We are spoiled in this country on so many levels. We search so hard for the next great thing that we frequently overlook the gems in our own backyards! 

Holly Herrick has taken a look in her own backyard and brought some of the greatest recipes from South Carolina to life in her Charleston Chef's Table Cookbook.

With great recipes that run the gamut from Lowcountry classics to inventive Italian, this is a great cookbook, but it’s more than that: its photos and stories reminds us that Charleston is a real gem of a city and an American architectural treasure.

Holly’s cookbook brings the local restaurant scene to life, but it also serves to remind us all that Charleston deserves more than a memory -- it deserves a visit to appreciate it in all its abundant beauty.

Meet Chef Holly Herrick

Relocating to Charleston in 2000, Holly Herrick began working as a staff writer and restaurant critic for the city’s only daily newspaper, The Post and Courier, for which she won the award for “Best Newspaper Series, Special Sections, and Special Projects” from the American Association of Food Journalists in 2006. Herrick also began freelancing in 2006 and has since written for numerous publications, including Low Country Living, Southern Living, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and Graffiti, among others. Her first book, “Southern Farmers Market Cookbook,” was published in spring 2009.

Buy: The Charleston Chef's Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Heart of the Old South
I’ve selected a pair of recipes for Lowcountry classics to share with you, but that is really the tip of the iceberg with the Charleston Chef's Table cookbook. There are tons of great recipes influenced by the complex elements that make up the culture of Charleston, but none as typical as these two.

Wine pairings

Virginia’s She-Crab Soup

She-Crab soup is about as typical of Lowcountry cooking as one can get. it’s a challenge to find a wine that pairs well with this sort of rich soup, but not impossible. I’d opt for a rich white Rhone blend. Call me corny, but the Hermit Crab from d’Arenberg seems like a natural here! This blend of Viognier and Marsanne is rich, aromatic, yet sappy enough to pair perfectly with this recipe.

Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

I love my grits, and this dish with its obvious Acadian influences looks divine: It's rich, smoky, and spicy -- what’s not to like? This is another slightly challenging dish; it would work well with a powerful white or rich rose, particularly in warmer weather, but I’m going to suggest a lighter styled red wine here. A lighter Rioja is a natural for this kind of dish (think paella, for example) and I love the Cubillo from Lopez de Heredia. It’s got enough acidity to stand up to the tomatoes in the dish and enough flavor to parry the spice tones yet it’s won’t overpower the delicate flavors of the shrimp.

Recipes from The Charleston Chef's Table, after the jump. Click here to download the full recipe as a PDF

Virginia’s on King

412 King Street, downtown
(843) 735-5800
Executive Chef: Jason Murphy

Whether sitting down for a noon meal (“lunch” elsewhere but “dinner” at Virginia’s) or for an evening meal (“dinner” elsewhere but “supper” at Virginia’s), guests here can expect a heaping serving of authentic Charleston-born gentility and truly Southern gustatory pleasures. Country Fried Steak Served with Red-Eye Gravy, Stuffed Pork Chops, Fried Pickles, and Brown Sugar–Glazed Ham and more come directly from the recipe file of the restaurant’s namesake, one Mrs. Virginia Bennett. A native of Charleston, Mrs. Bennett believes in the tradition of breaking bread and sharing good food with her large brood. For years, she, her six children, and husband Warren J. convened in their home to dine on Sunday afternoons (which later become Thursday afternoons) for a multigenerational family dinner.

 Now, everyone’s invited to share in the tasty tradition, which is served seven days a week at the restaurant. Executive chef Jason Murphy literally sat down with Virginia to look over every single one of her recipes and tweak as needed. As luscious as the food is (especially the fried okra with house-made remoulade that will leave you crying for more), the smart, mercifully gingham-free décor is not to be overlooked. Guess who had a say in all of that that? If you look around on a Thursday afternoon, you might just see the grand dame herself.

Virginia’s She-Crab Soup

(Serves 10 to 12)
  • 2 sticks ( ½ pound) sweet butter
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into fine even dice
  • 1 onion, cut into fine even dice
  • 1 large stalk celery, cut into fine even dice
  • ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sherry
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 quarts heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (preferably Frank’s
  • Hot Sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ pound crab roe
  • ½ pound fresh blue crab meat
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and celery. Stir to coat and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add ½ cup of sherry (reserving the rest for later). Stir and cook until the sherry has reduced by half. Stir in the flour to create a roux. Cook the roux over medium-low heat (do not allow it to color), until it has thickened and formed a loose paste, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream, whisking to incorporate with the roux. Cook over medium heat until the soup base has thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook another 20 minutes, or until the soup has thickened enough to slightly coat the back of a spoon and the crab is cooked. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Discard the bay leaf. Serve in shallow bowls that showcase the soup’s silky texture and pale pink blush. If desired, garnish each soup with a drizzle of the remaining sherry.

Click here to download the full recipe as a PDF

A former member of the Air Force, who once worked the line at an enlisted dining hall that served a thousand meals five times a day, oversees the small open kitchen with pragmatism and culinary panache honed under Frank Lee at Slightly North of Broad (see page 160). Chef de cuisine Jim Walker subscribes to the basic formula of all the Maverick Southern Kitchens properties (the restaurant group also owns High Cotton, Slightly North of Broad, and High Hammock on Pawley’s Island), which he describes as “Southern/Lowcountry with a twist.”

He personalizes the recipes on the fish- and steak-intensive menu with his commanding sense of what works best in each dish. He reworked a recipe for the restaurant’s shrimp and grits, for example, to include country ham, Cajun seasoning, and andouille sausage. “The spiciness develops as you eat it. It starts on the front of the tongue and slowly moves back,” says Jim of his stunningly delicious take on shrimp and grits.

Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

(Serves 4 to 6)

For the grits:
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 cups stone-ground grits
  • 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
  • 1–1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the shrimp sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ¾ pounds Thibodeaux’s andouille sausage (or substitute another brand), cut into approximately 28 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 cup cubed country ham (cut into 1/4-inch dice)
  • 11/4 pounds large (21–25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ½ cup finely chopped peeled and seeded tomatoes
  • ¼ cup finely sliced scallions
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning (Jim suggests R.L. Schreiber brand)
  • 1 cup salt-free chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To prepare the grits, bring the water to a boil over high heat in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the grits, stir, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk or flat-tipped wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring, until thickened (the grits should plop like a thick cornbread batter), 30 to 40 minutes. Turn off the burner and let stand covered, so that the grits can continue to slowly absorb the water, for 1 to 2 hours. Just before serving, reheat the grits over medium heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and the heavy cream, stirring to incorporate. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before serving, prepare the shrimp sauce. Heat the oil over high heat in a large deep sauté pan. When hot and sizzling, add the sausage and country ham. Sauté, tossing, until the sausage and ham begin to turn golden and caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the shrimp, tomato, scallions, minced garlic, and Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning. Sauté for another 3 minutes, being sure to combine well and coat the ingredients evenly with the seasoning. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the butter and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, another 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle the grits into shallow bowls and top with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Two Perfect Lowcountry Pairings

D'Arenberg The Hermit Crab 2008
This blend of Viognier and Marsanne is rich, aromatic, yet sappy enough to pair perfectly with Virginia's She-Crab soup.

R. López de Heredia Rioja Crianza Viña Cubillo
This lighter-styled Rioja is a natural for rich, smoky, spicy Lowcountry Shrip and Grits.