Gourmandistan

Carolina congee and crab Dutch baby broaden our beach dining options

We have once again returned from a trip to Dewees Island, South Carolina, where we indulge in sunshine, ocean breezes and the chance to eat local seafood. This year we shifted houses, as much on the promise of a well-equipped gourmet kitchen as the immediate beach access. We took advantage of both as much as we could, and produced some new dishes as well as more great memories.

The house was beautiful and wonderfully close to the beach, but did have several idiosyncrasies. Some light switches worked, then didn’t, while others never appeared to do anything. An outdoor awning couldn’t be extended; wired-in speakers led to no audio input. And instead of opening into the downstairs laundry, a third-floor chute turned out to lead nowhere, something Michelle discovered after dropping one of her favorite tops into it. (Steve managed to fish it out with a coat hanger on some kite string.) But really, we have very little to complain about. We love Dewees—the shorebirds, the soothing ocean sounds, the opportunities to crab and wander the beach virtually alone, scaring up the occasional starfish or sea turtle.

And we had many wonderful meals in Charleston, including the discovery of a new restaurant, Butcher & Bee. We enjoyed it so much we made a stop at the Nashville outpost on the way back to Kentucky.

Steve’s efforts at crabbing were enjoyable but not very successful, so Michelle bought some pre-picked meat at a Charleston fishmonger to make this Cynthia Nims-inspired savory crab Dutch baby.

We’re much more used to this puffy pancake’s sweeter, more breakfasty incarnations, but enjoyed this version with crab, meaty mushrooms, spinach and Parmesan cheese very much.

Another dinner that made us very happy was something Charleston food truck chef Shuai Wang calls a Chinese take on shrimp and grits.

Gourmandistan (OK, Steve, who is very good at naming) has a better moniker: Carolina Congee. Made with Carolina Gold rice, chili oil, black vinegar and sweet local jumbo shrimp, it’s spicy, savory, sweet and stickily delicious, and Gourmandistan thinks it’s way more interesting than shrimp and grits.

We hope to return to Dewees again, perhaps to find what all the mystery switches do (and maybe fish some more old laundry out of that chute). Once on the coast, we’ll also be free to explore new things to do with seafood—but these two dishes may definitely make a return appearance.

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31 comments

  1. Eha

    *smile* Thank you so much for a welcome lesson! ‘Congee’, to me, means the rice porridge I traditionally eat on any first night in Singapore in gratitude to being back in one of my very favourite places on earth as yet again or ‘congee eel’ . . . . what a delightful new parlance! Absolutely love your holiday photos and have enjoyed the food truck lesson to which I shall return as I shall to the crab and prawns 🙂 !!

    • Mmmm, congee is always delicious. And what a wonderful tradition! I will make it to Singapore one day, I hope. This dish was equally close to “congee” as it was to “grits.” Artistic license!

      • Eha

        ‘Grits’, Michelle – to the best of my knowledge, I still have not had . . . . Must !!!! Singapore – if you know the hugely interesting history and appreciate how you can be absolutely safe [even if sometimes ‘boring’ !] and modern and great fun if you know where to look . . . .go for it, but for at least a few days not just a ‘tourist’ trip’ !!! Think in terms of ‘The British Empire’ and ‘East Asia Company’ . . . . the wonderful, exciting remnants of those are still there . . .

  2. I confess I laughed at the idea of Steve fishing for Michelle’s favourite top but the actual seafood sounds wonderful … I love that Dutch baby recipe. Your photographs have been stunning … now longing to visit Dewees Island. Hope the weeds haven’t run too wild in your absence! Lx

    • Oh, thanks so much, Linda! It is the kind of place that you can mostly just point anywhere and the pic turns out fine. The hassle factor is large (nothing commercial whatsoever on the island so you have to bring all food and such in on the ferry and load it into your golf cart) but it really is a beautiful spot. Yeah, that laundry chute was really bizarre. A friend of mine said, “oh everybody closes those off because they’re dangerous.” But it would seem more dangerous to me to leave the top open whilst drywalling in the bottom?!

      • Speaking as someone doing up an old house I must say some people’s design and construction decisions sometimes seem bizarre. Uh, did they cut through a supporting beam there? ‘Yup.’ Oh. Cr*p.

  3. Absolutely wonderful photos, especially on the of the shore with the high bank of clouds rolling in. It sounds like your house was an adventure itself. Knowning the two of you, I know you ate well and both dishes you created sound well worth repeating.

  4. Lidia with a J

    First I thought: Is this post about what I think it is?
    And then I scrolled down and saw food. Suddenly, everything was in the right place 😀 Shrimps look great and I really love them, but I am all up for a fluffy pancake right now, yummmmm. Looks soooo good!

  5. Oh I wish I could get my hands on some real crab…. did you make the pancake first and then add the crab? Okay, I just found the link, thanks. A beautiful post. Rental houses are always interesting, aren’t they?!!

    • They can be … interesting … for sure! I usually find myself redecorating in my head, but this was one was lovely. I do try to cram in as much seafood as I can when on the coast because I just don’t buy it here.

      • Well, I’m in Oklahoma, so we’re in the same boat! I eat so much fish, mussels, and especially octopus and squid when we’re traveling it’s ridiculous. And yet, I still crave it! That savory crab Dutch baby looked so good. I read the recipe. I’ll have to make something similar, but without crab meat, sadly, or any fresh seafood. Maybe just leeks!

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