Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist


A Shrimp & Grits Christmas

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)

Shrimp & Grits from Old Village Post House Inn as featured in The New Charleston Chef’s Table (Globe Pequot Press, May, 2018) by Holly Herrick

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.


Cookbook Author and Nationally Awarded Food Writer, Holly Herrick. Photo by Helene Dujardin.




Fresh Potato, Onion and Sausage Hash

My most recent post at The Permanent Tourist-Charleston features two of spring’s most beloved ingredients – fresh potatoes and onions. Here’s a link to the post and the recipe.

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In the meantime, Happy Father’s Day!



Happy Father’s Day!

In yesterday’s The Permanent Tourist Charleston blog, I shared memories of my magnificent father, and thoughts on cooking for Dad on his big day. The post includes a delicious recipe, and an opportunity to win a copy of The French Cook: Sauces (Gibbs Smith).

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

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

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



Serving Dad, “McCaulio” Style

My father was (and is)  many things to many  people: a busy corporate executive over-seeing a large staff, a friend to  many, a close brother to his brothers Jim and John, a loyal husband, a veteran, a caring son to his father and mother, and a loving keeper of many animals, including his beloved horse Valiant.

But to me, he is simply Dad. The best kind of Dad. He’s the kind of Dad, despite his extremely demanding travel and career demands when the four of us were growing up, that was there. He was there for all the little league games, he was there (through example) to teach the important life lessons on the value of honesty and hard work, he was there to celebrate each of our joys, sorrows, and lives. Sweetly, he would bring my sister Heather and I little trinkets from his travels, a miniature Swiss clock from Geneva, or Madame Alexander dolls dressed up to represent their respective countries. He would set up camp under a tent in our rooms to tell “scary” stories of “Cookie” the hapless, good-hearted monster. He would scatter the eggs at the Easter hunts and put up the tree (and take it down) for what seems like an endless stream of Christmas’s past. He would eventually walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, a blend of pathos, pride and pure love apparent upon his handsome face and radiating from his beautiful, selfless soul.

My Mom, Dad and dog, Tann Mann on a recent visit.

My Mom, Dad and dog, Tann Mann on a recent visit.

But for all the gifts, love, memories, lessons and life he has shared with me, nothing resonates as strongly with love as his “McCaulio.” This was his name for his  warm breakfast specialty blend of left-overs that usually included rice, peas, some kind of steak or pork, and eggs, scrambled up in a pan and served with a big dose of ketchup. It takes a varied form on his name, Herb McCauley, and took many variations in its actual ingredient list. There were two constants, though. It was always a hot breakfast, and it was always made with love and usually lots of laughs as he prepared to get us off to school. Mom liked to sleep in during those busy years, and Dad selflessly picked up the slack. I’ll never forget him or McCaulio. I sure do love that man!

So, while I’m late getting this out to you to help serve your Dad a special breakfast this morning, there is still time to put it together later today, or any other day of the year, just like Dad and his McCaulio.  This is a simple yet beautiful “special” breakfast that comes together quickly. Mom can help the kids with the bechamel sauce. Meanwhile, the kids can put together a quick eggs scramble and toast. Dad will love it, and he’ll especially love it because it was made with loving hearts.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad and to Dads everywhere!

Adapted from The French Cook: Sauces (March 2013/Gibbs Smith)

Scrambled Eggs with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Scrambled Eggs with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce. Photo by Steven Rothfeld.

Soft Scrambled Eggs Cloaked with Sage and Sausage Bechamel Sauce on Baguette Toaste Points

(Makes 4 generous servings)

First, prepare the bechamel.

Basic Bechamel Master Recipe

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons All-Purpose flour

1 shallot or small onion (about 3 tablespoons), finely chopped

2 cups skim milk

1 1/2 cups Half & Half

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste recipe

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When just melted, whisk in the flour all at once, whisking rapidly to combine. Add the chopped shallot (or onion) and whisk to combine. Continue whisking and cooking (without browning) for 5 minutes. Add the skim milk and Half & Half, drizzling rapidly into the roux, whisking continually. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Continue whisking and cooking the béchamel another five minutes, or until it’s come up to a gentle simmer and thickened to the consistency of thick chowder. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Reserve warm. Any left-overs can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 3 days and gently re-heated for another use. (Note: If you want to limit the fat and calories, the recipe can be prepared with skim milk only, unless it will be flavored with alcohol or acid in the recipe where it will ultimately be used. Depending on the quantity, it might risk breaking/curdling the sauce.) Set aside.

Meanwhile, put together the rest of the dish.

12 ounces loose pork sausage

Sea salt or kosher salt

Ground white pepper

2 cups of the reserved, prepared bechamel

1 teaspoon dried, ground sage

2 tablespoons dry vermouth

2 tablespoons pork or veal demi-glace

For the toast points:

8 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonally  cut slices fresh baguette bread

For the eggs:

8 large eggs

1/4 cup half & half

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea salt or kosher salt

Ground white pepper

4 sage leaves, optional for garnish

Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain the sausage in a colander, straining off and discarding all of the rendered fat. Set aside.

Finish the prepared, reserved bechamel by whisking in the sage, vermouth and demi-glace in a medium pot over medium heat. Stir in the reserved sausage. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Keep warm over very low heat.

Toast the sliced bread in batches in a toaster or under a high broiler until golden brown. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and the half & half until very well incorporated, aerated and lemony in color. Melt the butter in a large skillet over low heat. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly with a spatula or spoon. As soon as the eggs beging to set, remove from the heat.

To serve,  arrange two of the toast points on each of four large plates. Divide the eggs and warm bechamel over the toast points. Serve immediately. Garnish with fresh sage leaves, if desired.

Bon appetit!





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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