Cooking Lowcountry seafood with Matthew Roher

The Lowcountry of South Carolina is known for its delicious seafood. Shrimp, fish, crab, clams and oysters are popular menu choices.

Story by Amy Coyne Bredeson + Photos by Celia G Photography

Dozens of area restaurants serve entrees using fresh local seafood. But for those who want to cook it themselves, Matthew Roher, executive chef at The Sea Pines Resort, offers some tips for selecting and preparing tasty seafood dishes at home.

COOKING DEMO Roher will host a cooking demonstration on March 8 at the Hilton Head Wine & Food Festival.

Originally from Long Island, N.Y., Roher graduated from the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. Before accepting the job with Sea Pines in 2016, he was the senior executive chef for many years at The Landings Club in Savannah. Roher now oversees the culinary program for Sea Pines’ many facilities.

First off, Roher is a big proponent of supporting local seafood producers. Not only is this practice good for the local economy, but it preserves the traditions, culture and knowledge passed down through generations on where the good fishing is at certain times of the year, what local conditions contribute to fish availability, and so on.

“If you’re not an avid year-round fisherman, you have to trust and understand and be partnered with your source,” Roher said. “You have shrimp at peak times. You have your speckled trout at the right times, your saltwater trout. You have your oysters at the right moments. You just get into that rhythm, where whenever you go into that shop, you buy what they’re telling you to buy.”

Roher buys as much local seafood as possible, but Sea Pines is a big operation. Resort visitors consume thousands of pounds of seafood every year, so Roher has to expand the radius a little, going as far south as North Florida and as far north as North Carolina during different times of the year.

When purchasing fish, Roher said people should ask for it to be broken down into fillets to simplify the process and avoid having to deal with a large, unwieldy fish. He also said to make sure to scrub the shells really well before cooking fresh, local shellfish.

From a recipe standpoint, Roher said it’s best to keep the seafood simple to truly appreciate it. With the mild, flaky, white fish, such as snapper, grouper and triggerfish, just add a little salt, pepper, lemon and butter.

Spanish mackerel and kingfish are oily and have a more fishy taste that some people find too intense. Roher suggested brining and smoking these types of fish to take a bit of the edge.

“A big part of my background is cooking healthy products, you know, superfoods,” Roher said. “We grow a lot of things here now as well. We’ve got tons of great herbs and watercress. We use that in all of our cooking. Watercress is actually the No. 1 superfood on the face of the Earth.”

Roher uses watercress in his toasted farro and smoked tomato chowder, which he will be preparing during a cooking demonstration from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 8 at the Hilton Head Island Wine & Food Festival.

The demonstration will be given in the Atlantic Room at the Beach Club at Sea Pines. Participants will enjoy a three-course lunch featuring chowder, local shrimp crepes and apple brown butter cake for dessert. He will also give a brief lecture on local shrimp, and guests will leave with recipes for all three dishes.

“Locally, the aquaculture of our shellfish is really amazing right now,” he said. “It’s some of the best seafood on the planet … because you have the tidal creeks, you have the freshwater, you have the brackish water, then you have Gray’s Reef, which is right off the coast of Georgia. And then certain times of the year, you have the blue water, the Gulf Stream that comes close and brings us the big pelagic fish.”


Shrimp Crepes

Ingredients (Crepes)
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Ingredients (Filling)
1/2 lb. asparagus, trimmed
1/2 lb. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced

Ingredients (Sauce)
1 cup white wine
2 cups cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 lb. chopped lobster meat, found at local grocery stores or at local seafood market
1 teaspoon tomato paste
12 large shrimp

Directions (Crepes) [1] Beat 1 1/2 cups milk and eggs together in a large bowl using electric mixer until frothy, about 2 minutes. [2] Add 1 1/4 cups flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt to milk mixture. Beat until incorporated, about 2 more minutes. [3] Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. [4] Pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet and immediately rotate the skillet until the batter evenly coats the bottom in a thin layer. Cook until the top of the crepe is no longer wet and the bottom has turned light brown. Run a spatula around the edge of the skillet to loosen. Flip crepe and cook until the other side has turned light brown.

Directions (Filling) [1] Bring 3 quarts of water to boil in large stock pot, add salt. [2] Put asparagus into water and blanch about 2 minutes. Remove asparagus and place on ice bath to stop cooking. [3] In medium skillet heat oil over medium heat, add mushrooms, and garlic and sauté until tender and set aside. Sauté asparagus and set aside. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Directions (Sauce) In medium saucepan, add white wine and reduce by 3/4. Add cream and flour and whisk until well blended. Add tomato paste and blend, this will give you a pink color and add flavor. Add lobster to sauce and let simmer over low heat till thickened.

Directions (Shrimp) Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Place in medium skillet and sauté until pink and cooked through.

Assembly Lay crepes flat, add vegetable filling and roll crepe. Place both on plate and spoon lobster sauce over top. Interlock two shrimp and place in center of the crepes on top. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve with a nice Sauvignon blanc.


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