Legends of the Lowcountry

Collectible cookbook highlights area's traditions, history

August 24, 2011 

  • Patricia Branning will sign her commemorative Tricentennial Edition cookbook, "Shrimp, Collards & Grits: Recipes, Stories and Art from the Creeks and Gardens of the Lowcountry," at a Wine Dinner at 6 p.m. Aug. 30 at Saltus River Grill, 802 Bay St., Beaufort. The book signing will include a four-course dinner prepared by Saltus Exec Chef Brian Waters, wine and a cooking demo. The menu includes Rustic Quail with Local Chantrelle Mushrooms and Gruyere Grits, Land's End London Broil, Big Mama's Collard Greens, Dixie Style Hoe Cakes, Oyster Bisque Savannah Style and Banana Pudding. The cost is $65.

    Reservations: 843-379-3474, saltus@hargray.com

    Other upcoming signings are:

  • Sept. 9: from 4-7 p.m. at Planet Hilton Head, Harbour Town

  • Oct. 6: at J. Banks Interiors, 35 Main St., Hilton Head Island, 843-681-5122, time to be announced.

  • Oct. 23: during Beaufort Fall Festival of Houses and Gardens' Kitchen Tour from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

  • Nov. 17: Markel's Card & Gift Shop, 1008 Fording Island Road, Bluffton; 843-815-9500, time to be announced

  • Times to be announced in November: Sweetgrass Bistro at Dataw Island and Rhett Gallery, 901 Bay St., Beaufort, 843-524-3339
  • Frogmore Stew

    Makes: 8 servings

    1 1/2 gallons water

    Juice of 1 lemon

    Salt to taste

    3 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning

    2 pounds kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch slices

    10-12 ears of corn on the cob, broken into 3-inch pieces

    4 pounds of shrimp in the shell



    In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the water, lemon, salt and Old Bay seasoning; bring to a boil.

    Add the sausage and gently boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add corn and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. (Begin timing immediately, don't wait until the water is boiling.)

    Add shrimp and cook an additional 3 minutes longer. Remove from heat, drain immediately and serve.



    Pierre's Shrimp and Crab Gravy

    Makes: 6 servings

    2 pounds raw, peeled shrimp

    1/2 pound crab meat, claw or white

    1 large onion, chopped small

    1/4 pound good quality bacon

    2 garlic cloves, sliced

    1/2 bell pepper, chopped

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Flour, plain

    4 drops Tabasco

    1/4 pound butter

    2 cups water



    Dice and brown bacon in a large skillet. Drain. When bacon is nearly cooked, add onions and garlic, and cook 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside for adding later.

    Place butter in same skillet and heat to 300 degrees. Add shrimp that have been salted, peppered and liberally rolled in flour. Shake in a brown paper bag. Do not add excess flour when frying shrimp. Brown the shrimp in butter approximately 3 minutes, turning only once. Add bacon and onions, stirring constantly. Add water, crab, bell pepper and Tabasco. Continue stirring for 5 minutes.

    Serve over rice or grits. May require a little more water, depending upon the desired consistency. Freezes well.

    Recipe provided by Pierre McGowan of Beaufort



    Heritage Breakfast Puffs

    Makes: 12 servings

    Two 8-count cans refrigerator crescent rolls

    1 pound hot pork sausage

    1/2 cup minced onion

    8 ounces fresh mushrooms

    1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies

    1 teaspoon fresh thyme

    8 ounces cream cheese, chopped

    1 egg white, lightly beaten

    Poppy seeds to taste



    Open cans of the crescent roll dough, and press it over the bottom of a baking dish, pressing the perforations to seal. Brown the sausage in a large skillet, stirring until crumbly. Add the onion and sautè until tender. Add the mushrooms, green chilies and thyme. Sautè until the mushrooms are tender; drain. Add the cream cheese to the vegetables in the skillet, and cook until melted and smooth, stirring constantly.

    Spread the mixture over the roll dough. Roll and chill in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Slice and serve while hot.



    Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette



    "Balsamic vinegar is made from white wine vinegar and gets its dark color from being aged in wood barrels for years. Just like wine, the longer it ages, the more deeply flavored the vinegar. The mustard makes this a thicker, more emulsified vinaigrette," Branning wrote.

    1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar

    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    3/4 cup olive oil

    2 cloves minced garlic

    2 shallots, finely chopped

    1/4 to 1/2 cup honey to taste



    Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper until the salt is dissolved and the ingredients are well blended. Gradually whisk in the oil. Toss in some shallots to the mix, which will give it a nice crunch. Cover and store in the refrigerator. If the oil hardens from being chilled, just set your jar in a pot of hot water and let it warm up while you are preparing the rest of the salad.





    Shrimp and Crab Salad with Carolina Remoulade



    For the remoulade

    1 cup mayonnaise

    2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

    1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion

    1 tablespoon capers

    1 dill pickle, finely chopped

    1 teaspoon chopped parsley

    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper



    Whisk together the mayonnaise and lemon juice, add the rest of the ingredients and store in the refrigerator. Great on shrimp salad and crab cakes.



    For the salad

    1 pound crab meat

    2 cups small salad shrimp, cooked and peeled

    1 cup chopped celery

    1/2 cup Carolina Remoulade



    Combine the shrimp, crab and celery, and mix with the remoulade. Chill, covered for 1 hour.

Patricia Branning fell in love with the Lowcountry after moving to Beaufort from Atlanta in the 1970s.

After about seven years she moved away, but never forgot the food, friends and stories.

Branning is now sharing all of those memories in her commemorative Tricentennial Edition of "Shrimp, Collards & Grits: Recipes, Stories and Art from the Creeks and Gardens of the Lowcountry." More than a cookbook, the hardback, collectible edition features traditions and history of Beaufort and the Lowcountry. It is illustrated with well-known art and photos by local contributors including Beaufort native Nancy Ricker Rhett. The book was created as a tribute to the town of Beaufort.

"It is a love story because it is the place I fell in love with many years ago, and I want to pay tribute to the town that meant so much to us and to me," Branning said.

"I want people to feel like they can take a piece of the Lowcountry home with them, to take a piece of the Lowcountry art, stories, folklore and recipes -- it all ties in. To be able to take what they saw, what they ate, what they did while they were here."

Branning has cooked almost every recipe in the book or enjoyed the dishes at frequent gatherings she was a part of while living in the Arthur Barnwell House at Pleasant Point Plantation. Her husband, Cloide, enjoyed hunting with neighbors on the 800 acre plantation there as well as playing golf.

"I collected all kinds of recipes when a lot of the ladies would bring dishes, and we would share recipes after golfing events," Branning said.

Branning remembers two Gullah women who left fresh vegetables from their gardens on the steps of the plantation house, which overlooked the Intracoastal Waterway.

"From the veranda of the house, we watched as the crabbers came by every morning and dumped their pots," Branning said.

The couple returned to the Lowcountry permanently in December 2010. Their daughter teaches at Hilton Head Island Elementary School. Branning has learned about poverty and hunger of area students and is working to help those children by donating proceeds from the sale of her cookbook at farmers markets through her Carolina Cooking Initiative.

"A large number of children qualify for the free breakfast and free lunch, which means the weekends are not much more," Branning said.

"It will be a three-way effort between Pamela Ovens of the farmers markets and the Hilton Head Elementary PTA. We want to create public awareness for children and hunger."

For details and an update on how the project is coming, go to www.mycarolinacooking.com.

Branning hopes the cookbook will keep many Lowcountry legends alive.

"When I came back, I found some of that culture was lost that I had found in the 1970s," Branning said. "For example, some people were not aware of a Sheriff J.E. McTeer, who didn't carry a gun or about the Gullah people."

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