Recipes From The Heart XVI

“There really are not recipes, only millions of variations sparked by someone’s imagination and desire to be a little creative and different. American cooking is built, after all, on variations of old recipes from around the world.” James Beard.

This week’s recipes are variations of Deep-South classics, particularly the cuisine of coastal South Carolinas, Georgia’s Golden Isles and of course, the Sunshine State. Folklore gives Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee, credit as the birthplace of hushpuppies. Whether served as appetizers or side dishes, they disappear quickly.

Fried soft-shell crabs elevate a sandwich to great heights of flavor enjoyment. And, crab soup, found in many variations, is transformed into something divine with a jigger of sherry.

These recipes are not original with me, but represent common ingredients and accepted preparation styles. Each will taste even better when served with a chilled Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé or iced tea.


Tallahassee Hushpuppies

Tallahassee claims Hush Puppies as its own.

The Southern Cook Book, Old Dixie Recipes, (1939)

2 cups corn meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1 large onion, chopped fine
Oil or fat for frying

Sift the dry ingredients together and add the milk and 1/2 cup water. Stir in the chopped onion. Add more meal or milk as may be necessary to form a soft but workable dough.

With the hands, mold pieces of the dough into pones (oblong cakes, about 5 inches long and 3 inches wide, and about 3/4 of an inch thick).

Fry in deep hot fat or oil until well browned.


Big Bend Soft-Shell Crab Sandwich

The Soft-shell crab sandwich is a Florida Heritage delight.


¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Zatarian’s Cajun mustard
¼ teaspoon Old Bay seasoning


1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Zatarian’s Cajun mustard
2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 tsp. chile powder
Himalayan salt, coarsely ground pepper


2 cups Peanut oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
Himalayan salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1¼ cups panko
4 soft-shell crabs
4 fresh-baked soft buns

Whisk vinegar and mustard in medium bowl. Add cabbage and chile and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Pour oil into a large skillet, preferably cast iron, to a depth of 1/2″ and heat over medium-high heat until oil bubbles immediately when a pinch of flour is added.
Meanwhile, whisk flour, chili powder, and 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning in a shallow bowl; season with salt and pepper. Place eggs into another shallow bowl. Whisk panko and remaining 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning in a third shallow bowl; season with salt and pepper.

Dredge crabs in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip back into bowl. Coat in panko mixture.

Working in 2 batches, place crabs, shell side down, in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Season with salt.

Complete sandwiches with buns, sauce, crabs, and slaw.


St. Simons Island Crab Soup

Crab Soup with added Sherry.


1 pound fresh crabmeat
6 tablespoons sherry (no cooking sherry!)
1 small onion, grated
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 chicken bouillon cubes
3 cups half-and-half cream
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a small bowl, combine crabmeat and sherry; set aside.
In a large saucepan, saute onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour and salt until blended; gradually add milk and bouillon. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cream and crab mixture; heat through. Sprinkle servings with parsley.


Crab Cobb Salad


Cobb Salad is even better with crabmeat.

2 lbs jumbo lump crab meat
1 pound sliced smoked bacon
4 small Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
2 ripe avocado, diced
16 grape tomatoes, halved
2 large carrot, cut in thick matchsticks and blanched
1 medium red onion, diced
2 small cucumbers, diced
4 romaine lettuce hearts, chopped
12 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves removed from stems
diced hard boiled eggs (optional)

Champagne Vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon dijon mustard
8 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon champagne vinegar
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon anchovy paste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Southwestern Ranch:

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoon milk or cream
3 teaspoon chili powder
3 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried dill
salt and pepper to taste


For The Salad

  1. Pour crabmeat into strainer over sink and rinse with cold water. Sort through all the pieces to make sure there are no shells. Place back in refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble salad.
  2. Cut bacon into cubes, fry in a heavy skillet until crispy and set onto plate with paper towels to drain. Pour excess fat out of skillet and set aside.
  3. Yukon Golds: add a little olive oil to the same skillet you used for the bacon. (You can use some of the bacon fat here for extra flavor). Cut Yukon Golds into cubes and cook over medium low heat. Turn potatoes in pan every 10-15 minutes until all sides are evenly browned. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, peel carrots and cut into thick matchsticks. Blanch in boiling water for two minutes and then transfer into ice bath to stop cooking process.
  5. Dice avocados and toss in a small mixing bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and pinch of sea salt.
  6. Dice red onion, cucumber and cut grape tomatoes in half.
  7. Make your choice of dressing–see instructions for each below.
  8. Place chopped romaine hearts and parsley leaves into a large mixing bowl and pour half of the dressing over top. Using tongs, gently toss greens to coat with dressing throughout. Transfer greens to individual salad bowls and top evenly with all of the other ingredients. Drizzle remaining dressing over top.


Combine all vinaigrette ingredients and whip together in a ramekin or small glass bowl. Dress salad or serve vinaigrette on the side.

Ranch Dressing:

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together sour cream, mayo, lemon juice and milk until smooth.

Add in seasoning and whisk again until incorporated evenly. For a thicker consistency, add a touch more sour cream, for a thinner dressing, add a bit more milk. Pour over salad or serve on the side.




Old school journalism describes the style and stories produced by Doc Lawrence. “In everything I do,” he says, “there is a beginning, middle and an end.” One of the top travel writers in the country, Doc is steeped in the heritage of the deep south. Traveling the back roads from Texas to Virginia and on down to Key West inspires stories about local food and wine preferences, community theater, folk art and music often leading to clues for a good story. Heroes include Faulkner, Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker and Willie Morris. An Atlanta native, Doc keeps a well-stocked wine cellar and bar and two outdoor grills. He enjoys entertaining and believes that the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep searching for a higher life. |
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