Thanksgiving done the Lowcountry way
Story by Shane Sharp
At first blush, they’re a holiday and a region in stark contrast. Traditional Thanksgiving meals typically call for turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and maybe – just maybe – a green vegetable or two. Top it all off with gravy, salt and pepper and you’re good to go.
The Lowcountry, on the other hand, is home to the world’s best shellfish, a wide array of native greens and enough spicy seasoning to keep heads clear and eyes watering.
Immovable object meets unstoppable force? Hardly, according to some of the area’s top chefs.
“With a few tweaks and a little imagination, you can put a Lowcountry spin on a traditional Thanksgiving meal,” says Sea Pines Country Club Executive Chef Brian Coseo. “It presents an opportunity to serve some unforgettable dishes.”
Sea Pines Country Club is a melting pot of members from the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast, many of whom weren’t familiar with Lowcountry cuisine upon moving to the area.
Chef Coseo says both newcomers and longtime residents can dish up a little – or a lot – of Lowcountry flavor to their feast by adding some exceptional local ingredients – Carolina Gold Rice, farmed by Anson Mills just outside of Columbia, fresh Sea Island Red Peas, or plump oysters pulled from local waters and available at a number of seafood markets.
From seafoods and meats to veggies and cooking techniques, here’s advice from the experts for taking holiday Lowcountry cooking to the next level.
For longtime Lowcountry denizens, the months that end with “r,” September through December, are all about the oysters.
And cool November nights and the warmth of the Thanksgiving table give way to another regional specialty Chef Coseo loves preparing for members – cornbread stuffing with oysters.
“With the addition of fresh marsh-to-table oysters, traditional cornbread stuffing takes on a delicious new flavor,” Chef Coseo says. “And an abundance of local shrimp and clams make wonderful additions to soups and sauces.”
Sean Carroll, executive chef at Alexander’s Restaurant and Wine Bar at Palmetto Dunes Resort, prefers to let the catch of the day determine his “course” of action.
“The other day we had mutton snapper fresh off the boat from one of our local fishermen and paired it with a seasonal corn pudding,” he says. “Seafood works well this time of year if you couple it with comfort food.”
This oyster stew recipe from Charlie’s L’etoile Verte is full of Lowcountry flavor.
Charlie’s L’etoile Verte
Pan Roasted Bluffton Oyster Stew
1 quart heavy whipping cream
1/2 pint of freshly shucked Bluffton Oysters
5 tablespoons chili sauce
Parsley (for garnish)
Following seasonings to taste:
Directions  In a medium size saucepan, combine the whipping cream, chili sauce and seasonings. Bring to rapid boil over medium to high heat, stirring frequently. The cream blend should be a nice salmon pink color when all the ingredients come together over the heat.  Drop in the oysters and cook for one minute. Divide and serve in large bowls with French baguette for dredging or oyster crackers. Garnish with parsley.
Haig Point executive chef Taylor Griffin offers this Lowcountry seafood classic, perfect for any gather.
Shrimp & Grits
3 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup stone ground grits
1 tablespoon butter
Salt to taste
Directions  In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bring water to a boil. Add salt and grits and stir.  Reduce heat and skim any floating chaff from the mixture. Continue to stir, and as soon as the grits begin to thicken, add the heavy cream.  Continue to cook grits on low heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. When grits are at desired tenderness, add the butter and stir.
Ingredients (shrimp sauce)
1 pound fresh local shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 slices of thick bacon, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
6 cloves of garlic, sliced long ways
2 shallots, minced
1 cup white wine
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (Chef Paul Prudhomme’s blackened redfish magic blend)
1 tablespoon chopped green onion, for garnish
Directions  Place the chopped bacon in a large frying pan and set over medium heat.  Toss the shrimp in the Cajun seasoning mixture. When bacon is rendered, increase heat to medium high and add shrimp to pan with the garlic and shallot. Sauté and stir for 2-3 minutes allowing shrimp to get a nice color on both sides.  Add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Once wine is mostly reduced, add the heavy cream and allow it to reduce for 3 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Remove shrimp from the pan when fully cooked and allow sauce to thicken fully.  To serve, portion out a scoop of grits on a large plate or bowl. Arrange shrimp on top of the grits and pour the sauce over. Garnish with chopped green onion.
If a late afternoon Lowcountry boil is the official dish of summer, the chicken bog is a fall rite of passage.
According to lore, its name is derived from the chicken being “bogged down” in a sea of rice. The traditional recipe calls for boiling a whole chicken, pulling the meat off the bones, mixing it with onion, bell pepper, bacon, butter and Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice in a massive pot.
Adding smoked or cured sausage is a popular adaptation, and the fall is the best time of year to take advantage of the Lowcountry’s peak pork season.
“In the fall you get the best pork with the most marbling,” says Frankie Bones Bluffton Executive Chef Luke Lyons. “I order a barrel cut from Keegan-Filion Farm in Walterboro and get everything I need for pork shoulder, ribs and sausage.”
LOCAL Life Test Kitchen
6 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 onion, chopped
1 whole chicken, around 3 pounds
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 pound smoked sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 cubes chicken bouillon
Directions  Place water, salt and onion in a large pot. Add chicken and bring all to a boil; cook until chicken is tender, about 1 hour.  Remove chicken from pot and let cool. Remove skin and bones and chop remaining meat into bite-sized pieces.  Skim fat from cooking liquid and measure 3 1/2 cups of this chicken broth into a 6-quart saucepan. Add rice, chicken pieces, sausage, herb seasoning and bouillon to saucepan. Cook all together for 30 minutes; bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, keeping pan covered. If mixture is too watery, cook over medium low heat uncovered until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir often while cooking.
Sometimes, roasting a whole turkey is just too much of an undertaking. A roulade is surprisingly easy, super flavorful and much easier to carve. Here is a great one from Chef Nunzio Patruno.
Turkey Roulade with Cranberry Chutney
4 slices raw turkey breast, lightly pounded
1/2 cup cooked spinach, squeezed and dried
3 ounces cranberries, dried
3 ounces pine nuts
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons parmigiano cheese
4 slices prosciutto
1 mango, diced
3 ounces cranberry, dried
2 ounces walnuts
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Directions  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  To prepare roulade mix, mix together the spinach, cranberries, pine nuts, ricotta, breadcrumbs, parmigiano, eggs and nutmeg. Set aside.  To prepare the roulade, place on a flat surface one flat sheet of aluminum foil. Place four slices of prosciutto in the center of the sheet and sprinkle with fresh rosemary and sage. Then, place the turkey slices on top of the prosciutto. Spread the stuffing mix in the middle of the turkey slice and roll tightly. Make sure the prosciutto covers the outside of the turkey as you roll. Use the aluminum foil to help you make the roll nice and tight. Seal both sides of aluminum foil, like salami.  Bake the roulade for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.  To make the chutney, sauté in a sauce pan the balsamic vinegar, cranberries and walnuts. Cook down for 5 minutes. Then, add the mango and let simmer a few minutes. Add salt and pepper and set aside.  To plate the roulade, remove the foil from the turkey roulade and slice with an electric knife into 3/4 inches. Place onto a serving platter and serve with a spoon of the chutney on top.
Top your holiday ham or ribs (even dessert cakes) with this unforgettable whiskey glaze from the team at Porter & Pig.
Porter & Pig
Rabbit Hole Dareringer Whiskey Glaze
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups of brown sugar
1/2 cup of Rabbit Hole Dareringer Whiskey
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Directions  Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add brown sugar, nutmeg, salt and whiskey. Cook until the sugar dissolves for about 5 minutes.  Beat eggs in a mixing bowl and slowly add hot whiskey mixture, whisking as you add. Once the mixture is tempered, add the remaining egg mixture and whiskey mixture together and return to heat.  Heat until boiling for one minute then remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Chef’s note: This glaze can be used for your holiday ham or a fall apple spiced bundt cake.
With ample rain, sunshine and a long fall growing season, the Lowcountry has historically cranked out a diverse lineup of produce.
Chef Lyons says November is a prime month for enjoying a Southern staple, collard greens.
“We’ll take fresh collards and braise them in a hoppy, hazy IPA along with some bacon for a rich flavoring,” he says. “It really sticks to the ribs and complements a strong main dish.”
Sea Pines Country Club has its own garden located between its sprawling pool deck and the expansive tidal marsh that separates it from the Calibogue Sound. Chef Coseo frequently visits the garden in the fall to harvest okra and other vegetables.
“Okra is great for home pickling, and the finished product is a great addition to the appetizer tray or as a garnish for cocktails,” he says.
Another local treat is the humble sweet potato, and Coseo is a big fan. These tantalizing tubers are the state veggie of North Carolina, but South Carolina more than holds its own. When the weather turns cool, he suggests serving sweet potato pie alongside traditional pecan pie.
Belfair banquet chef David Vincent Young has mastered the sweet potato, using it in a variety of recipes including his famous sweet potato cornbread, and this incredible sweet potato cheesecake pie, featured in his cookbook “Burnin’ Down South.”
Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie
(Makes 10-inch deep dish pie)
Ingredients (sweet potatoes)
4 medium sweet potatoes
3 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
Directions  Scrub and peel sweet potatoes. Cut potatoes into medium diced pieces. Place in a 4-quart sauce pan.  Add sugars and cover potatoes with water. Boil until tender, 15-25 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and reserve the sweet potato syrup. Bring the syrup back to a boil. Boil until syrup thickens. Allow to cool. Mash sweet potatoes.
16 ounces cream cheese
2 cups hot mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large eggs
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sweet potato syrup or molasses
Directions  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, condensed milk, sugar and spices. Beat until smooth.  Add mashed sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients (eggs, brandy, vanilla, flour and syrup). Mix until smooth.
3 cups graham crackers, crushed
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Directions  Combine crackers and butter. Press into pie pan.  Pour batter into crust. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until filling has set. Bring pie to room temperature on a cooling rack. Refrigerate.  Serve chilled with whipped cream and sweet potato syrup.
Spices & techniques
Coastal South Carolina cuisine borrows heavily from Cajun and Creole, and Chef Carrol says blackening spices can morph any dish into a Lowcountry delight. “I make my own using chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, sugar and ginger,” he says “I’ll rub a turkey with sage pesto and the blackening mix for Lowcountry twist on traditional turkey.” As for cooking techniques, Chef Lyons says the Lowcountry has historically embraced the single-pot method. “Boiling is a great way to add ingredients in a certain order,” he says. “It also frees you up to do other things like entertaining guests.”
Add more flavor to you holiday stuffing with this sausage, cranberry & apple stuffing from Geist Ussery of Signature Catering & Events by SERG.
Signature Catering & Events
Sausage, Cranberry & Apple Stuffing
1 loaf sour dough bread, cubed (about 10 cups)
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 pounds sweet sausage
1/2 cup shallots, diced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped and divided
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 cup chardonnay wine
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Directions  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Place cubed sourdough on 2 baking sheets. Bake 10-15 minutes, stirring bread occasionally until toasted, but not browned. Place toasted bread cubes into extra large bowl, add cranberries and apples. Set aside.  Butter 9×13-inch casserole dish. Set aside. In large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage using spatula to break it up as it cooks. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons sage. Cook through, but do not brown.  Remove sausage from skillet using slotted spoon and add it to bowl with bread cubes.  Leave 2 tablespoons of sausage drippings in the pan (drain any extra) and add shallots. Cook until translucent; add pecans, herbs and remaining sage to skillet. Cook 2 minutes stirring frequently. Pour shallot herb mixture into bowl with bread cubes.  Add wine to skillet and scrape browned bits from bottom of pan as it cooks. Add butter and chicken stock. Bring to boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat and pour over bread cubes in bowl.  Add eggs. Toss gently until combined and pour into prepared baking dishes.  Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes more.
Delicious offerings from local restaurants that you’ll want to try.
Gluten-free baked potato
Baked potato, butter, sour cream and cheese. Add steamed broccoli, bacon crumbles, scallions or extra of any topping for 50 cents. All gluten free. Available at The G-Free Spot. $6.99.
Impress your holiday breakfast or brunch crowd with these fantastic take-and-bake biscuits from Bad Biscuit. Smother them with sausage gravy, mushroom cobbler or pimento cheese for classic Lowcountry flavor. They are $18 a dozen or $10 a half dozen and come in a bake-ready pan. To order, call 843-785-2323.
Butternut squash ravioli
House-made butternut squash ravioli, flash frozen so they can go straight from the freezer into boiling water for a quick and delicious dinner. Available in The Market Cafe at Michael Anthony’s.
Ember-grilled filet mignon
Shiitakes, spinach, blistered cherry tomatoes, whipped potatoes, caramelized shallot and gorgonzola compound butter. Available at The Pearl
Kitchen & Bar. $55.