Some of your favorite Lowcountry foodies share their holiday family traditions.
You know their restaurants, you love their food, but what do some of the Lowcountry’s favorite local chefs have in store for the holidays? Lots of options.
Feast of the Seven Fishes
Joseph Sullivan, Owner and Chef – Mulberry Street Trattoria
Authentically Italian, Mulberry Street Trattoria owner and chef Joseph Sullivan and his family celebrate Christmas Eve at his restaurant with fresh fish, and lots of it: baccala (cod), shrimp, lobster, clams, flounder, octopus, all prepared in different ways.
His Christmas Eve meal is known to many Italians—it is the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. And cooking it brings back fond memories of his childhood in New York City. “The holidays are a great time to be with the family…I was from a huge family so my mother would cook holiday dinners for like 40 or 50 people.”
He’s followed in his mother’s footsteps and cooks a seven-course meal for his loyal following, with favorites such as Lobster Fra Diavolo, flounder with seafood stuffing, calamari, and pan seared salted baccala.
“We’ve been open for four years and we have people who come every year on Christmas Eve because we do the dinner…A lot of Italian traditions are pretty solid across the country. If you ask an Italian in New York and an Italian in Chicago, they probably have similar traditions for the holidays…being that [Hilton Head] is a melting pot, now that people are here from all over the country, it’s nice because they are all familiar with the seven fishes.”
Generally, most of his meals take no longer than fifteen minutes to cook. Chef Joseph suggests using chili peppers liberally with seafood, particularly with the Lobster Fra Diavolo, and he suggests serving that with Cianti or Zinfandel. Dessert includes egg nog crème brulee, chocolate espresso crème brulee, cannolis and miniature pastries.
“It’s like going to someone’s house and having dinner in their home,” said his wife Elissa. “We really try to make people feel comfortable. We have a lot of repeat customers. We know people by name, they know us by name, they know our family, we know their family.”
Seafood Stuffed Salmon or Flounder
1 can pasteurized crab claw meat
3 egg whites
4 ounces of Ritz Crackers crushed into small crumbs
6 leaves fresh basil
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
2 ounces lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix gently. If using salmon, butterfly the salmon and place stuffing inside. If using flounder, place stuffing on the skin side then roll. Season outside of fish with paprika, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Bake in 425-degree oven for 6-8 minutes.
Mustard Cream Sauce or Pesto Cream Sauce for Flounder
1 tbsp garlic hopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp pesto or course grain mustard (depending on choice of sauce)
Saute garlic in olive oil then deglaze with white wine. Add cream, pesto or mustard and salt and pepper and lower flame. Let sauce simmer until reduced by half. Pour over fish after baking.
NOTE: Call (843) 837-CIAO (2426) for holiday reservations or stop by the restaurant located one block east of Tanger Outlet 2 in front of Boater’s World. 1476 Fording Island Road, Hwy. 278. mulberrystreettrattoria.com.
Feast with all the Fixin’s
Dye Scott-Rhodan, Owner and Chef – Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s
If you crave comfort food this holiday season, look to Dye Scott-Rhodan for inspiration. Her Gullah feast is sure to feed your soul and your belly—just make sure you have enough room in that belly for all the good eats.
“We do turkey, chicken, quail…we grow our own vegetables, collard greens, candied yams, green beans, buttered beans, potatoes…I am the only one that does this kind of cooking…and everything I cook is from scratch. All homemade, old fashioned recipes. Most people come here and taste the food and say ‘Oh my God, I think I am in my grandmother’s kitchen,’…I sorta gotta think I got a knack.”
She is one of the last remaining Gullahs on the island and each of her recipes has been passed down from generation to generation, dating back to the early 1800s when her ancestors in West Africa were brought here. Dye opened her restaurant Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s in 2006 as a way to keep her culture alive.
“Years ago when we were brought into slavery, the white masters would give us the scrapings off the pots…the pig feet, the hog chitland [intestines]…They would give us the scraps and we would try to turn them into delicious dishes.”
Today, these are items she serves throughout the holidays. “I put my own seasoning on it… it tastes like pork,” she laughed. “People don’t want to hear about steak sandwiches…I serve blue crabs, crab casserole, I serve crab cakes that I make…I pick my own blue crabs and I make my own crab cakes.”
On Christmas Day, Dye and her family cook Lowcountry Boil with local crabs and shrimp, potatoes, corn and sausage. As for New Years, Dye makes Hoppin’ John, which is a plate of red field peas and rice, and collard greens that is said to bring good luck and wealth in the New Year.
She serves all of her holiday meals with old fashioned cabbage salad and three types of corn bread: cracklin’, with pork skin; traditional, and sweet potato. “And fried chicken. Always!”
Dye looks to her sisters for help with the desserts. “My whole family cooks. I’m the one that’s good at everything…but I have certain sisters who are good with pies. I have my sister that helps me here who does Potato Pie and Old Fashioned Blackberry Dump and Peach Dump.” They also make old fashioned bunt cakes ranging from coconut to pecan to lemon, and Jelly Stacks, or Christmas Cakes, which are similar to fruit cakes.
Cracklin Corn Bread
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup self-rising white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
6 tsp. sugar
cup of oil
1 cup pork crackling
2 cups butter or regular milk
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, make sure it’s pourable, if not add a little more milk. Grease a skillet, muffin pan or baking pan pour in batter and bake for 25 minutes or until done. To check, insert a toothpick in bread, when done should come out clean. Serves 6-10.
NOTE: Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s offers a holiday buffet on Christmas Eve. All items are available for takeout. Shucked or unshucked shellfish by the quart or pint. Dye’s Gullah cookbook is set to go on sale in the beginning of the New Year. Call (843) 681-8106 or visit the restaurant in Pineland Station.
New Year’s Bluffton Style
Lisa Cappano, General Manager – Myrtle’s Bar & Grill
Myrtle’s Bar & Grill has reason to celebrate on New Years Eve—it marks the restaurant’s fourth anniversary. Owned by the Reeves family, it is known to many locals as a go-to place for delicious seafood, steaks, innovative appetizers, and a hefty wine list. This year they want to party with their patrons, and they are offering a reason to do so: a Couple’s Surf and Turf Dinner special that includes three courses and a bottle of wine, plus live music and dancing, all for $100.
“So come join the fun and help us celebrate,” said general manager Lisa Cappano.
The regular menu is still available to customers, which features local favorites such as fried oysters, blue crab cakes over grits and red pepper coulis, May River Flounder, and Calhoun Alfredo. Steaks range from black angus filet mignon to black angus ribeye and New York Strip.
“We provide food that is ‘Southern with a kick!’ It is made to be a fun and upbeat restaurant, with an extensive wine list and great food.”
Myrtle’s Oyster Stew
1 Qt. Fresh Oysters in liquid
6 slices of Bacon Julianne
1 Stick of Butter
2 Medium Shallots
1 T. Minced Garlic
1 c. flour
1 c. White Wine
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 T. Cayenne Pepper (to desired spice)
1 Bottle of Tabasco
Sauté bacon, shallots and garlic until bacon fat is rendered (about 5 min. on med-high heat) Add butter and melt completely. Add flour and whisk until rue is formed. Turn heat down and cook flour mixture for about 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add _ cup of liquid from the oysters and whisk. Mixture will thicken even more. Now add the white wine and milk slowly while whisking to get all the lumps out. Bring to a boil and add heavy cream. Bring to a boil again and add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. If the stew is too thick, add milk to thin. To serve, place two oysters in the bottom of the bowl and add stew. Garnish with parsley and a dash of Tabasco. Makes about 6 servings.
NOTE: Call for New Years Eve reservations or to discuss catering options: (843) 757-6300. Myrtle’s Bar & Grill is located at 32 Bruin Road, Old Town Bluffton.