Husk in Charleston/ Shrimp and Grits

February 24th, 2016

husk-exterior-body

Ever since Sean Brock’s meaningful book Heritage came out last year, I have wanted to visit his beautiful restaurant, Husk, in Charleston S.C. Sean Brock’s philosophy about food hits the right chords in my psyche.  The history of the Southern table, the heritage of lost flavors and varieties from the fields, and the importance of keeping these traditions alive with a new twist, all speak to me.  He illustrates his thinking with the story of Hoppin’ John.  His first experience eating hoppin’ John left him less than excited.  It was no wonder it was disappointing being made from commercial, enriched rice and old, flavorless black-eyed peas.  Once he tried it with Sea Island red peas, originally planted by African slaves, and with re-introduced heritage Carolina Gold rice, he knew why it was such a popular dish from the past.  Heritage seeds and varieties matter and it is important to keep them alive in our industrialized farming world.

Husk at table

Husk is located on beautiful Queen Street in the historic district of Charleston.  We have walked that street often over the years.  On our first trip to Charleston years ago we stayed at The Elliot House Inn, which is almost next door to Husk. Also next door is Poogan’s Porch, another lovely restaurant with a long history.  It used to be a favorite of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Husk is housed in a Queen Anne style house built in 1893 during the grandeur period in Charleston. “The building retains its antique charm and stately exterior while the interior has been renovated with a modern, minimalist theme, designed by Michael Shewan of Michael David & Associates of Charleston, SC.  We were charmed by the dining room with three fireplaces and original tall windows that added light and warmth.

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But food is the reason that Husk shines.  The standards are high here.  The food is locally sourced.  The restaurant grows many of its own vegetables.  Whole pigs are purchased and all parts are used.  The kitchen has a pantry of in-house canned and pickled vegetables.  They have a wood burning oven to impart a homey smokiness to many of their dishes.  An example of a winning dish is Husk’s Shrimp and Grits.  The grits are milled from heirloom corn ( A good commercial brand is Anson Mills).  The shrimp are often caught by free-casting a net along a creek bank or from trawlers that go to the deeper waters offshore.  The smokey taste to my dish came from a combination of tasso ham and wood-oven smoked tomatoes.  It was truly one of the best shrimp and grits dishes that I have ever eaten.

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David had Husk’s house-made Maple Sausage, Kentucky Bacon Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Peppers. It came with their signature homemade ketchup and potato wedges.  It was delicious.  But he would have preferred the Shrimp and Grits if he hadn’t had it the night before at another restaurant.  Husk’s version was the winner.

We left the restaurant on a quest for ingredients to make our own Shrimp and Grits.  I should make that singular, not plural.  David was on the quest to find Tasso Ham and good grits.

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We found Tasso Ham and the local grits at a nearby market.  David’s version of Shrimp and Grits was not quite the same as Husk’s version, but we loved it all the same. If you can’t find Tasso Ham you can always use a good quality smoked bacon.

SHRIMP AND TASSO GRAVY OVER PIMENTO CHEESE GRITS

(Adapted from a recipe by Stephen Crowe, at The Farmers Shed in Lexington, SC, as featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)

Ingredients

Grits:

4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable or seafood, or any combination)
1 tsp salt
4TBL butter
1 cup stone-ground white grits
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup good pimento cheese spread

Tasso Gravy:

3/4 cup leek thinly sliced across the stalk
1/2 cup julienned red bell pepper
1/2 cup julienned yellow or orange bell pepper
1/4 cup finely sliced shallot
2 oz finely diced tasso ham
1 TBL chili powder
1 TBL smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
Small pinch seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay
1 1/2 cups clam juice
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup white wine, e.g. Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio
1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 3 tsp melted butter (for thickening sauce if necessary)
1/4 cup finely sliced scallions for garnish

Shrimp:

2 lb medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 TBL butter

Directions

Grits:  Bring the broth, and salt to a boil in a sauce pan. Very slowly pour in the grits, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat, and continue to cook for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring frequently until done. Add the butter, half & half, and pimento cheese, and stir well to combine.  Keep warm over a water bath until ready to serve.

Tasso Gravy:  Saute the tasso ham in a large saute pan with a little olive oil until the ham is slightly browned and most of the fat has rendered. Remove the ham with a slotted spoon and reserve on some paper towel. Add the leeks, peppers, and shallot to the grease in the pan and saute until soft or even lightly brown.  Add the chile powder, paprika, basil, thyme, oregano, pepper, salt, garlic, and seafood seasoning, and stir well to mix.  Add the clam juice, tomato juice, and white wine and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the half & half and simmer for 15 minutes. If the sauce seems too thin, make a roux with the flour and melted butter in a small bowl, and add a little at a time to the gravy, stirring constantly, until the desired consistency is reached.  You don’t want a thick gravy. It should be fairly runny, and you may not need the flour roux at all.  Add the ham to the gravy and reduce the heat to very low.  Saute the shrimp in 2 TBL butter in a separate large saute pan until pink, then transfer the shrimp to the gravy pan using a slotted spoon, and simmer for 2 minutes.

To Serve:  Spoon some grits onto each plate or bowl, and spoon some of the shrimp mixture around the grits.  Top with some of the finely sliced scallion to garnish.  (I forgot to buy scallions)

Printable Recipe

Dining on the Road

February 18th, 2016

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We have had a whirlwind week of travel, going from sunny Florida to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Washington DC. where snow, ice and blowing winds reminded me that winter is not my favorite season.  But regardless of the season, warmth and good food can be found anywhere if you take the time to make good selections.  Fortunately we were lucky to be guided by family (Dave and Darla) to one of their favorite restaurants in Vienna, Virginia just outside of D.C.

Clarity

Clarity is a neighborhood bistro with two talented chefs in the open kitchen.  The food is creative American fare.  I enjoyed the above Roasted Pennsylvania Chicken with leek and gruyere bread pudding, garlic roasted French beans and chicken jus.  I will be trying to duplicate the bread pudding very soon.

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Darla had the Seared New-England Sea Scallops with potato gnocchi, pork belly and cream.  This is another dish that would be fun to duplicate.

IMG_0004Dave ordered the Hand-rolled Tomato Fettucini Puttanesca.  All of the pastas at Clarity are handmade.

IMG_0005My David had the Carolina Mountain Trout with duck confit, edamame, fennel and trout roe.  Trout roe is so pretty.  I recently saw it used with parsnip hoe cakes and creme fraiche.  If anyone knows where I can find trout roe, I would appreciate your input.

We had many more fine meals while traveling and I will let you know about them in future posts.  In the meantime, I am headed to the market to buy leeks and Gruyere to make a tasty bread pudding.

The Magic of Venice

October 28th, 2015

Venice close-up of gondola

Venice is like no other vacation destination.  This decadent, elegantly decaying city is uniquely grand.  From the Grand Canal to the alleyways and waterway tributaries, it is a delight to the senses.  Getting lost in Venice is a good thing.  You never know what you will find around the next corner.

Venice gondoliersWe wandered from the main thoroughfare of the Grand Canal to alleys so small we had to walk single file.

Venice AlleyBut every path led to a view of water, piazzas, and ancient buildings.  I was also on a quest in Venice.  I wanted to find a restaurant that my blogging buddy, Penny of The Comforts of Home, told me about.  While she and her hubby and another couple were in Venice a few years ago, they found a charming restaurant while wandering, but they found it through the back (or kitchen) entrance.  Not having any idea how to get back to their hotel through the front door, they departed through the kitchen and applauded the kitchen staff for a fine meal as they left.   So with the name of the restaurant, Poste Vecie, and the loose directions of “near the Rialto Fish Market”, we found it!

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We took a little break from our group and had a quiet lunch together while our friends did other things.  As much as you love your traveling companions, it is good to have a break now and then.  It gave us time to shop for family and look at sights that were of particular interest to us.

Posta Vecie Sunroom 2

 

We had a great meal on the patio of Poste Vecie.  The interior of the trattoria has a timeless warmth.

Poste Vecie Interior

Poste Vecie Fish Soup 2

 

David’s seafood stew was wonderful, as was my Sole Meuniere.

Assumption of the Virgin

 

After lunch we visited the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari.  It features the work of three great Renaissance masters: Donatello, Bellini and Titian.  Above, Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin was called the most beautiful picture in the world by Canova.

Venice at night

We ended our two day tour of Venice with an evening Vaporetto boat tour of the Grand Canal.  Venice after dark presents an even more charming face.  Our next destination – Tuscany.

The Dolomites

October 18th, 2015

DAY 5 - GUDON 007

“According to legend, there once was a haunted castle hidden between the jagged peaks of Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. A farmer found the castle and discovered a cellar packed with barrels of the most delicious wine he had ever known. The farmer started to collect some of the wine in a leather pouch but suddenly three ghosts appeared. They told the terrified farmer that if he swore to keep the location of the cellar a secret, he could take as much wine as he’d like. A few nights later, the farmer drank too much at a local tavern and revealed the location of the mysterious cellar. His drinking companions went to the spot, and as they approached, the castle dissolved into thin air.

The legend persists to this day; ask about the castle and you’ll be told that it still exists somewhere in these mountains, but you will not find anyone willing to reveal its location.” ( Quoted from The Wine Enthusiast).

I think we found that castle right across the valley from where we were staying.  On a foggy morning we captured several picture like the one above that gave this particular castle an ethereal, mystical aura.  The Dolomites are the roof top of Italy, sitting on the Swiss and Austrian borders.  Dolomite, a pink granite, forms craggy peaks and changes color from orange to purple to pink as the day progresses.  In the native Ladin language of the isolated people of this region they have a word for the dolomite color; enrosdadira, meaning becoming pink.

 

DAY 5 - GUDON 009

 

Alpine meadows dot the landscape with charming villages clustered together in verdant fields.

Dolomites in Snow

But getting there was a hair pin drive in snowy conditions.  You can tell by the look on my face that I am not in my natural element.  Trying to smile but . . . .

DAY 5 - GUDON 011

This was our final destination.

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It was a most welcoming Tyrolean chalet on a hillside overlooking the meadows.  The name of our chalet was Schonblick.  Most chalets have names. This region retains its Austrian Alpine roots and many of the Swiss style houses are adorned with flower pots on the terrace and the feeling that at any minute someone is going to break out in song to “The hills are alive with the sound of music”.

Stelvio Pass Peaks

The reason we were in the Dolomites was because the guys wanted to ride the Stelvio Pass.  It is a famous curvy road loved by motorcyclists the world over.  Unfortunately the weather conditions were too dangerous for them to attempt it.

Stelvio Pass David

But they enjoyed lots of other interesting roads.  Tulin and I took a safer route in the car, but were still challenged by the drive. We all ended up at Schonblick in the late afternoon, settled into our comfortable house and had dinner in the village.  Gudon is a very small village.  It has one restaurant and one Pizzeria.  The food in this area is heavily influenced by Austria and Germany. The local Ladin people have embraced food from Austria, Germany and Italy, creating an interesting cuisine.  It is heavy on pork products like speck and sausages.  Our dinner was an extravaganza of meats. I thought we had pictures of the meal, but could not find them amongst the myriad pictures that we took.

But David made an excellent sausage and savoy cabbage dinner for us when we got home.  I am not doing much of the cooking right now.  After a fabulous vacation in Italy, I went to the hospital and had surgery to remove plates and pins from my leg; something I have been putting off for a long time.  My dear artist friend Carole sent me this card and it just about sums it up, although my leg is only taped.  I will be back in the kitchen soon!

Carole's card

As a nod to the food of The Dolomites, David made this Seared Savoy Cabbage with Mixed Sausages.  Enjoy before a roaring fire.

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SEARED SAVOY CABBAGE WITH MIXED SAUSAGES (Epicurious)

Kosher salt
1 1 1/2-pound head savoy cabbage, cut into 8 wedges with some core attached
1 cup 1″ crustless bread cubes
1 teaspoon mustard powder
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds mixed sausages 9such as sweet Italian, kielbasa, and smoked garlic)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Season heavily with salt.  Cook cabbage wedges until crisp-tender but not falling apart, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Pulse bread cubes in a food processor until coarse crumbs form; transfer to a medium bowl.  Add mustard powder and stir to coat.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add breadcrumbs; stir frequently until golden, 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.

Whisk 3 tablespoons oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl.  Season mustard vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until smoking.  Working in 2 batches and adding remaining 1 tablespoon oil between batches, sear cabbage wedges until dark and crispy edges form on both cut sides, 3-4 minutes per side.

Cook sausages in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through 9time will vary depending on variety and whether fresh or fully cooked).

Transfer cabbage to a platter; arrange sausages around.  Scatter breadcrumbs and tarragon over.  Serve mustard vinaigrette on the side.

Printable Recipe

Arrivederci for a Few Weeks

September 13th, 2015

 

 

Italy, Milan 2

 

We are on our way to Italy this week.  It has been a whirlwind of activity proceeding our departure.  I have had little time to plan ahead.  But much of our itinerary is already in place.  We will be doing another motorcycle tour with our French friends in charge and the other couple from the states who have accompanied us on many of our trips.  We will fly into Milan and spend two days acclimating ourselves to the time zone.  While there we will view Da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, visit the Duomo, and do a little shopping.  Since Milan is the Fashion Capital of Italy, that is a necessity.

Italy, Lake Como

From Milan we will travel to beautiful Lake Como.  We have reserved a lovely 3 bedroom house on the lake (Not the one pictured above) for 3 days.  I am hoping to take a cooking class at Ristorante Il Caminetto.

Italy, Stelvio-Pass

David and the other guys are looking forward to riding the Stelvio Pass.  It is a winding road in the Italian Alps that is popular with motorcycle enthusiasts. We girls will probably find something else to do.  One of the advantages of the trip this year is that we are staying put in one place for a few days at a time, which allows the guys to do day trips around the area.  We also have a van at our disposal.

Italy, VeniceVenice will be a lovely experience I am sure.  My friend Penny told me about a wonderful restaurant, Poste Vecie, off the beaten path that I am looking forward to finding.

Italy, Tuscany

From Venice we will travel west into the region of Tuscany. It should be wine harvest season and all of us are looking forward to the beauty of the region.

Tuscany Kitchen

The Tuscan farmhouse that we have rented appears charming.  It is an easy bus ride into Florence.

Italy, Florence

There is so much to do in Florence.  It is nice to have the luxury of a few days spent there.

Italy Rome

Our last stop will be Rome.  I will do my best to chronicle our trip either on The Lake Lure Kitchen Facebook page or my personal Facebook page.  I will also try to post our adventures here on the blog.  I will see you back here soon.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.