LOCAL CHEFS AND RESTAURANTS SHARE RECIPES ROOTED IN LOCAL CULTURE
Ruddy and diminutive, Sea Island red peas represent the variety of heirloom field peas used in early versions of the dish we know as Hoppin’ John. Expressing the vigor of their African diversity with bold flavor and exceptional nutrition, Sea Island red peas cook to a sweet, creamy richness. This recipe from Alexander’s Restaurant showcases the full potential of these local field peas, which have been grown for generations in the Gullah corridor of the Sea Islands.
Stewed Sea Island Red Peas
2 cups dried Sea Island red peas, soaked in water for at least 8 hours
2 medium-size carrots, small dice
3 stalks of celery, small dice
1 yellow onion, small dice
4 ounces bacon, preferably Benton’s Bacon, cut into lardons
2 quarts veggie or chicken stock
1 sachet bag with bay leaf, peppercorns, rosemary, and thyme
DIRECTIONS  Render the bacon on medium heat until it’s crispy. Add garlic, celery, carrot, and onion. Cook for 6-7 minutes.  Add red peas, stock, and sachet and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes until peas are tender. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
SEAFOOD WITH ATTITUDE
As one might expect, seafood is a main staple of Lowcountry cuisine. For generations, our rich estuary system has provided an abundance of shrimp, fish, crabs and oysters — all of which were prepared fresh prior to the refrigeration era. The marshlands of South Carolina also proved conducive to growing rice, and that grain became a significant part of the everyday diet. This hearty stew from Skull Creek Boathouse will keep you warm on those chilly 40-degree nights.
Sea Island Seafood Stew
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup diced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup chopped green pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
1 cup diced onion (about half a medium onion)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 (15-ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes (or 1 [28-ounce] can)
2 1/2 cups crab or seafood stock 20 middle neck clams, rinsed and purged
2 cups fresh green beans, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
1 pound bay scallops (such as North Carolina Calico)
20 shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 1/2 cups frozen okra, thawed
2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2-3 ears) or frozen, thawed kernels
1 tablespoon gumbo filé (ground sassafras)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon minced, fresh)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried coriander
1 bay leaf Salt and black pepper to taste
Cooked white rice for serving
DIRECTIONS  Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Sauté celery, green pepper, onion and garlic, frequently stirring, so the garlic doesn’t burn, until they begin to soften and brown slightly, about 8-10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Add clams and continue simmering until the clams pop open, about 10-18 minutes, depending on size.  Add green beans and continue simmering for about 5 minutes.  Add crab, scallops, shrimp, okra, corn, gumbo filé, thyme, coriander and bay leaf. Cook until the seafood is just cooked through. Discard any clams that did not open. Taste and season generously with salt and black pepper.  Serve over rice, passing hot sauce at the table if desired.
Seafood is so vital to Sea Island cooking, we thought we’d share more than one recipe with seafood. Moss Creek shared this classic recipe that is sure to please. This bouillabaisse loaded with redfish, shrimp and mussels is a seafood lover’s dream. It will have you pining for more.
Sea Island Bouillabaisse
1 each 4-ounce medallions local redfish fillet
12 shrimp, peeled and tail off
1/2 cup potatoes, shaped into balls with a melon scooper
1/2 cup carrots, shaped into balls with a melon scooper
1/2 cup medium onion, diced
1/8 cup celery, finely diced
2 teaspoons fresh chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 cup chiffonade collard greens
Clarified butter, as needed
Crusty Cuban bread, for dipping
DIRECTIONS  Sauté carrots, onions, and celery in butter and add pepper and garlic. Be sure not to brown the garlic.  Add wine, zest, stock, water, greens, saffron and herbs. Simmer until carrots are tender and greens are limp.  Add potatoes and simmer until potatoes are almost tender.  In another deep sauté pan, heat butter and sear shrimp on both sides. Cover with broth and simmer until done. Make a slurry with cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cool water and add to the mixture while stirring. Cook one more minute.  Present in a soup bowl and garnish with grilled bread.
THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER
Oysters have been a favorite staple for the Sea Islands for centuries. Early Native Americans harvested oysters, subsisting on the plentiful bivalve populations in Lowcountry waters. They appear in tidal salt marsh creeks at low tide throughout the area. In fact, the Lowcountry and Golden Isles’ waters are some of the richest oystering regions along the Atlantic coast. One of the most traditional ways to eat oysters in the Sea Islands is to steam several bushels in a communal oyster roast, but this lovely oyster stew from Charlie’s Coastal Bistro will satisfy even the pickiest craving.
Pan Roast Bluffton Oyster Stew
5 tablespoons chili sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pint fresh shucked Bluffton oysters
 Put all ingredients except the oysters in a medium saucepan and mix well.  Bring the cream mixture to a boil, occasionally stirring to avoid burning.  Last, toss in the desired amount of oysters. Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes or until the desired temperature is reached.