Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Holidays from the GO!

Gingerbread Pound Cake

I can't imagine a more holiday aroma than gingerbread with all its warm spices. The fragrance and flavor truly seems to connect folks with sweet memories that they love to share. One such customer told me of his mother's gingerbread with a lemon glaze, and the contrasting flavors intrigued me so much that I took his advice. To me, this is how the best foods come about -- by sharing. So, please pass this recipe along and feel free to add your own favorite variations!

1 ½ cups light brown sugar
1 1/4 cups dark molasses
1/4 cup honey
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound unsalted butter, melted
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons ground allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a Bundt pan.

Combine sugar, molasses, honey, eggs, vanilla, and salt in a food processor. Mix until combined. While running, pour melted butter into egg mixture and continue running until thoroughly combined. Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sift remaining ingredients into egg mixture, whisking as you go. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Release from pan onto serving plate. Brush with lemon glaze (see recipe below) while still warm.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.

YIELD: 16 to 20 servings

½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar

Combine ingredients in a small pot and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves and syrup forms. Remove from heat and brush on cake.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ode to Chris Stewart's birthday AND the GO Offal Dinner!

My partner Chris Stewart celebrated his birthday yesterday, and I can think of no better way to commemorate it than by publishing his recipe for Chicken Liver Mousse and Holy Crap Those Are Good Pickles! These dishes really showcase the knowledge Chris has garnered over the years.

Furthermore, the mousse seems an ideal way to also celebrate the Glass Onion's 2nd Annual Offally Delicious Dinner that will be take place this coming Monday, December 6 -- a true foodie extravaganza. Check out the menu at -- YUM!

Chicken Liver Mousse

After much deliberation, we decided to share our recipe for sublimely elegant Chicken Liver Mousse. Here you will find a starter that will blow your guests away, but be forewarned: you need a few special tools. First, you will need a pate terrine. This might seem like a frivolous investment, but it enables you to delve into a whole new realm of cooking. Second, you will do yourself a favor by going out to your local wholesale warehouse (think Sam's or Costco) and buy some commercial plastic wrap. While the grocery store variety will work, you will find the heavier-duty stuff proves much easier to manage for lining your terrine and for wrapping up all your leftovers! Finally, you will need to order "pink" curing salt from a website, unless you happen to have a genuine butcher that can provide you with some. This preservative is a necessity, as it will keep your mousse a beautiful, rosy shade in the center as opposed to dull, brownish gray. One website to check out is for this and other cool charcuterie items.

Now, the rest should be a breeze. Just be sure to check your mousse after about 40 minutes to make sure all is going well. Serve with our housemade pickles (see recipe below), Creole mustard (or other whole grain mustard), and butter crackers.

1 pound chicken livers
2 cups buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for greasing terrine
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon "pink" salt (see head note)
1 quart heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Grease a 1 1/2-quart pate terrine with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap.

Puree livers in food processor or blender until smooth. Add eggs, salt, white pepper, and "pink" salt; pulse to combine. Add 2 cups of heavy cream; pulse to combine. Strain mixture through a chinos or other fine-meshed strainer into a large bowl. A ladle will help you push the mixture through the strainer. Add remaining 2 cups cream; whisk to combine. Pour mixture into the terrine. Place the terrine in a roasting pan and put into oven. Fill a large bowl with scalding hot water and pour into roasting pan until the water comes three-quarters of the way up the side of the terrine. (This is a water bath!)

Bake mousse until mixture is firm when jiggled, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool. Refrigerate until completely cold. Remove from refrigerator, run a paring knife around the edges of the mousse, and invert to release on a baking sheet or serving tray. If the mousse will not release, allow to warm slightly (about 15 minutes) and then it should release easily.

YIELD: About 12 generous slabs; enough to be served as an hors d'oeuvre at a 40-person cocktail party.

Holy Crap Those Are Good Pickles

5 cucumbers, peeled on 3 sides and sliced ¾-inch thick
½ sweet onion, thinly sliced
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
½ cup kosher salt
1 quart cider vinegar
1 quart sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine cucumbers, sweet onion, pepper, carrot, and salt in a large bowl or storage container. Let sit for one hour. Rinse thoroughly with cold water. Return to a large bowl or storage container.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over vegetables, cover, and refrigerate. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

YIELD: 1 1/2 quarts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Charles!

Anne's Grillades and Grits

If one dish could epitomize New Orleans comfort food I would place my bet on grillades (pronounced "gree-yadz"). Many associate it with brunch, but my partner Charles most enjoyed it for his birthday dinner. His mother, Anne, makes hers with beef, but lots of New Orleanians would insist on veal. Defying both these traditions, we make ours with pork butt, which happens to be very affordable and flavorful. Serve this dish in the depths of a cold, dreary winter when you have nothing better to do than cook the day away. You will be sure to win many fans!

2 cups red wine
3 ½ pounds pork butt, diced
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
¼ to 1/2cup flour
3 cups chopped onion, about 1 1/2 mediums onions or 1 large onion
2 cups chopped green bell pepper, about 2 1/2 medium bell peppers
2 cups chopped celery, about 3 stalks
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup hot sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
About 20 sprigs of thyme, tied in a bundle
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
4 whole garlic cloves

Bring wine to a boil in a medium saucepan and reduce by half. Reserve for later use.

Season pork with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or other large pot over high heat. Add pork butt and sear until all of the meat is well browned and has released some fat, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large baking dish and reserve for later use.

Reduce heat to medium. (Be sure to allow the pot's temperature to reduce a bit so that you do not immediately burn the flour. This will also calm down the spitting and spatting that the leftover pork bits are most likely doing.) Add oil and flour (amount of flour will depend on amount of fat released from pork butt. If it released a lot of fat you could need up to 1/2 cup flour. Basically, add enough flour to form a thin paste. This is your "roux"!) Cook, stirring constantly, until your roux has become dark chocolate brown in color, 15 to 20 minutes. This obviously take a little while and is a very important part of the process. The key with a roux is patience. If you try to speed up the process by increasing the heat you risk burning the roux. This will ruin the entire dish as it is the foundation of the flavor. Simply relax and stir. Also, be careful of splashing yourself with the roux as it is molten hot!

Once you have achieved desired color, add the onions, celery, and bell pepper to the pot. Season with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the reserved wine, stock, tomatoes, hot sauce, Worcestershire, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, garlic, and reserved pork. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until meat is very tender (it should fall begin to shred when prodded with a fork), about 3 hours. Discard thyme bundle and bay leaves before serving.

Serve over grits.

YIELD: About 8 servings

P.S. At the GO we often add shrimp to this dish to create our Wintertime Shrimp and Grits. To do this, simply add one pound of peeled and deveined shrimp as the last step in the cooking process (once your meat is fork tender.) Stir and cook until shrimp are just pink and firm, about 5 minutes. This will increase your yield -- giving you 10 to 12 servings.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fred Dockery -- A Man of the Lowcountry Waters

Fred Dockery defies an easy definition. He comes to the shrimping and crabbing business not by birth but by choice. He comes armed with a degree in philosophy and an impeccable fluency in the French language. But the waters cast their spell on him years ago. Now, he utterly depends on them just like the multi-generational fishing families he works alongside. It's not simply a job but a way of life.

However, Fred does bring a unique attitude to this passion, and it's an attitude cultivated by his rich and varied upbringing -- beginning in Montpellier, France. There, in 1964, his single mother, a Portuguese psychologist gave birth to Fred. Shortly thereafter, she met a young American man who happened to be in the area on a Fulbright scholarship. They fell in love, married, and moved to America in 1968. His adopted father's career as a French professor kept the family on the move -- from North Carolina to Iowa to Maine and finally back to North Carolina. Fred even spent another year in France where he spoke the language as if he had never left, and even now his eyes light up when he talks of France.

Eventually, Fred found himself at Bates College in Maine where he studied philosophy simply out of interest. Like so many youth on the cusp of adulthood, he had no idea what he really wanted to do. After college he tried his hand at screenwriting in New York City and environmental education in Connecticut. When neither panned out to his liking, he found himself living in an old airplane hangar on the Connecticut coast contemplating his next move. He also found himself hungry, and when one of his "housemates" offered up his position on a commercial fishing boat Fred started work the next day. He still remembers that first seasick morning out on the water; he loved it.

As it turns out, Fred entered the New England fishing scene at a dynamic time -- the end of the "lobster-trawler wars." Territorial rights play a significant role in commercial fishing, and here the lobstermen believed that the big trawlers had infringed on theirs. Within his first month, the lobstermen fired shots and sunk the 40-foot trawler that employeed Fred. The crew pulled the boat up and repaired it, but the captain had fought his last battle. He offered the job up, and with one month's experience Fred began running his own boat.

"It was like setting a kid loose in a gravel pit with a backhoe!" he says, smiling broadly.

Fred worked various fishing jobs until he met his wife, Catherine, in 1987. They decided to move back down South, closer to both their families, and wound up in Charleston. Fred found work at Atlantic Clam Farms and remained there from 1991 to 1996. After clamming, he tried his hand at oystering, but the work wreaked havoc on his back. Next, Fred turned to crabbing and eventually shrimping. He laughs now, remembering his first attempt at shrimping.

"I had no idea what I was doing," he says. "I was measuring [my catch] in numbers not pounds."

Thankfully, veteran shrimper Neal Cooksey took Fred under his tutelage -- selling him an old net and introducing him to tricks of the trade like the "tickle chain." On his next trip out, he found success -- catching so many shrimp that he ran out of coolers and ice.

These days, his catch can vary from less than a pound to 40 pounds, but Fred does not have quite the stress of the big trawlers. He goes out on a 19-foot skiff, which burns only a fraction of the fuel, and he can crab on the same day. Of course, it's not easy work. Fred goes out most days by himself -- hauling in heavy nets and crab traps. And he hauls them in knowing the sad reality of a market flooded by cheap, imported shrimp. Fred believes that the only real answer to this issue would be taxing these shrimp from Asia and South America or creating government subsidies for American fishermen. Simply put, he likes the grassroots campaigns, but he believes they are just not enough.

"It is not a wasted lesson teaching the value of fresh and local, but people shop with their pocketbooks, and the bulk of them still want big shrimp at a low price," he says.

In addition to such larger issues, Fred also still deals with the territorial drama that seems unavoidable in the fishing business. Feuds between crabbers result in lines to identifying buoys being cut -- meaning a loss of crabs, equipment, and time. Fred tries to stay out of such disputes because one can never be sure who victimized you.

"If I retaliated, remorse would eat me up," he says.

Besides, Fred does not come across as a fighter. In fact, he seems genuinely happy despite the long hours and low pay. He recognizes that that this is a life he chose for himself and his family. He and Catherine have three children -- Carlisle, Evan, and Emma -- all old enough to de-head and sort shrimp. Only one -- his son Evan -- has a real interest in the business. He goes out with Fred on most weekends and even saved up to buy his own boat at age 10.

When asked whether he wonders if Evan would be better off choosing another path, Fred laughs.

"I don't have to wonder; I know he would be better off," he says. "I would be better off too! But on a day like today, where else would I rather be?"

He waves his arm motioning to the world around him -- the sweetgrass whispers; a few white, picturesque clouds float lazily in the blue sky; Spanish moss hangs from the oak trees; herons and egrets soar gracefully; red-winged blackbirds and purple martins flit about; and a gentle, breeze strikes up, as if on cue.


At the GO we buy shrimp, blue crabs, and stone crabs from Fred, and they all represent the supreme quality that only local seafood can offer.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

GO Tartar Sauce

My partner Charles and I both grew up with homemade tartar sauce as a fixture. His father Bland made his with plenty of capers and dill. The cook at my grandmother's beach house, Ruth, made hers with sliced green olives. For the GO we decided to combine both these ideas with for the best tartar sauce ever! I guarantee you will never go back to the jarred stuff!

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers
3 tablespoons pickle relish
3 tablespoons pureed olives
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
Pinch of cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir thoroughly.

YIELD: About 1 1/2 cups

P.S. Come try this out at the GO with our Mustard Fried Catfish!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bland Vincent -- An Inspiration


My partner Charles comes from a long line of south Louisiana food lovers ( dating back to the 1700s.) But memories of cooking and eating with his father Bland especially resonate with him. From fish fries to homemade stocks simmering on the stove, Bland epitomized the New Orleanian who ended one meal talking about the next.

His twin sister Elizabeth remembers delicious food always being a part of their childhood home. Their grandmother did all the cooking, and they would sit down to a "real dinner" every night at 6. She raised them on New Orleans traditions -- like red beans on Mondays -- and everything was made from scratch (usually starting with a roux.)

The one exception to her grandmother's reign over the kitchen happened when their father made tartar sauce. Elizabeth remembers that he never even peeled his own banana, but he always made the tartar -- mayonnaise, grated onion and some pickle. Bland and Elizabeth kept up his legacy -- always making their own -- but Bland added his own nuances like dill and capers.

Yet, Bland never really cooked until he went off to Louisiana State University (LSU) and had his own apartment. There, he would sit and read cookbooks for hours and cook meals from scratch, just like their grandmother. "He would never just open up bag of McCormick's," says Elizabeth.

Anne Leche, mother of Charles and first wife of Bland, shares similar memories of his love for the kitchen. "He never wanted to go out," she says. "He always wanted to stay home and cook."

She remembers his passion for New Orleans staples like trout meuniere but also his penchant for simple food like his favorite snack -- a sardine and mayonnaise sandwich with just a touch of mustard. "He never met a fat gram he didn't like," she says with a laugh.

But joking aside, she firmly believes that Charles is living out Bland's dream. In his own career he found success selling pump valves to manufacturers up and down the Mississippi River. However, all who knew him remember cooking as his true passion. Like Charles, he was most happy when he found himself at the stove with a crowd waiting to be fed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coast Brewery -- A Charleston Tale

On a visit to Coast Brewery in North Charleston, South Carolina you will find husband and wife team Dave Merritt and Jaime Tenny busy at work. They might be brewing, bottling, meeting with their distributor or doing endless amounts of cleaning. They take their business of crafting premium beer seriously. That said they also do business on their terms. The Grateful Dead might be playing softly in the background, and they might stop to throw the ball to their friendly mutt "Teach" (named for the pirate Edward Teach aka Blackbeard.)

Dave and Jaime have been operating their own brewery since September 2007, and Lowcountry beer enthusiasts recognize them as the local leaders in their field. Of course, like so many good stories theirs came about seemingly by happenstance. Dave might say it all started in 1994 during their senior year at Wando High School when Jaime moved to Charleston from New Jersey.

"And I didn't like him!" says Jaime, finishing Dave's story for him.

She might say it started when they began dating during her sophomore year at College of Charleston. Regardless, by 1997 they had their first son, Kai, and Dave had made his fateful trip to a home brewing shop.

Jaime says he began home brewing simply because he wanted better tasting beer, but that casual interest quickly evolved. In 1998 Dave headed out to the American Brewers Guild in Davis, California. He completed the 5 months of coursework, but he had to forego the internship.

"By this point, we only had like $5," says Jaime with a good natured laugh.

So, Dave returned to his family in Charleston and began working at Southend Brewery. There he worked with head brewer Frank Hughes, who soon became his mentor. During his 18 months at Southend, Dave learned and experimented -- crafting beers far ahead of that time. But when the leading local brewery -- Palmetto -- sought Dave out to be their head brewer in 1999 he could not say no.

At Palmetto there was no experimentation, but the job brought a degree of stability to the young family. And in 2001 Jaime had their second son, Aiden. Dave remained at Palmetto for over 9 years and even kept his position during the first two years of opening Coast.

As Dave honed his craft Jaime was "busy raising kids", but she did find the time to develop her own palate. She clearly remembers her beer epiphany -- drinking an Avery Maharaja around 2000. She calls it her "gateway beer" and can still recount her flood of emotions.

"Holy cow! Oh my god! What are hops? I really like them."

Her genuine love for good beer inspired her to challenge South Carolina's law that prohibited the brewing or selling of a beer with an alcohol content over six percent. In 2005 Jaime founded Pop the Cap -- a group made up of South Carolina brewers -- who began lobbying the state government to change the law. When they achieved their goal in 2007 it really paved the road to the opening of Coast.

Jaime and Dave both laugh now thinking back to the antiquated law. Only three out of the 29 beers they have brewed thus far would have been legal according to that law. Another victory came in June 2010 when the government deemed it legal for breweries to conduct tastings and sell a limited amount of beer on their premises. So, on Thursdays, from 4 to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Jaime and Dave sample folks on their latest creations and their staples like HopArt IPA and 32/50 Kolsch.

After overcoming so many hurdles it's understandable that Jaime and Dave seem so carefree these days. Their happiness radiates off of them with the ease that comes when you find your way. Sure, the brew days still stretch out over 14 hours, and they only have a bit of part time help. But they are operating by their rules. They use organic ingredients, run the brewery on biodiesel, and send their spent grain to a local farm. They sell 99 percent of their beer in Charleston and don't see that changing anytime soon.

Investors have approached them about expanding their operations, but they like the size of their business. Dave brews every batch, and they bottle the beer together. They banter back and forth all day.

"It's definitely what he's meant to do," says Jaime.

"It's not that difficult," says Dave.

"When your gifted," she replies.


This is Dave and Jaime in the photo at the top of the page.


Pop the Cap has now been renamed the South Carolina Brewer's Association.


At the Glass Onion we always offer delicious HopArt on tap.

And in one week, on Tuesday, October 12, we will be co-hosting a Fall Tasting Dinner with Coast and the Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Details are below...

Sustainable Seafood Dinner with 
Coast Brewery

Tuesday, October 12

Local Stone Crab or Oyster Salad
32/50 Kolsch
Fried Grouper Pilau
HopArt IPA
New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp
Event Horizon
Sweet Potato Tart
Brewmaster’s Choice

*$55 for 4 courses & beer pairing
*Talks by brewmaster & fishermen
*7 p.m. -- one seating!
*Reservations necessary -- 225-1717

Friday, October 1, 2010

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food!

Most everyone reading this probably knows just how strongly I feel about the importance of eating local food/supporting local farmers. And most of you probably have some idea about the reasons why. But if you need more fuel for your fire I happened upon this awesome list published by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. They happily encouraged my reprinting of it for your reading pleasure. Enjoy and check out their other website if you happen to live or travel in the southern Appalachian region.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project -

10 Reasons to Buy Local Food

1. Locally grown food tastes better - Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It's crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality.

2. Local produce is better for you - A recent study showed that fresh produce loses nutrients quickly. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some "fresh" produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week.

3. Local food preserves genetic diversity - In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

4. Local food is GMO-free - Although biotechnology companies have been trying to commercialize genetically modified fruits and vegetables, they are currently licensing them only to large factory-style farms. Local farmers don't have access to genetically modified seed, and most of them wouldn't use it even if they could. A June 2001 survey by ABC News showed that 93% of Americans want labels on genetically modified food - most so that they can avoid it. If you are opposed to eating bioengineered food, you can rest assured that locally grown produce was bred as nature intended.

5. Local food supports local farm families - With fewer than 1 million Americans now claiming farming as their primary occupation, farmers are a vanishing breed. And no wonder - commodity prices are at historic lows, often below the cost of production. The farmer now gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell direct to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love.

6. Local food builds community - When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive.

7. Local food preserves open space - As the value of direct-marketed fruits and vegetables increases, selling farmland for development becomes less likely. You have probably enjoyed driving out into the country and appreciated the lush fields of crops, the meadows full of wildflowers, the picturesque red barns. That landscape will survive only as long as farms are financially viable. When you buy locally grown food, you are doing something proactive about preserving the agricultural landscape.

8. Local food keeps your taxes in check - Farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes, according to several studies. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For each dollar of revenue raised by farm, forest, or open space, governments spend 34 cents on services.

9. Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife - A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile soil and clean water are valued. Good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and replace nutrients used by their crops. Cover crops also capture carbon emissions and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds and buildings - is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.

10. Local food is about the future - By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant food.  Adapted from ©2001 Growing for Market

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Braised Local Greens with Benton Bacon

In the South there's just no escaping braised greens! Collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens -- they are like the life force of the region. At the GO we mostly cook collards, and we prepare them in a fairly traditional way -- start with some pork fat and onion, simmer and voila! We do use a fair amount of vinegar in ours so that you might not even need to serve them with the precursory condiment of pepper vinegar, but you be the judge.

P.S. This recipe is a perfect example of how Allan Benton's bacon elevates a dish. For more on Allan Benton read the previous blog or visit his website Benton's Hams to order some of his deliciousness.

Braised Local Greens
6 ounces Benton bacon, or other high quality bacon, chopped
2 to 3 pounds, cleaned and cut collard greens (4 bunches) (about 1 gallon once cut and cleaned)
2 cups sliced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons hot sauce
4 quarts water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

First, a note on cleaning and cutting greens. Washing your greens is of utmost importance because often times they can be extremely sandy. If yours do not seem especially dirty you can try simply washing the individual leaves under cold running water. But if your greens are straight from the field you might need to fill the largest vessel in your kitchen with cold water and dunk your greens in -- giving them a good swim. Once your greens are washed simple cut out the thick spine running up the middle. Then lay the destemmed leaves on top of each other and slice yielding a nice, bite-sized rectangle (you might also think of this as a thick julienne cut.) Now you are ready to cook some greens!

Heat a large pot over a medium-high flame. Add bacon and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion, salt and pepper and cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add vinegar, brown sugar and hot sauce and stir to combine. Add water, reduce to a simmer and cook until greens are tender, about 2 hours.

YIELD: 6 to 8 servings; about 2 quarts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Allan Benton -- The King of Bacon

Allan Benton has achieved celebrity status in the world of food, but you wouldn’t know it talking to him. He speaks with that honest to goodness modesty I associate with folks who really grew up in the country.

Benton grew up so far out "you had to look straight up to see daylight", and that’s where he learned the art of curing his now famous bacon and ham.

His birth certificate doesn’t list a city, just Scott County, Virginia. Benton split his childhood between this area of southern Virginia and northern Tennessee where he now operates Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams. His parent’s families homesteaded adjoining plots in Virginia, and Benton spent much time there -- learning the art of working the land from his grandparents.

“Do you remember that television show ‘The Waltons’?” he asks. “Well, we made the Waltons look like they lived in town.”

Benton’s grandparents did not own cars or tractors. They walked where they needed to go and worked the land using a mule. They raised heirloom varieties of vegetables because they could not afford to buy seeds. They grew their crops organically because they could not afford to buy commercial fertilizer. And they let their hogs forage for acorns because they could not afford to buy grain.

On Thanksgiving day, they woke before dawn to butcher these 500 to 700 pound hogs -- putting every part to use. "We either canned it, cured it or ground it into sausage," says Benton.

“Looking back now I realize it was the depths of south Appalachian poverty, but it was an incredible way of life,” he says.

He took the lessons he learned there and held them close even as he went on to college and graduate school in Tennessee. After earning his masters in 1973, Benton sat down and looked at the salary schedule for his future as a guidance counselor.

“I realized I might have made a poor career choice,” he says with a laugh.

About this same time and in the same county, Albert Hicks decided to sell his country ham business, and fate took a crucial turn. Benton heard of the sale and took a gamble. He began leasing the primitive operation from Hicks. He amassed information from food science professors, Hicks and his own childhood and began curing pork bellies and hams.

“For the first 20 years I thought we might starve to death,” he says, once again with a laugh.

He remembers that one day his father walked in the store and asked, "How much money do you think you've made this year?"

"I didn't know," says Benton.

His father kept his books at this time and broke it to him, "Well, I can tell you -- you havent’ made a dime!"

At his father's insistence Benton raised his prices, and he eventually moved the operation to where it resides today on Highway 411, still in Monroe County. Here, Benton attracted more customers and gained his Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) certification.

Finally in the early 90s, Blackberry Farm, a rural Tennessee resort, began using his product, and their chef John Fleer spread the disciple of Benton. Word of his superior bacon and hams soon made its way to celebrity chefs on both coasts, and orders increased to a point that finally gave the Benton family some security.

Now, Benton cures nearly twice as many hams and 20 times as many bellies as he did at the outset. He estimates that 400 restaurants mail order from him -- about 40 of those are in New York City and about 50 are in California.

Benton in his usual modesty credits much of this success to that first support from Fleer and Blackberry Farm. He also credits his forefathers.

"I'm not speeding up the process like a lot of folks," he says. "I don't take to change well."

He continues to use his original family recipe of salt, brown sugar, black and red pepper for any ham aged 12 months or longer -- just as he continues to use a rotary dial phone in his cinderblock storefront.

Benton does admit to one change -- now purchasing exclusively all natural, heritage pork. Over the years he witnessed a drastic transformation in commercially raised hogs as they became leaner and leaner.

"I grew up eating incredible pork," he says. "I knew what pork was supposed to taste like."

Now, he buys the older breeds of hogs that have better marbling and flavor from coops around the country.

"You have to start with something good to make something good," Benton says. And that's his primary aim -- excellence.

"My goal is to make something as good as Europe or anywhere else," he says.


At the Glass Onion we believe Benton achieves his ambition handily. While testing recipes for the cookbook I found results to be drastically different when I substituted another high quality bacon. There is a sweet smokiness to Benton's product that casts a spell over a dish. Benton believes that chefs elevate his products, but we believe that he elevates our food.

We encourage you to order directly from Mr. Benton at:

And look for Mr. Benton's product on our menu at:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ruth's Key Lime Pie

If one dessert defined my childhood it was Ruth's Key Lime Pie. With a tangy, creamy center and billowing, ethereal meringue it was quite simply heaven.

Every summer I awaited our family trips to Jacksonville, Florida with the anticipation most children reserve for Christmas. I craved the ocean and the sand, but mostly I yearned for Ruth. To me she embodied every familial female figure. She would hug and commiserate and champion me throughout my life, and most of this happened inside the sturdy, old walls of our beach house kitchen.

Ruth Penn began cooking for my grandmother and her sister in the summer of 1973 (or thereabouts). During the rest of the year she worked for the Duval County Public School System cooking in schools around the city.

"I loved it. It was my passion," she says. "Feeding other people; watching them eat."

At home, Ruth had her own nine children to feed, and really that was her initial impetus for cooking. Ironically, as a child herself, growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Ruth Lililan Johnson had little interest in the kitchen.

"I was an outside person," she says. "i liked to be gone!"

However, good cooking surrounded Ruth -- this she could not escape. Her father loved food and cooked everything from local vegetables to leg of lamb. And her grandmother ran a small baking business from her home kitchen. Ruth and her siblings spent a few days every week at her house -- watching and helping with pound cakes, cobblers and her famous dinner rolls.

When Ruth married James Penn Jr. (known affectionately as "Penn") she moved to a naval base in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was there that she remembers cooking her first big meal. Penn's family made the trip up from North Carolina, bringing a ham and such, but she had to prepare the greens, which she knew nothing about. Penn guided her through the cleaning of the greens, and then Ruth just threw them in a pot with water and a piece of meat. Ruth laughs now remembering the family arriving to greens floating in a pot of water.

"Girl, you don't know how to cook greens!" they said. Then they took the greens out of the water and started over.

But over the years Ruth taught herself the ways of the kitchen through trial and error -- cooking everything from spaghetti to fried chicken and finally Key lime pie.

She remembers that in the early 80s my grandmother came to the beach after a trip to Key West raving about this pie. She even brought Ruth a postcard with the recipe on it. Ruth had never heard of it but just followed the instructions on that card, and that's what she has been doing every summer since.

Ruth believes that the trick to the pie is in the meringue. "You have to make sure it's whipped to a certain level and browned to perfection," she says. And I agree.

But I also believe the true secret lies in Ruth and the love she imparts with every bite.


Here's the recipe. Please note the only changes I have made are in regards to the meringue and crust. Like Ruth I believe the meringue is the reason folks love this pie so much. Therefore, I have created a recipe for a very sturdy meringue that holds up well at the restaurant. It is a bit more complicated than hers but worth the trouble in my opinion.

Second, the crust. Ruth simply uses a frozen, store bought crust that she fills and bakes with the filling. (There is no pre-baking.) I totally support this move for the home cook. Pie crust can be problematic if you are not accustomed to its nuances. However, if you are a veteran with homemade pie dough then I advise making it and pre-baking your crust before add the Key lime filling to insure extra flakiness.

Expect a blog devoted strictly to "from-scratch" pie dough/crust soon!

And remember you can always check out the menu on our website to see if Ruth's Key Lime Pie is featured -- -- usually on Fridays, but I might make one tomorrow!

Ruth’s Key Lime Pie
4 eggs
1 can condensed milk
½ cup Joe and Nell’s Key lime juice (Ruth prefers this brand!)
1 pre-baked pie crust
1 batch of meringue (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the eggs. Put all egg yolks into one bowl, one white into another, and reserve remaining 3 whites for meringue (see recipe below.) Add condensed milk and key lime juice to bowl of yolks. Whisk to combine. Beat one egg white until frothy and fold into the bowl of yolks. Pour the filling into prebaked crust. Dollop the meringue on top of the filling (making sure to seal the edges). Bake until the meringue browns, about 20 minutes.

YIELD: 1 pie; 8 slices

6 egg whites
¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup of sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt

Combine egg whites in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until body begins to build. Gradually add sugar and beat until moderately stiff peaks form. Reserve.

Combine cornstarch, water, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until gel forms.

Spoon cornstarch mixture into egg white mixture and beat to combine. At this point, your meringue should be stable and shiny.

Yield: Meringue for 1 pie (Double for a tart!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Country Captain -- The Story and Recipe!

I have to admit that as a child I was not a fan of Country Captain. Its ubiquitous presence at any gathering requiring a covered dish and its “exotic” flavors of curry, raisins and almonds did not enamor me. But my family’s strong allegiance to this fancy chicken stew finally won me over.

They claim it was invented in my hometown of Columbus, Georgia and much requested by dignitaries ranging from General Patton to President Franklin Roosevelt. “Google” the dish, and you will find stories tracing it all the way back to Bengali, India where British officers were called “Country Captains.” Supposedly, one such officer brought the recipe with him to Savannah, Georgia and thus a culinary legend was born.

Lord knows where the truth lies, but my family passed down a rough version of this recipe for generations. I have honed it a bit myself, and at the GO we have “restaurantfied” it down to simply a chicken breast. Here, you will find the perfect home version using a whole chicken. It yields dinner for two with plenty of leftovers or dinner for four if some folks are happy eating just dark meat.

Country Captain
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), rinsed and cut into serving pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cupped chopped celery
2 tablespoons yellow curry powder
2 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
6 cups canned whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with their juices
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Crystal Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
½ tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon tomato paste
Few sprigs of fresh thyme, tied into a bundle with kitchen twine
½ cup raisins
1/2 cup sliced toasted almonds

Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon salt and the black pepper in a large shallow dish and stir to blend. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture, coating evenly. Shake off any excess. Set aside.

Heat the oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain; set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon butter to the saucepan and add the onions, bell peppers, celery, curry powder, garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, hot sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, tomato paste, thyme and the remaining teaspoon salt. Stir to blend, bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not falling off the bones, about 50 minutes. Add the raisins and cook until plump, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot over steamed white rice. (At the restaurant we use jasmine rice.) Garnish with the almonds.

Yield: 2 to 4 servings

P.S. If you are happy to find a GO recipe then you will be even happier knowing that I am hard at work on our cookbook, which will hopefully be published in the next six months. As always, stay tuned to our website for updates -- -- come and get it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Is the Woman Behind the Golden Eggs?

Celeste Albers is an iconic figure in the Lowcountry farming community. Her Sea Island Eggs are coveted by Charleston restaurants, and at the Glass Onion we are lucky to serve them.

Cracking one open reveals a yolk as golden as a sunset. They literally make our bearnaise, deviled eggs and desserts. During the heat of summer when the hens simply refuse to lay enough, we enter a time of mourning. We substitute other high quality, farm fresh eggs, but the bearnaise turns a pale yellow more reminiscent of the washed out midday sun than its evening splendor.

So, who is the woman behind the golden eggs? Celeste’s roots lie in the Lowcountry. Her grandfather shrimped in Bulls Bay and ran a country store on Highway 17 near Awendaw. However, her father left farming to earn an accounting degree and wound up working for DuPont in Delaware. She remembers that he hated his job, and he eventually ended up back in Awendaw farming the family land.

In 1993 Celeste moved down with her baby daughter Erin and joined him. She began selling their produce at the fledgling Charleston Farmers Market. There she met George Albers who was selling his own produce. Celeste remembers that George used to stop by her booth, buy some of her wild blackberries and chat for a while.

“It was the blackberries that did it,” says Celeste. “George stole me away from my dad, and before you knew it we had one booth instead of two.”

Together, they have navigated the rough terrain of making a living off the land. They have grown vegetables, shrimped and finally raised chickens and cows. None of it has proven easy, especially since they lease rather than own their property -- negating any meager security you might expect a farmer to have. Furthermore, they physically labor every day of the year.

But Celeste maintains that she would rather this than a lifetime of working a job she hates. These days they do seem to have found their niche -- focusing on their egg and raw milk production. And amongst those in the know their product has achieved a cult-like following.

At the Glass Onion we regularly receive phone calls from avid Celeste fans wanting to reserve their eggs and milk, and I truly understand their reverence. Right now, during the egg drought I reserve her eggs for use only in our bread pudding, and with each of the 40 eggs I crack -- I give thanks to Celeste.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Memories of Whole Fried Fish

Nothing makes me happier than food memories, and I especially love when diners at the GO share theirs with me. Just last week we ran a whole fried fish for the first time. We were all very excited about the dramatic presentation of this gorgeous, local snapper, and we were especially thrilled when some regulars ordered it for lunch.

After giving them a few minutes, I approached the couple’s table and asked what they thought. They both agreed it was exquisite, and then the gentleman regaled me with the memory this fish elicited. Years ago, they rented a cottage on Long Island overlooking the water. One morning, they witnessed a huge commotion -- a school of blue fish churned the sea. Local fishermen also noticed and came with a seine net. They surrounded the school with the net and hauled in hundreds of fish. The gentleman walked down and asked if he could buy one. “Sure,” replied the fisherman, “One dollar!” The gentleman took the fish back to their cottage, cleaned it and fried it whole for lunch.

His eyes lit up as he told this story, and his wife smiled while listening intently -- two people clearly transported to another time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Tribute to Jennie Ruth

*This piece was written by my partner Chris Stewart's father, Tom, telling us about the person for whom we named our deviled eggs -- his mother, Jennie Ruth.

Jennie Ruth Haley was born on August 1, 1914 in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Crystal Springs is about half way between Jackson, Mississippi and New Orleans, basically in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. She was born on a farm, the seventh child of Oliver and Belle Haley. Her father died when she was three years old, and subsequently her oldest brother Wade moved to Birmingham, Alabama to find work. Shortly thereafter, he moved the rest of the family to Birmingham.

All of the brothers and sisters worked at whatever jobs they could find and pooled the money so the family could stay together. During the depression they opened a small restaurant and served “southern food” – what natives call “meat and three” type food. Jennie Ruth had three brothers and three sisters. All of the sisters learned to cook from their mother Belle who ran the kitchen in the restaurant. The brothers worked as servers, dishwashers, etc. All of the sisters became excellent cooks, and their love of food lasted throughout their lives.

Jennie Ruth married Calvin Stewart in 1937, and after the war they had two children – my brother Jim and me. Calvin was born in LaFayette, Alabama on a farm. His family moved to Birmingham in the 1920s. Calvin believed that one of the immutable laws of nature is that if you own any piece of land you must grow something on it. No back yard was complete without a garden. From the time they were married until Calvin died in 1985, he never owned a home without a vegetable garden in the back yard. After he retired he convinced a friend to let him “farm” a vacant lot owned by the friend and close to his home, so that he had 2 gardens.

In these gardens he grew every vegetable he could grow in Birmingham. Corn, butterbeans, green beans, okra, cucumbers, tomatoes, turnip greens were the staples. Bell peppers, banana peppers, and occasionally watermelons also appeared. He loved to work in the dirt; he loved to see things grow; he loved to give the excess away; and most of all he loved to eat the results of his hard work.

And Jennie Ruth loved to cook the fruits and vegetables which came out of Calvin’s garden. Her meals were legendary in the family. A typical Sunday dinner would consist of fried chicken with roast beef and a ham. On a very special day country fried steak would join the menu. Rice and gravy, creamed corn, green beans, squash, field peas, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, those famous “Jennie Ruth’s deviled eggs” and always corn bread would complete the menu. Dessert would be either peach, blackberry or apple cobbler. There would be pound cake in the home 90% of the time, year in and year out. And there were usually homemade cookies of one type or another.

Summer trips to the local farmers market would result in bushels of green beans, corn and butter beans. These would be shelled immediately, no matter how late you had to stay up to finish, and then canned for the winter. Thanksgiving and Christmas were simply orgies of food. All of the sisters would cook their best dishes and the family would eat themselves comatose.

My brother and I took this cornucopia of food for granted. We never knew until we were adults that for some people macaroni and cheese comes from a box and green beans come from a can. We grew to appreciate our mother’s ways in the kitchen when we began to see what other people called “good food” was in reality food that Jennie Ruth would never serve to a stranger.

All of the Stewarts have fond memories of Jennie Ruth for lots of reasons. But the central memory is of the wonderful food which she lovingly prepared and served to her family. She enjoyed nothing more in life than seeing her family enjoy themselves eating the fresh, locally grown food that she prepared from scratch.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Closer Look at The Glass Onion Restaurant

Welcome! You have somehow found yourself in the fertile blogging ground of The Glass Onion Restaurant. We are a seasonal, local eatery located in Charleston, South Carolina. There are three owners -- Charles Vincent, Chris Stewart and myself, Sarah O'Kelley -- and we cook up the food that we grew up eating in New Orleans, Birmingham (Alabama), and Columbus (Georgia).

We take great pride in serving all natural food sourced from as close to home as we can get. Consequently, our menu changes a bit each day, and we update it on our website -- -- before lunch and dinner daily.

For those of you who already know us -- y'all might wonder, "Why blog?" We already have the aforementioned website, a Facebook page and Twitter account; so, there is certainly no lack of information about our daily menu, special events, etc. But there is a lack of depth.

This blog goes out to the person looking for that depth. Specifically, this blog goes out to the person who has wondered...what exactly is a Barrel Fish? Who is the Jennie Ruth of Jennie Ruth's Deviled Eggs? When is shrimp season?

We do not intend for this to be an EAT LOCAL soapbox, but we invite you to take a deeper look at your local farmers and fishermen and remember the flavors of your past and present. These are our core values at the Glass Onion, and we look forward to exploring them with you.