Category Archives: Low Country

Belgian Beer Braised Short Ribs IP

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short ribs 1
Ecstatic Meaty Velvet…. that is how I describe the end result of this dish. Short ribs are covered with spices and then seared, then the vegetables are caressed by the fire and finally the braising liquid of tomatoes, porcini mushroom broth and Belgian Ale are married to the pot. In go the short ribs and they braise for 3.5 hours (or just 40 minutes in the IP) while the sauce concentrates as the veggies become succulent. I served them this time over grits, sometimes I elect mashed potatoes. This is the kind of meal that ends with pristinely clean plates, except for those bones which gave up their marrow in the dish.  A sacrifice well appreciated.

short ribs raw

Here is how you do it, feel free to exchange out the spices to your personal palate, this is just what works for me. You will need 6-8 meaty English Cut short ribs to feed two. This recipe can be doubled, but when you brown the ribs, do it in batches.

spice blend

Spice Blend: 

The smoked paprika is essential,  find it!

  • 1/4  cup of brown sugar (I use TSTE’s sweet onion sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dry mustard
  • 4 tablespoons of porcini powder (optional but rich!)

 

short ribs veggies en place

Sofrito: 

 

4 medium leeks chopped (pale white part only)

4 tablespoons of home rendered lard or olive oil

4 carrots chopped into medium sized pieces

3 celery ribs chopped into medium sized pieces

2 bay leaves (4 if using fresh)

10 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup of dried porcini mushrooms re-hydrated and then strained, reserving liquid

For even more mushroom flavor, add fresh shitakes

1 440 mil can of Belgian ale or Guiness

1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid

1/4 cup home rendered lard.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 (I use convection roast setting). Be sure that you will have room for the lidded pot or dutch oven to fit on the rack on the lower third of the oven.

short ribs seasoned

Blend the spice mix and generously coat the ribs with it on all sides. There will be some leftover, reserve it.

Heat the lard or oil in a large deep pan or dutch oven. Saute setting on the IP. Brown the ribs taking care not to crowd them, do them in batches if your pan is not large enough. This should take about 1 minute per side.

short ribs browning

Transfer meat back to a plate or sheet pan and ad the shallots, carrots, celery and bay leaves to the pot and cook over moderate low heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables begin to soften (about 3 minutes), clear a hot spot and add garlic. Cook for 1 more minute. Stir in mushrooms.

Add broth, beer and tomatoes with their juice, then add the ribs and any remaining spices and spoon the sauce over the ribs. Bring to a boil uncovered

short ribs ready for oven

For the IP secure cover and cook on the meat setting for 40 minutes. Or, cover and place in the oven and braise for 3 hours, checking after about 1.5 hours to see if more liquid is needed, if so add beer, stock or water.

short ribs in oven

Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes, grits or polenta. Click here for the perfect grits/polenta recipe.

short ribs close up

I doubt that there will be any meat left, but if there is it makes amazing tacos. Any veggies/sauce left are great for a soup, just add more liquid and puree.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style.

My Best Shrimp and Grits Recipe

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grits close up

Living in the Low Country where the best shrimp in the world is harvested, one is soon drawn to a variety of shrimp recipes and there is one dish that is so classically Charleston which always comes to the forefront. This was and still is a great breakfast recipe, but I love it for dinner. There are as many Shrimp and Grits recipes here as there are Charleston kitchens. I play around with the elements, sometimes adding cheese to the grits and sometimes adding chiles or okra to the shrimp element. I always use tomatoes, small shrimp and really good grits.

Grits

Let’s talk about grits for a moment. This dish would be seriously compromised by anything other than the very best stone ground grits you can find. I prefer mixed grits, a combination of yellow and white grits. If you live in Europe, you can use coarse polenta. Polenta is always made with yellow corn. Whereas southern grits are available in yellow and while as well as mixed (my favorite). Speckled grits mean that they leave the hull of the corn on (also my favorite).  I do like polenta for some things, it is not the same as good southern stone ground grits. At the bottom of this post I am adding a few links to what I consider the best online sources for the best grits. I am lucky that I can buy mine from Celeste Albers at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. But you can buy really great grits online now.

shrimp boat

Now, let’s talk shrimp. Buy wild caught when you can. For this recipe I really like small shrimp. Not the tiny ones for salads, but about an inch or two long. Buy them with the shells on and peel just before cooking. If you freeze shrimp, put them in a zip lock bag and fill with water, making an ice block.  There will be no freezer burn. I am lucky to be able to go to the docks and get shrimp caught that day here. You may not be so lucky. Our shrimp season is from June-December give a week or two. This is to promote sustainable fisheries. Our shrimp are born early in the year and grow in our incredible estuaries (a series of creeks, marshes and rivers) and then swim to the sea in late May.

On to the recipe! This is one of my favorites, but I play around with it all of the time.

Shrimp and Grits Sassy Spoon Style

My grits recipe is done in a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, follow instructions on the bag. Here is a link to my recipe: https://sassy-spoon.com/2012/07/19/grits-in-a-rice-cooker-perfection/

Mise en place

Ingredients:

  • One recipe of grits for four, cooked
  • 3/4 pound small shell on shrimp, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of butter &/or olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves finely chopp
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of sliced okra (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 cups tomatoes chopped
  • Pork in one way or another. In this recipe I used a Chinese sausage. You can also add cooked bacon or andouille sausage.
  • Your favorite hot sauce
  • Sea salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  • If using sausage or bacon, brown slightly in a skillet, remove and reserve
  • Put the butter/oil in the skillet
  • Add onion and saute till the onion just starts to turn golden.
  • Add garlic and saute another minute
  • Add tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes on simmer
  • Add shrimp and stir. It will be ready when the shrimp starts to turn pink.
  • Scoop out the grits and top with the shrimp mixture
  • Garnish with chives or parsley

Here are some sources for great stone ground grits.

A Chef With the Heart of a Servant at Swig & Swine

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AnthonyLast week I had the pleasure of spending a few hours with a remarkable man, Chef Anthony DiBernardo of the relatively new smoked meat (A.K.A. BBQ)  restaurant … Swig and Swine. His restaurant is new to the Low Country, but he is not. He has been cooking all over the Charleston area for many years. I was so impressed when I heard his story that I just had to meet him and do a profile to share it with y’all. If you are a frequent follower of this blog, you know I do not do restaurant reviews any more, that was relegated to my Chicago days. But I have been writing about food, where it comes from and who is cooking it for the last 14 years, sometimes in publications, sometimes on my blogs and Facebook. Here is the story of a Chef who has the heart of a servant. 

Click on any of these pics for a close up…

In the Beginning:

Anthony comes from rural southern New Jersey, technically in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Born to a Scotch Irish mother and Italian father he was the youngest of four children, the other three sisters, who were 16, 14 and 7 when he came into this world. His maternal grandmother died when she was young, so Anthony’s Italian grandmother taught his mother to cook. All she knew was Italian food. There were many big family gatherings full of wonderful food.

At the age of 14, Tony started a dish washing job at a local country club owned by Ron Jaworski. He took to the back of the house like a fish to water, quickly climbing to the hot line. By the time he was a Junior in high school he was working on the line at the Tellford Inn. That is the time he decided to enter the US Navy because his parents were about to retire and he did not want them to have to put him through college. He signed on with a delayed enlistment the summer of his Junior year. As soon as he graduated from High School in 1990 he was off to San Diego for 60 days of cooking school. He went to Submarine School in Connecticut and his first deployment was to Charleston where he stood stunned to find he was to submarine Batfish “687,” the same number as his parents’ address and his grandfather’s winning lottery number. It was no accident. He teared up telling me the story.

Cooking Underwater:
Imagine being one of three chefs cooking day in and out for 130 people on a nuclear submarine, never knowing exactly where you will be going or how long you will be there. They would put fresh provisions inside the torpedo tubes and switch the refrigerators to freezers for long hauls. They did all baking in the galley because that much bread would take up valuable storage space. He kept busy taking video courses, including one on Poetry by Maya Angelou.

A Charleston Chef is Born:
In May of 1994, Anthony climbed out of the submarine and started cooking all over Charleston. Starting at Blossom, then venturing on to the old resort at Kiawah where he was executive chef for four years. He assisted in opening the new hotel and all of their kitchens. It was a tough time, working long hotel hours, weekends, holidays and special events. In 2001, his son was born and he knew that he had to make a lifestyle change. He took some time off and at a church retreat he met Sal Parco, the owner of the Dine with Sal Restaurant Group. Anthony took the helm of the culinary team and opened The Long Point Grill, Uno Mas and Mustard Seed. After seven years, he moved on to Kickn’ Chicken Restaurant Group’s Rita’s on Folly Island. It was sold to Hall’s Hospitality Group in July of 2013 and that is when Anthony started to think about what he was going to do.

Dreaming:
He took 30 days to develop a game plan and drove around West Ashley scoping out locations. He fell in love with the old OK Tire Store and its retro look. It was next door to The Glass Onion, a popular spot for dining. He got the keys and walked the old store using graph paper to design his kitchen, dining room, smoker areas and bar. Suddenly there was a call from Steve Kish, chef and co-owner of 82 Queen, along with Johnathan and Patrick Kish, they wanted to talk to Anthony about opening a restaurant on the peninsula. He sold them another idea. A deal was struck and they became 50/50 partners in the new concept, Swig and Swine. It took every penny Anthony had and some of his family members’ funds to come up with his half of the opening investment.

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The Dream Comes to Life:
Permits were applied for in October 2013. The process was a long one and they did not all come through until March 2014. So what does a hard working chef do for five months while waiting for those permits? He builds the tables, the bars, the benches and the work spaces of the restaurant. He designed the smokers with the guys at Gorilla Fabrication. After the fancier one in front of the store, they tweaked the second one, adding more insulation to the smoke box. Each one is running several nights a week, fired by oak and hickory and finished off with pecan. At midnight at least three nights a week, Anthony starts the fires in both smokers. He has an assistant tending the smokers when he is not there. He spends all night minding the smokers, adjusting the flues and taking short cat naps on the wooden benches in the dining room. He works around the restaurant and leaves about 4 pm when he can spend some time with his wife, 12 year old son and 8 year old daughter, sometimes returning back to the smokers again at midnight.

Brisket

The Food:
DiBernadino emphasizes that his place is a smoked meat restaurant, not just another BBQ joint. He broke from tradition by approaching the restaurant from a Chef’s perspective. Nothing is pre-processed. Everything depends on the food in those smokers every night. One bad move and they lose business for an entire day. 40 pound batches of meat are smoked and cooked 3 to 4 times in a 24 hour shift. When he is not spending the night next to the wood boxes, he keeps an eye on the smokers using remote cameras.

Brisket, chicken, turkey, pork belly, wings, ribs, house-made sausage and pork butt all have their place on the smokers. Freshly prepared smoked meats are placed in the case in the dining room just before lunch service and more continue smoking through the day so that the dinner service has fresh smoked meat. The wings and ribs have a dry rub with spices, everything else just gets old fashioned salt and pepper. Leftovers are usually made into a special sandwich. I had one with leftover ribs from the day before… incredible. It was on jalapeno corn bread loaf with BBQ onions and house made pimento cheese.

The sauces are all made in house, as are the sides which vary from day to day. The day I was there there was a fantastic dish with brussels sprouts, smoked mushrooms and béchamel sauce. The usual suspects are mac & cheese, collard greens (very well done), hash and rice, beans with brisket, baked potato salad, coleslaw, Brunswick stew and pickled vegetables. There are also house-made cucumber pickles on every plate with a slice of white bread and slices of onion.

Taps

Drink Up! The bar :
There are 52 Bourbons including 2 bottles of Pappy Van Winkle that reside under lock and key at night. He has recently started smoking bourbon, to make some of the best Manhattans on the planet. A terrific list of craft beers on tap and plenty more in bottles. Wines are also available. And of course there is plenty of sweet tea.

 

Anthony and Pappy

A Servant’s Heart:
Anthony confessed to me that it is all about giving his heart, talent and compassion to those who sit at his tables. He would not have it any other way. He also gives back to the community in a multitude of ways. He cooks and donates food to a variety of causes, and at this moment is collecting money to support the Ronald McDonald House’s Red Shoes Campaign. Thanksgiving he is not taking the day off. He is generously serving up a huge Thanksgiving dinner for those who do not have family here in Charleston. We are two of the lucky people that will be a part of that dinner. I will report on that soon.

Red Shoes

Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

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Banh Mi the Ultimate Sandwich

Banh Mi prep

There is nothing like a Banh Mi Sandwich! There are so many flavors and textures going on between the baguette. There are many ways to make this sandwich, in fact, my friend Andrea Nguyen has written an entire book on the subject! 

For each sandwich:

  • 1 petite baguette roll or part of a longer baguette
  • Mayonnaise (I use Duke’s)
  • Maggi Sauce (available at Hispanic and Asian groceries)
  • Char Su (this is Asian style pork belly) or BBQ chicken, pate’ or slices of rare steak
  • 3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred
  • 2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
  • 3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices
  • Bean sprouts
  • Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua)

Banh Mi 1

  1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use a fork to pull out some of the bread, making a trough in both halves. Place the bread halves under the broiler on LOW, but watch carefully!
  2. Generously spread the inside with mayonnaise. Drizzle in some Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. layer the remaining ingredients. I like to start and end with some herbs.

DSC_0220Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Cha)

Makes about 3 cups

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 1 pound daikons, peeled
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons and 1/2 cup sugar in the raw or grated jaggery
  • 1  1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water

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Method:

Either cut the carrot and daikon into julienne or use a spiral cutter to cut them. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl.

Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently. Return the carrot and daikon to the bowl.

To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the carrot and daikon. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. It is not traditional, but I like to add some dried red chile flakes too.

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Smoked Pork Butt Porchetta Style

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This is one of the most delicious recipes and the meat can be used in so many ways after the original meal. You can make pulled pork and porcini gravy over grits/polenta, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, tacos, as a topping for fresh pasta, empanadas, tostados and tamales among other things. The spices in the porchetta filling are distinctly Latin and permeate the meat along with the smoke. Keep in mind that “Latin” includes Italy as well as Latin America. If you do not have a smoker, you can get the flavor by Braising the butt with liquid smoke and beer in a slow cooker or oven before you add the bourbon and do the second braise.

I have not posted in several weeks. I had a knee injury that kept me from doing a lot of cooking. It is getting better or at least the cortisone injection is making it feel that way. It is good to be able to stand for more than a few minutes again. Meanwhile the Low Country is in it’s early summer glory after we suffered through an unusual plant killing winter. It is so great to see green and blooms again.

Smoked Butt Porchetta Style

Ingredients:

  • A large, well marbled pork butt (shoulder) with the fat on one side. Bone in is fine.
  • 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup corriander seeds
  • 12 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Cup of Bourbon for braising

Method:

  • Put the seeds in a dry non stick pan and toast till you start to hear them pop. Remove and allow to cool

Porchetta seeds

  • In a food processor place the parsley, garlic, cooled seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse till a thick paste is developed. You may need to add more oil to make a paste.

Porchetta seeds.in blender

  • Place one inch deep and wide slits all around the meat about 1″ apart.
  • Fill each slit with the paste. If there is any paste left, rub it all over the meat.

porchetta ready for smoker

  • Place the butt fat side up in the smoker on lowest temperature. I used apple wood this time, but I often use maple or cherry.
  • Smoke for 8 hours do not let the heat get higher than 250.

Porchetta in smoker

  • Remove to a dutch oven or slow cooker pour the bourbon over the meat and cover. Bake on lowest temperature the oven will go to for another 8 hours or if using a crock pot, leave the lid slightly ajar. Cook on low for 10 hours.

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I made a gravy using porcini mushrooms the drippings from the meat (removed fat by chilling) and some cornstarch. For the first meal I served it with polenta/grits and it was delicious. Then on the next day we had pulled pork sandwiches and a few days later, we are having pulled pork tacos!

Best Fried Green Tomatoes… Southern Bliss

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Fried Green Tomatoes

I never even thought of Fried Green Tomatoes as a recipe until a few people asked me how to make them. They are super easy and very tasty when done right. My great grandmother used to make them, though hers were made with just flour, not the combo of flour and cornmeal that I use now. This method if dredging, dipping and dredging again is the secret to fried chicken and most any coated fried food. The final dredge changes, anything from seasoned flour to panko, but the method stays the same. In the fall green tomatoes are pulled from the vines before first frost, but here in the south, people treasure them all year and green tomatoes are sold in our farmer’s markets. To keep them from ripening, store in the refrigerator till ready to use. They will keep several weeks. I never refrigerate ripe tomatoes, as that kills the sweetness.

fried green tomatoes

Set up a dredging station:

Pan 1: All Purpose flour

Pan 2 :1 cup of buttermilk 1-2 eggs whisked in

Pan 3: This is where you get a little creative:

Then slice up the green tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick. This thickness allows for a crispy crust and tender interior.

Heat canola or peanut oil to 350 degrees in a frying pan, about 1  1/2 inches deep.

Dredge the tomato slices in the flour, then the buttermilk mixture, making sure that the entire slice is covered in liquid.

Finally dredge the slices in the seasoned flour, making sure that all surfaces are covered.

Place in the frying pan, taking care not to crowd. fry till crispy and golden brown on each side and remove to a rack to drain. Repeat.

They can be served with a remoulade sauce, sweet chile sauce or put them on a BLT! They are even good cold.

Fried Green Tomatoes and Remoulade

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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pineapple 1

This is so easy and so delicious… completely refreshing.

2 cups fresh (must be fresh) cubed pineapple

2 cups chunked peeled English cucumbers (no seeds)

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 sprigs fresh mint, torn

1 finely chopped jalapeno

3 tablespoons finely chopped onions

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Place all in a blender and pulse till well blended but still a little chunky

Serve  with additional nuts on top or a sprig of mint.

This will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

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