Two Recipes That Will Start 2019 Just Right
Rita’s Warm Blue Crab Dip and Lucky Prosperity Soup
My grandfather used to say nothing good ever happens after midnight and my parents generally subscribed to the same ideology. So, for the most part, my sister and I especially (not so much my brothers) were required to be home by 11 p.m. starting in 10th grade until college. The one year my parents did make an exception was New Year’s Eve of 11th-grade in high school. I remember that because of the onslaught of a drunken boy’s midnight “kiss” and the unpleasant aftermath of a cheap Andre’s Cold Duck hangover the next morning – both firsts unfortunately not easily forgotten.
Ever since, I’ve been one to mostly stay home on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. A day of end-of-the year feasting and quiet reflection with friends takes top billing in my book, and so do both of these recipes. Rita’s Warm Blue Crab Dip, from my latest, The New Southern Chef’s Table Cookbook (Globe Pequot Press, May 2018), offers just the right blend of ooey-gooey, sweet, buttery, warm blue crab dip for a decadent start and the Lucky Prosperity Soup (from Mashed – Beyond the Potato, Gibbs Smith) a smooth, gilded finish.
Rita’s Warm Blue Crab Dip
(Makes 4 – 6 Appetizer Portions)
Situated literally on the edge of what is alternatively deemed “The Edge of America” (or simply Folly Beach), Rita’s Seaside Grille is just a stone’s throw from the frothy, popular surfing waters of the Atlantic. Its breezy, beachy locale lends itself both to the mood and look of the place, as well as the hefty, gutsy menu options, which include lunch, and dinner and a very popular brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Though casual, Rita’s also retains a kind of muted elegance that comes through its captain chairs, high , glossy wood bars and tables. Beyond beach chic, it’s a great stop before or after the beach, or anytime your belly is aching and in search of a good time. And, your canine pal(s) are welcome on the covered outdoor patio, which also houses some great live bands.
Executive chef Billy Spencer has been at the helm here since Hall Management (of Slightly North of Broad, High Cotton, Halls Chophouse, and Old Village Post House Inn fame), bought it a few years ago. The Johnson & Wales grad describes Rita’s crab dip, which was originally inspired by a restaurant where he worked in Florida, as “creamy, but not too heavy.” It’s rife with crab meat that he sources from a fisherman in North Carolina and as he points out, each portion is roughly 50 percent chock-full of crab. It’s lovely that it can be made ahead and re-heated just before serving.
For the dip:
1 1/2 cups cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into strips or a chiffonade
2 cups claw crabmeat
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup roasted, drained and finely diced red peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese for garnish
Serve with tortilla chips or these dipping chips:
Two 6-inch pitas, each cut into eight wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Generous sprinkling kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the cream cheese and heavy cream together in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl and set aside to cool. Fold the remaining ingredients into the cream mixture, stirring gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Portion out into six microwave-proof ramekins or small bowls. (Note: The dip can be prepared ahead, covered and refrigerated up to a day in advance).
Meanwhile, prepare the chips. Preheat oven to 4ooF. Toss together the pita wedges with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer, and toast until golden brown (tossing once or twice) about 12-15 minutes. Reserve warm.
To warm the dip “cups,” microwave, uncovered, on high for one minute. Sprinkle each bowl with the cheddar cheese garnish and broil under a hot broiler until melted, just before serving. Serve warm with the freshly prepared, warm chips.
Lucky Prosperity Soup
(Yields 8 to 10 servings)
New Year’s Day in the South ushers in a call to wealth and prosperity, which are symbolized by black-eyed peas (representing coins) and collard greens (representing greenbacks). Often, they’re cooked separately, usually with some ham hock for flavor, and put together on the same plate with rice. This delicious soup takes the best of the bunch and puts them all in one pot, with the exclusion of rice. If you can’t find collard greens, substitute kale or another sturdy green. This soup is finished with a traditional sweet and onion splash from a southern garnish known as chow-chow. If you cannot find it, substitute a traditional relish, but modify the results as suggested in the recipe.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and diced
3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 cups (1 1/4 pounds/ 565g) re-hydrated black-eyed peas, rinsed
3/4 pound (340g) smoked ham hock
8 cups (1.9l) water
1 large bunch collard greens, rinsed, tough stems removed and discarded, and cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) strips
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or Tabasco
1/3 cup (80g) chow-chow or 2 tablespoons traditional relish
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to coat. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the vinegar and reduce quickly to a glaze.
Add the peas, ham, water, collard greens, and remaining salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, until thickened and the greens have cooked down and the peas are soft, but holding their shape. Remove the ham hock from the pot and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, using an immersion blender, briefly mash the soup in the cooking pot to help incorporate the beans and the greens. When cool enough to handle, cut off and remove outer fat and skin layers from the hock. Cut off any visible meat, finely chop, and return to the pot; discard the rest. Just before serving, stir in the hot sauce and chow-chow. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve steaming hot and sit back and count your lucky stars.
Wishing you and all you love all things wonderful and delicious as you transition into a new year and a happy, healthy 2019!
Holly and Rocky (principal taste tester and best friend!)
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!
Barley, Mushroom, Butternut Squash, and Spinach Soup Recipe – and new culinary tours!
October in Charleston is officially the beginning of the fall season for me, at least emotionally and also from a cooking standpoint. Most of the beastly heat and hurricane threats are behind us, and we can settle into the beautiful winter squashes, greens, apples, and root vegetables of the season and the grains and flavors that pair so well with them. I’ve been thinking about barley a lot lately. It reminds me of my Nanna who loved to cook with whole grains and simple, unprocessed ingredients like barley, because we all should eat more of it (just one cup contains 128% of a day’s worth of dietary fiber), and because its chewy/soft, nutty goodness is a shoe-in pairing with winter squash, which are bursting from the grocers’ bins and farmers’ markets these days.
I love cooking with all kinds of winter squash. Hubbard, delicata, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, turban – all of them. A preferred way to use them is to roast them, halved, and puree them with seasonings, a little stock, cream or butter. They make beautiful soups practically all on their own. I have several such recipes in Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, 2017) . One of my favorites is the luscious and deceptively simple Maple Acorn Squash Soup (page 97) which was inspired by my mother’s maple syrup and butter-filled bacon acorn squash halves that we regularly enjoyed at our fall dinner table and sometimes for holidays.
I’m using butternut here because it can increasingly be found pre-cut, the pesky hard cover removed, and already cubed for handy additions to soups (such as these), or a steamed, roasted or pureed side. Any of the others would work just as well. Be careful to cut and peel with care. A sharp, sturdy paring knife and ample patience will do the trick. Simmering the barley with the mushrooms and squash adds a lovely richness to the soup with virtually no added fat except for the olive oil used to sweat the onions and celery. Fresh or frozen spinach (or substitute kale) is added near the very end. You will likely need to add more liquid to the soup left-overs, as the barley is notorious for absorbing extra liquid as much as bad cholesterol from our bodies – another reason to love it and eat it often. Most of all, the soup comes together simply and quickly in one hour. I enjoyed its aromas watching football this weekend and recalling fond memories of my favorite season.
(Makes 10 to 12 servings)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Light kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped shitake mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried, rubbed sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
3 cups cubed, peeled, fresh butternut squash
Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons local honey
4 cups additional stock or water as needed
2 cups chopped, frozen spinach
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and light salt and pepper. Stir to coat and sweat until softened, three minutes. Add the button and shitake mushrooms, garlic, garlic, sage, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to coat and cook another three minutes until just wilted. Add the barley and wine. Stir and cook a minute or so until wine has reduced to nothing. Add chicken stock, water, butternut squash squash, lemon juice and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. After thirty minutes, add additional water/stock as needed (you want soup consistency, not porridge). After forty five minutes of cooking, add the spinach, stir and heat through for a final fifteen minutes. Serve hot. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese or finely chopped walnuts as desired. (Note: The soup will store well, refrigerated and covered, for several days. More liquid may need to be added before reheating and serving).
Cooking Classes and Now Culinary Tours
A lot of my cooking class students have been asking for culinary tours for themselves, friends or even their businesses. I have added customized tours – those built around individual tastes, budgets, interests (history, culinary, chefs, restaurants, menu items, etc.), and timeline, to my repertoire. These can be bundled with classes in my kitchen, signed copies of my cookbooks, and a personalized tour led by me. Pricing dependent on dates, tour size, length and details of tour. Contact me on my website if you’re interested in finding out more.
Happy cooking, enjoy the cool and wonderful days of October.
Bon appetit – Holly
I love this time of year anywhere north of the Equator, but I especially love fall in Charleston. The reasons are many, and I’ve outlined and given information about some of them in this post on Charleston The Permanent Tourist:
Remember to keep up with me on facebook.com/tptcharleston and twitter: @tptcharleston.
Happy fall tidings! Holly
The temperature is rising and it really is beginning to feel like the summer that officially began earlier this week.
Take advantage of these two recipes for delicious cool soups as posted earlier today at charleston.thepermanenttourist.com
These are two of my favorites from my latest cookbook, The French Cook-Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith) to be released Sept. 1 – details provided in the link above.
As always, happy (and cool!) cooking!