Nom, Nom, pickled shrimp

Published 12:06 am Saturday, June 14, 2014

We just spent a wonderful three days in Charleston, S.C., for their Spoleto Festival. We try to go every year but this year was a food fest, and we had some relatives to join us. They wanted to eat some good food. Well, we ate at some wonderful restaurants and had six very different, but good meals.

As for performances, we saw a wonderful play called My Cousin Rachel, written by Daphne Du Maurier. It was a very suspenseful play and well done by all actors. Something different this year was a conversation between an Indian son and his mother about his refusing to agree to an arranged marriage. The play was called a Brimful of Asha, Asha being the mother’s name. It was fun to meet the mother and son on stage and they had an Indian appetizer for everyone in the audience. A nice touch even though I was not hungry. We went to one of our favorite venues, the Westminster choir. They always sing the best songs and it is so beautiful. We spent one day viewing eight Charleston gardens, only the second year for this tour. Some of these gardens were outstanding. Much love and attention had gone into these gardens.

As for food, where do I begin? I had booked five restaurants, some old and some new to us. Our arrival was late at night so we went to a restaurant we had visited 25 years ago called Poogan’s Porch. It had some typical Charleston fare but the best thing we had there was fried pimento cheese fritters. They were very cheesy and really too filling for an appetizer but of course I ate all four of them. Pimento cheese is still on a lot of menus, but who doesn’t love it? Our lunch the next day was at 82 Queen. This restaurant was in its prime 30 years ago, but the best thing on their menu was fried green tomatoes and a crab cake. Unfortunately I did not order that! Things do get better as time goes on! The evening was spent at The Ordinary, which Mike Lata has made popular in an old bank. The food here is fresh and really, really good. We had fresh oysters, pickled shrimp, crab on toast, butter fish with spices and tempura shrimp. This is well worth a repeat. Mike Lata also has the restaurant FIG (food is good) but I could not get a reservation. The next day we were on the garden tour and I asked for a place to eat in Mt. Pleasant, right over the bridge from Charleston. The lady I asked said you must go to Graze. They had an award winning Mac&Cheese which of course we had to have so we ordered three. The waitress said we only needed 2 at the most. She was wrong; we needed only one. I have never eaten such a filling dish. It had pulled pork, collards, and three smoked cheeses in the dish. Everything on the menu looked good and I would repeat this one also. I had a smoked beet salad and it was excellent. Dinner came so early; I was still full of Mac&Cheese, but the Charleston Grill was a great venue for seared foie gras and a salad. We ate at both of Sean Brock’s restaurants on Sunday, Husk for brunch and McCrady’s for dinner. Sean Brock is just a genius for creating new dishes. Husk featured pimento on crostini for an appetizer and this I had gotten last year and repeated it. McCrady’s has a set menu of four courses for $65.00 and it was probably the best meal overall for the three days. Every dish was small, fresh, and delicious and the highlight was a dessert made with grits! Heavenly!

Back to reality and home cooked food. I did buy two new cookbooks and the recipes below are from one of them. If you get a chance go to Charleston. It is a marvelous city any time of year!

From The Grand Traditions of Charleston Cuisine by Douglas W.Bostick, 2013.

Pimento Cheese

½ cup pimentos, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely diced

12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Dash of lemon juice

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Dash of Worcestershire

Mix the pimentos and garlic into the grated cheese. Mix a dash of lemon juice in with the mayonnaise and fold in the cheese mixture. Add the salt, pepper, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire. Refrigerate well before use.


Pickled Shrimp

1 tablespoon sea salt

½ cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup cider vinegar

1 2-ounce bottle capers, drained and chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 pounds medium shrimp

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 bay leaves, crushed

Combine the first eight ingredients in a mixing bowl to make the marinade. Boil the shrimp in salted water until pink. Cool and peel the shrimp. Some prefer to leave the tails intact. If you plan to serve the shrimp on a cracker or grits cake, remove the tails. Place the shrimp, onion, and bay leaves in layers in a one-quart Mason jar. Pour the prepared marinade over the shrimp, cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. The pickled shrimp will keep for up to two weeks, though once you savor the taste, they will never last that long.