Tag Archives: Low country

Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho

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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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Southern Macaroni Pie

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Macaroni Pie

Macaroni…. an ubiquitous word. For hundreds of years in the south it was the word for any pasta, which was basically only spaghetti until mid 20th century.

Pie… yet another all present culinary term in the south. Many “pie” recipes here are savory, not sweet and sometimes served in a variety of casserole dishes. Generally they did start out in a pie dish, but were expanded to larger dishes to feed more people.

The inspiration recipe, from my friend Nathalie Dupree, comes from Social Circle, Georgia. Her mother in law made it and Nathalie figured it out over time. I made a smaller amount, as I was only feeding 2 (plus leftovers) and so I did make mine in a pie plate. If you get Nathalie’s book, Mastering the art of Southern Cooking  you will find the original recipe on page 268, along with the original Charleston version from 200 years of Charleston Cooking. Another friend of mine who lived in Charleston many years makes hers with sour cream. I wanted to make mine with the traditional spaghetti but I was lazy, I only had penne, so that is what I used. I also added freshly grated nutmeg, it was calling out to me. I also choose to bake this in a bain marie, as that is how I usually cook custards.

A little about Pasta in America:

Pasta first came to the U.S. via Thomas Jefferson served as minister to France from 1785 to 1789, and was introduced to pasta during a trip to Naples. He returned to the U.S. with crates of “maccheroni” and a pasta-making machine (which he proceeded to redesign). In Most sources, including the National Pasta Association, credit a Frenchman with establishing America’s first pasta factory, in Brooklyn in 1848. A flour miller from Lyon, Antoine Zerega, had a horse in his basement to turn the millstone; and like the Neapolitans, he hung his spaghetti strands on the roof to dry. Today, the fifth generation of Zeregas run the leading supplier of pasta to the foodservice industry in North America.

Spaghetti and meatballs had yet to appear. Macaroni had been brought to England earlier by the Genovese sailors, and the British baked it with cheese and cream—in essence, making macaroni and cheese, a preparation also popular in the north of Italy. They also baked pasta in sweet dessert custards, similar to German-Jewish noodle puddings. These recipes crossed the pond and were enjoyed by 19th-century Americans. According to Corby Kummer, upper-class Americans also purchased pasta imported from Sicily, which then, as today, had more cachet than the domestic product. The information in the remainder of this article comes largely from Mr. Kummer’s extensive piece, Pasta: Where It Came From And How It Got There. 

As other pasta factories sprouted up, the cost of pasta became more affordable. By the time of the Civil War (1861 to 1865), even the working classes could afford a pasta dinner. Cookbooks of the period indicate that the common way to prepare pasta was still baked with cheese and cream.

  • In the mid-1880s, according to food historian Karen Hess, cookbooks published as far west as Kansas included recipes for macaroni, some involving a tomato and meat sauce.
  • But pasta did not become the beloved dish it is today: It lost its cachet once the masses could afford it. The fashionable restaurants of New York, which served Continental cuisine, did not serve pasta or any other traditional Italian dish, even though many of these restaurants were run by Italians.

The huge wave of Italian immigration that began toward the end of the 19th century was ultimately responsible for pasta becoming an American staple.

And on on to our Macaroni Pie…

This recipe is for enough to fill a large pie dish. Feeds 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked and drained spaghetti
  • 3 Tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 a nutmeg, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar or Gruyere cheese, grated

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350.

Boil the pasta to al dente

While the pasta boils:

  • Lightly whisk the eggs with the milk
  • Add the mustard, salt, nutmeg, peppers and half the cheese
  • Cut the pasta into 3 inch pieces and toss with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter
  • place half of the pasta into a deep pie dish
  • sprinkle with cheese to cover, then ladle on 1/2 of the custard mixture
  • Add the remaining pasta
  • Ladle on the remaining custard
  • Top with cheese and remaining butter

Bake in a water bath (bain marie) for 30 minutes. check to see if it is browning, if so, loosely top with foil. Reduce heat to 325. Bake 20-30 minutes longer. Insert a knife in the center. If it comes out clean, it is ready. Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

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The BEST New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

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BBQ Shrimp close up

This is one of the best dishes I have made or tasted in a long time! I have been curious about this dish for a while. When I managed The Spice and Tea Exchange I had a lot of requests for a seasoning blend for making New Orleans BBQ Shrimp. I did some research, found some recipes (which varied greatly), asked some friends who had lived there and came up with this recipe. I have to say, it is one of the best things I have ever made! It takes a LOT of butter (one recipe called for TWO pounds of butter) and in fact I ended up using half butter, half Olive Oil, but you can save the sauce and use it a few more times as it is really only a poaching liquid, you don’t eat much of it, just the bit in the bowl that you dunk your bread into. It just gets better and better. I have butter poached lobster before and this recipe is a spicier form of that. This recipe can be tweaked to meet your more or less spicy palate, but it is meant to be spicy in a Cajun kind of way, full flavored. I also used wonderful Low Country Shrimp which have excellent texture and a sweet flavor. Not everyone has access to these, so of course, find the best quality shrimp you can find.

New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound of unsalted butter (yes, that is a lot)
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons (I used Meyer because that is what I have and love)
  • 1 lemon sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Ghost Pepper Salt (or sea salt)
  • 1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt
  • LOTS of freshly rough ground black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons smoked paprika(I used hot, but you can do half sweet and half hot)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon  dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried marjoram
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (pull stick out after cooking)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (more for serving
  • 2# of high quality shrimp, heads on if available. De-vein  if you want to, but leave the shells on (yes, it will be messy but have much better texture and flavor if you cook it in the shells)

Method:

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  • In a large oven proof saute pan, melt the butter, whisk in the oil and add everything but the shrimp and parsley. Simmer on very low flame for 20 minutes to incorporate. While this is cooking, preheat oven to 225.
  • Add shrimp and parsley and bake for 20 minutes (this can be done on a low burner too, but you will have to stir it), you just want to poach the shrimp, not over cook them. This is the reason for the low temperature.

BBQ Shrimp in bpwl

Serve with crusty French Bread and a salad.

BBQ Shrimp plated with tomato pie

Reserve any leftover cooking liquid and you can re-use it again.

Heart Woodfire Kitchen

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Tucked away off of Folly Road on James Island, Heart Woodfire Kitchen is a very special place. It is fun and hip and the first thing that hits you when you open the door is the sweet deep aroma of wood burning. This touches me tenderly, as I once owned a wood burning oven at my cooking school in Chicago and I miss it so much. The very core of this place is the Valoriani wood burning oven and a wood fired rotisserie grill. It does not stop there. Clever cocktails, local produce, pork and chicken raised in the Low Country, nice wine and beer selections and a creative upscale menu without being pretentious. This is not fast food, not BBQ and not white tablecloth dining, it is great flavorful dining at the mid price level, something we do not have a lot of in Charleston.

We went on a Tuesday night after going to see a film. It was balmy outside, so we opted for outside dining. The restaurant was unusually busy for a Tuesday and it was obvious that this was a bit unexpected for the staff. The assistant manager became our server because they were short staffed and we were very lucky because she was on top of her game and gave us second glasses of wine on the house because the kitchen was jammed. The food was excellent. Full of smoky flavor and interesting textures.

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We started with a small order of one of their “Speidie,” little skewers. cooked close to the flame. We had the Fontina wrapped in prosciutto & balsamic with a wheat berry salad. 2 skewers for just $6, quite the perfect thing to nibble on while you are drinking one of their fabulous cocktails. They offer two other Speidie, one with Beef Short ribs, rosemary oil & almonds and another with Bacon wrapped Chicken Livers & chimichurri. The menu has several other small plates including some interesting soups& salads  that change with the seasons.

We shared  a spinach salad with roasted beets, wheat berries, romaine,onions and a green garlic vinaigrette.  It was crisp and yet warming with the roasted beets. The green garlic vinaigrette was perfect. I would have liked a little piece of their fabulous house made bread to go with it.
spinach salad
My husband ordered the blackened catfish sandwich which comes on one  of their sturdy house made rolls. It was round and he was expecting more of a poor boy style bread, but the flavors were fabulous and the fish was crusty with spices on the exterior and warm, tender and white on the interior, just as it should be. He ordered creamed mustard greens as his side and they were stellar. I had a few bites and we brought the rest home because after a bag of popcorn at the movies we were fuller than we thought we were.

flat bread

I had one of their signature flat breads, really a crispy little pizza. I opted for the vegetable flat bread with Acorn Squash & Goat Cheese, fennel, cauliflower & arugula pesto.I bought some home and will be having it for lunch today.

We are looking forward to going back and trying some of their local fish from the wood fired oven. We also saw dishes of their baked pasta with four cheeses walk past us and they looked delicious. Their rotisserie chicken looked fantastic and I can only imagine that their Grilled Butcher’s Steak with roasted mushrooms & onions, herb butter is fantastic. The Wood Fired Vegetable Stew, basmati rice, basil pesto, lemon yogurt, toasted almonds & apricots also sounds interesting to me.

Wood fire cooking

They have an extensive lunch menu and what looks like a fun brunch menu. They have happy hour from 4-6 and the offerings are a good way to taste several things at a reduced price.

My suggestion? Run don’t walk to this hidden gem of a restaurant. Heart Woodfire Kitchen at 1622 Highland Ave Charleston SC 29412  (843) 718-1539 Look for this sign off of Folly Road:
Heart woodfire

Crab Rellenos: Cangrejo Rellenos

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Crab Rellenos

Here in the low country, Blue Crabs abound. But what do you do with all of that crab meat? It is sweet stuff, but not served on the half shell like Dungeness or King Crab. You have to meticulously pick the crab from her tiny shells. So this will be the first in a series of crab adventures. Things you can do with this lovely little Low Country crustacean.

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Day 1:

Make the sauce (below) this can be made up to a week in advance

Make basic filling using 1 pound of crab meat. Here is a primer on how to cook and pick the crabs. You can of course always go to your fish monger and get a pound of crab meat. It is available pasturized in cans. If you buy this, ask for lump meat.

Whip 2 large packages of cream cheese. Add them to the crab and thoroughly blend. Remove 1/3 of this mixture for crab rangoon, tomorrow’s treat.

Ingredients for Relleno Base:

3 ears of grilled Corn on the Cob, cut from the cob

1 cup of grated sharp cheddar, 1 cup of grated jack cheese

1/2 cup of fresh cojita cheese crumbles

2 red onions medium chop, sauteed and caramelized

Add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped garlic into the onions for the last 4 minutes of cooking.

3 green onions finely chopped

1/2 cup slow roasted grape tomatoes cut in quarters

Stir all of this together  

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Poblano Peppers (you can also use the smaller, thinner Anaheim Chile), slit clean and roasted then peel. This part can be tricky. I have learned that if you remove the seeds and membranes before putting them on the grill, they come out easier and there is less ripping of the pepper. Do this by making a T shaped cut, horizontally across the top and then one vertical slit from top to bottom. This picture is of Anaheim chiles on the grill. Grilling-Poblano-PeppersWhenever I grill peppers, I always retain few, usually ones that have torn to be used in sauces and fillings, or ropas. Once you roast your peppers on the grill or the open flame of your stove, place them in a plastic bag to steam. The skin will come off much easier then.

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Allow the peppers to cool and then stuff with the filling. Bring the opening as close together as you can. Since there are only two of us and these are big peppers, I only made two. But you can certainly make at least 6 with this amount of filling. I am going to be making some other dishes with the filling.

Relleno coating:

(for two large peppers, double it for 4)

4 eggs, separated

3 Tablespoons cream

salt

flour for dredging

about 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan

roll the peppers through the flour till coated

While the oil is heating, whip the egg whites & salt till they have stiff peaks. Whisk the yolks with the cream. Fold into the whites carefully.

When the oil is about 250 degrees, take a large spoon and put enough of the egg mixture into the oil to make a bed for the pepper. It will spread slightly. lay the pepper down, then cover with more egg mixture. After about 2 minutes carefully turn the pepper and cook on the other side till golden brown. Place on a drip pan and put in a warm oven while you continue the process.

Sauce and plate: You can choose any kind of sauce for this, but this is the one I made ahead of time. The base is something I use for enchiladas and other meals. I added cream and sherry to lighten this one up because the peppers and crab are so delicate.

New Mexico Rojo

1 cup New Mexico Red Chiles

2 tablespoons masa (finely ground)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock

Melt the butter in a saucepan, slowly stir in the masa,  till a roux is formed. Whisk in the chicken broth and simmer. Allow to simmer for a while adding more stock as it thickens.

For the relleno sauce I then added 1 cup of cream and stirred for a while, letting it reduce a bit, then about 1/4 of Spanish sherry. Stir again and then turn off the heat.

Plating: 

Use a small plate with a good upturn to hold the sauce. Puddle the sauce on the plate, then add the relleno. Squiggle crema on top. Serve with a simple salad of radishes, pea shoots, pepitas and cojita.

 

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Guinness Braised Short Ribs

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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 Guinness are married to the pot. In go the short ribs and they braise for 2.5 hours while the sauce concentrates as the veggies become succulent. I served them this time over Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with creme fraiche instead of milk. Sometimes I do them over grits. 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: 

1/4 cup of brown sugar or 1/4 cup of Sweet Onion Sugar (or you can do 50/50)

1 Tablespoon Sweet Smoked Paprika (or Hungarian Sweet Paprika)

2 Tablespoons Vik’s Garlic Fix

2 Tablespoons Bloody Mary Seasoning (or good black pepper if you don’t have it, the full bodied flavor is worth seeking out)

1 Tablespoon dry mustard

 

Alternately, you can use some much more conventional spices if you don’t have access to the above blends:

The smoked paprika is essential,  find it.

  • 3 tablespoons of salt
  • 1/4  cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon of dry mustard

 

short ribs veggies en place

Sofrito: 

1 cup of re-hydrated dried shallots, drained or 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 1/4 cup of kibbled mushrooms

1 440 mil can of guiness

1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with the liquid

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.

Pat ribs dry and and arrange in a sheet pan.

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. 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 the 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

Cover and place in the oven and braise for 2.5 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.

Smoked and Braised Pork Shoulder Latin Style

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plate 2 This recipe has been one I have used for years. I used to make it at my cooking school for Cuban Night. I change out a few things here and there to go more Italian or more Cuban. Even if you do not have a smoker this is delicious braised or done in a slow cooker or dutch oven. You simply make a paste in the food processor and then make slits in the pork shoulder (bone in or out, your choice). Marinate it over night, smoke the next morning and then finish it off in a crock pot or in a dutch oven in the oven.  Note: I do not add salt before cooking, but I offer it at the table. 

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Ingredients:

1 cup each of packed cilantro and flat leaf parsley

1/3 cup each of coriander, cumin and fennel seeds toasted

30 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup crushed red pepper (the kind you put on pizza)

1/4 cup pink pepper berries (optional)

1 tablespoon hickory powder if you are not smoking the meat

1/4 cup olive oil (I use smoked oil that I make)

1 5-7 pound pork shoulder (get them on sale and freeze)

2# Yukon Gold Potatoes

3 large onions, quartered

2 cans of beer

1/4 cup Spice and Tea Exchange Sweet Onion Sugar (optional)

Method:

Put the cilantro, parsley seeds, garlic, pepper berries, crushed red pepper, hickory powder if you are not smoking and the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse till you have a thick paste.

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Put on latex gloves if you have them, this gets messy. Cut 1 1/2 inch slits into the meat on all sides. Stuff the slits with the paste. If you have any paste left over, smear it on the meat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate 12-24 hours.
porchetta
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile set up your smoker and turn your grill on high.

Sear the meat on all sides on the grill. Then place in the smoker at about 200 degrees over a drip pan and smoke for 6 hours. If you do not have a smoker, go directly to the slow cooker or roaster but cook for 8-10 hours on low.

Porchetta out of the smoker

Prepare the roaster or slow cooker by placing a bed of Yukon Gold potatoes (small ones or cut larger ones in half) and the onions. Sometimes I add other root vegetables too. Place the meat directly on the bed of veggies. pour two cans or bottles of beer over the meat. Sprinkle the sweet onion sugar all over.

Roast at 350 degrees covered with foil or in a dutch oven. Or you can use a slow cooker on high for 4 hours (either method).  It is just that easy. The leftovers are sometimes my favorite part… tamales, tacos pulled pork sandwiches. 🙂

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