Traveling brings back memories of amazing delectables

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2011

We have been traveling again – Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

We added Savannah to our route because we had been in southern Georgia looking at a grass-fed Devon beef operation. We had not been to Savannah in years, but love the city with its many squares and grand old houses. We were late arriving so had no dinner reservations. We walked towards the river to see what we could find. We had been told that Paula Deen’s restaurant was NOT the place to go, so we skipped that one. We ate at Vic’s on the River, which turned out to be a pleasant treat with the piano player and a very good singer. The food was not outstanding. I had some very good scallops with crab risotto and lemon herbed truffle butter. Now, my husband, who had the mixed seafood grill, was not as happy. It was a seafood grill with Tasso cornbread, but the meal was mainly the cornbread, which was way too sweet. Oh well, it was not our last meal on earth.

We left early the next morning for Charleston and the Spoleto Festival, which we have been attending for 30 years. We got there early and dropped the dog off at the hotel and went into town to see what we could do for lunch. We found HUSK, which is a new restaurant started by Sean Brock (of McCrady’s fame) and had a delightful lunch outside (even in the heat) on the upstairs porch – the ceiling fans going. This food is simpler than his upscale McCrady’s, but very tasty. Their best-selling sandwich is their cheeseburger, infused with some extra fat, which made it delicious. My husband had a lamb sandwich BBQ with slaw and found it really good also. We had two sides of greens – pole beans with red peppers in a citrus sauce and collards with bacon fat. The pole beans were not cooked enough for our Southern tastes, but the collards were perfect. (They had used Benton’s bacon of course).

We went to the 5 p.m. performance of the Westminster Choir at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul (which had a little drama with a woman passing out and my husband rushing to her aid). The choir sounded wonderful, but since we were in the balcony we could not see the performers (Was this a slave balcony?), our attention was drawn to the woman across the way who was having trouble. Anyway, on to dinner, we had made reservations at McCrady’s, Sean Brock’s fine restaurant. He won the James Beard Award for the best chef in the Southeast last year. The food was very good, and my husband had pork three ways and I had the peppered duck. My appetizer was a little different. It consisted of a small piece of lobster infused with a popcorn flavor with two pieces of popcorn with the lobster and then some green foam on the side. I am not sure it was worth $16! These chefs just have to try some different creations. My husband had sweetbreads, which he always orders if it is on a menu.

We always think back to our first visits to Charleston some 30 years ago and remember our favorite restaurant then which was Henry’s. It was an old place even then, located on the Market. We loved the food there and the waiters. One of our favorite dishes was Shrimp a la Wando.

I found an old cookbook that I had bought in Charleston many years ago called Catch-of-the-Day, Southern Seafood Secrets by Ginny Lentz. I found a recipe that is very similar to the shrimp served at Henry’s. When I got home I made this for old time sake. Henry’s served the shrimp over fried grit cakes, but this could also be served over rice. If you like shrimp and grits, try this early version.

Fripp Island Shrimp Curry

Serves 6-8

4 Tablespoons butter

1 large onion, chopped fine

½ cup apple, chopped fine

½ cup celery, chopped fine

Sauté these ingredients and let simmer then add

1 ½ cups chicken stock or chicken bouillon

Let this simmer until most of the stock has cooked away

Stir in: ¼ teaspoon ginger, ¼ cup raisins, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons curry powder, salt and pepper.

Add 1 pint cream and cook gently until cream is reduced to sauce consistency. (If milk is substituted for cream, add 2 cups milk and thicken with a flour paste made of several tablespoons flour mashed into the butter.) After it has thickened, add 3 pounds parboiled or raw shrimp and heat thoroughly.

The first stage of this recipe may be made earlier in the day, leaving the shrimp to be added just before serving.

In the cookbook, they served the curry over rice with assorted condiments such as raisins, coconut, chopped peanuts and Major Grey’s Chutney.

To serve over grit cakes: Cook the grits according to the directions on the package, and then bake for 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Chill. When ready to serve, cut into squares and fry in hot oil until each side is brown.

I did the recipe last evening and served it over a fried grit cake, and it was delicious. I only used 2 pounds of shrimp and left out the raisins (since my husband does not like raisins in his curry). Try it. It was yummy. And I think perhaps as good as I remember at Henry’s.