoy the beautiful weather and flavors of spring!

Sweet potatoes and arugula (also called “rocket”) grow best in the cooler seasons of fall and spring. Though sweet potatoes are often served loaded with sugar and fat at calorie-drunk Thanksgiving tables, they have a rich, nutty, savory flavor in their virgin state. Arugula provides a deep green color lining at the bottom of the tartlets that gives peppery taste surprise to every bite. Crumbled, candied pecans scattered over the top add just the right sweetness to counter the Cajun kick of tasso ham, which is prepared from cured and smoked pork butt. If you can’t find it, substitute pancetta or bacon, and feel free to spice either up with a little cayenne and fresh garlic as it cooks.

Makes 10 to 12 Tartlets

Equipment needed: Ten to twelve 3 5/8″ X 1″ tartlet pans with removable bottoms, 6″ round pastry cutter

For the pastry:

2 1/2 cups White Lily All Purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

2 sticks (or 1 cup) best quality, AA Grade unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ cubes

ice cold water – about 3 tablespoons or enough to just hold the pastry together

One egg wash – yolk, pinch salt, dash water, blended together

For the filling prep:

2 large sweet potatoes, skin on and pierced with a fork or knife

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup 1/4″ cubed tasso ham

4 cups coarsely chopped fresh arugula, stems removed

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the candied nuts:

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup fresh pecan halves, coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

To finish  the potato filling:

1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons honey, preferably good local honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup Half & Half

1 egg

Prepare the pastry first. Pulse the flour and the salt together in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a pastry blade. Add the butter and pulse until the butter breaks down into small pieces, about the size of peas (40 – 50 pulses). Gradually, add the water through the mouth of the food processor, while pulsing. Add just enough so that the pastry comes together in one large, loose ball. Turn it out on a lightly floured surface and form it into a 2″ thick disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or overnight.  Once the pastry has rested, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4″ thickness. Working tightly to avoid waste, cut rounds with the pastry cutter. Line the tartlet pans with the pastry, pressing the pastry delicately into the edges and forming a small 1/4″ high border. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line each tartlet with parchment paper and fill with about 1/4 cup of weights – dried beans, pie weights, and rice will all work. Arrange the tartlets on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes or until the pastry has begun to set. Remove the weights and their liners and brush the sides and bottom of the tartlets with the egg wash. Continue baking another 20 minutes or until golden brown and fully baked. Meanwhile, prepare the fillings.

While the pastry is baking, place the two sweet potatoes in the hot oven to bake, skin-on. Bake until softened, 40 – 50 minutes. Remove to cool at room temperature. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. When sizzling, add the tasso and brown, tossing from time to time, browning on all sides. This should take about 5 minutes. Add the arugula all at once, tossing or stirring to coat. It will wilt and break-down almost immediately. Cook only 1 – 2  minutes so that it retains its brilliant green color. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool, draining off any excess liquid.

Prepare the candied nuts. Heat the butter in a medium saute pan. When sizzling, add the pecans, salt and pepper, chipotle chili pepper, and sugar. Toss to coat, stirring occasionally. Cook until just browned. Watch carefully so the nuts do not burn! Count on about 5 minutes for the nuts to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, and place the cooked flesh in a large bowl with salt and pepper to tate, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup Half & Half, and one egg. Beat with a hand-held mixer on medium high until frothy and light, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

To compile the tartlets, line each with about 1 tablespoon of the cooled arugula mixture. Top with 3 tablespoons of the potato mixture. Arrange the tartlets on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for  35 -40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Finely chop the cooled nuts and drizzle the top of each tartlet with about 1 tablespoon of the nuts. Serve warm, drizzling lightly with a bit more honey, if desired.

Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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