The William Hilton Inn, named after a British sea captain who explored the waters off of the Carolinas in the 17th century, opened on Hilton Head Island, SC, in 1959, just in time to help usher in the development of the island from an isolated timber-producing barrier island into the resort destination that it is today. In those early days, the William Hilton Inn was the social focal point of a small local community -- community theater productions and local government bodies alike made it their headquarters -- and a destination for tourists who wanted to revel in the South Carolina sea islands in an virtually unspoiled state. The William Hilton Inn also offered spectacularly good food cooked in the authentic Lowcountry tradition. The hotel is long gone now. It was not related to the Hilton hotel chain but was eventually overshadowed and crowded out by the large corporations that dominate the U.S. hotel industry. Here is a recipe for "fried" chicken that we believe to be authentic and from that now-vanished hotel. While it is called "fried," it is actually sautéed and baked, and served with a savory sauce on the side.
Take a chicken split into parts, season it with salt and pepper, sprinkle it with cream and rub it with flour.
Saute the chicken in butter in a large pan until it has browned thoroughly on both sides, then finish cooking it in a slow oven for at least 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside, leaving the juice in the pan. Add 1/2 pint of cream to the pan and one soupspoon of maple syrup, stir and let boil for a few minutes, then strain the sauce. Serve the sauce separately on the side. Arrange chicken on a platter on crisp waffles and Virginia ham, and garnish with rings of candied sweet potatoes and bananas.
Boiled peanuts are a traditional snack in much of the American South, but they are still rarely found outside of the region. They are most commonly prepared during the summer and early fall months since they are best when the unshelled nuts are newly harvested or "green." Boiled peanuts are easy to cook at home, so it's a bit of a curiosity why there are so many roadside stands and gas stations selling them during peak season in states like Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Raw peanuts for boiling are easy to find in grocery stores in the South, but outside of the region it can be more of challenge. Natural food groceries, Chinese markets and online sources are possible options. Outside of the United States, boiled peanuts are popular in China and parts of Latin America. Once cooked, leftover boiled peanuts should be refrigerated. They also freeze well. Did we say how good they are? Make plenty, because most people have more than a few once they start shelling and eating boiled peanuts.
5 quarts of water
5 tablespoons of salt
5 pounds of peanuts of raw peanuts in the shell (the fresher, the better)
Stir the salt into the water in a large pot. Wash the unshelled peanuts and let them sit in the brined pot of water overnight. The next day, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook about four hours. Adjustments can be made for additional salt and water as the time passes. The nuts and the shells should both be soft when done. Some boiled peanut aficionados believe the nuts should only be served chilled, while others swear that warm boiled peanuts are the only proper way for them to be eaten. We like them both ways.
The saw-toothed leaves of this plant -- considered a nuisance by suburban homeowners but believed to have medicinal properties in China and parts of Europe -- actually makes a nice salad (and an inexpensive one if you already have it growing in your yard.)
Be sure to remove any of the yellow flowers, puff-balls and lower stems. The greens are best when they are young and tender.
1 pound dandelion greens
4 slices of bacon
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon mild hot sauce (we prefer SouthernAirs ORIGINAL hot sauce)
Wash the dandelion greens thoroughly and pat them dry. Fry the bacon until crisp, set the rashers aside, and pour the drippings over the dandelion greens in a salad bowl. Stir together the beaten egg, olive oil, vinegar, salt, flour, sugar, water and hot sauce, then bring the mixture to a boil in a skillet, stirring and cooking until it thickens. Pour the mixture over the greens and toss thoroughly. Crumble the bacon and place it on top of the salad, toss again, then add the egg slices as a garnish. Serve immediately.
It's easy to imagine fried grits were invented by a family that did not believe in throwing out leftovers. Whatever the origins of the dish, it has come to transcend the breakfast table, and can do double-duty as a stylish bread substitute at dinner.
Real fried grits are never deep fried, but rather are sautéed in butter on a hot stovetop. Maybe they should be called sautéed grits, but no one ever calls them that.
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned grits (not the quick type)
1/2 cup butter, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon medium-heat cayenne hot sauce (we prefer SouthernAirs ORIGINAL Hot Sauce)
Slowly stir the grits and salt into 6 cups of boiling water, using a saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cover, cooking for about 20 minutes while stirring occasionally until the grits are thickened and done. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter and the hot sauce. Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for 5 hours. Then cut the grits into brownie-sized squares. Dip the squares into the egg mixture, then roll them in the flour. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add enough of the grits squares to fill the skillet and cook them about 3 minutes on each side until nicely browned. A slightly crispy exterior is important. Remove from the skillet and keep warm. Add more butter to the skillet, and repeat with the remaining grits squares. Serve hot.
3 medium cucumbers
1 cup water
1 small onion, sliced
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Medium red hot sauce, to taste
Seed and pare cucumbers, then slice them thin. Simmer them gently in water with the onion, salt and pepper until soft. Let them cool. Puree them in a blender. Mix flour and chicken stock thoroughly. Add cucumber puree and stir over heat for about 2 minutes. Let cool. Add heavy cream, stir, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Serve cold with dill on top. Add a couple of drops of hot sauce to each bowl and serve.
Our preference for barbecued pork ribs is oven-baked, with a wood chip-smoked finish on the grill. We like the combination approach after finding that cooking them on the grill alone doesn't seem to ever make ribs tender enough, and cooking them in a slow cooker lacks the necessary crispy finish.
At the original Golden Rose Park on Hilton Head Island, owner Gene Wiley and his wife Clothilde produced some of the best oven ribs imaginable back in the 1970s. Folks drove over from Savannah, or sometimes from much further away, for their specialty.
It was an eclectic place at the time, a sprawling cinder block building under a giant oak by the beach, with a very popular jukebox and pool tables and a long bar. Folks from everywhere seemed to find their way there. You might run into a touring tennis star like Bjorn Borg drinking a beer in the dirt parking lot with group of restaurant waiters, or Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden holding court at the bar. It really rocked on Saturday nights after the other nightspots closed, with a spillover crowd milling outside under the stars, and the ribs were ever a centerpiece of the action.
Clothilde was a marvel in the kitchen, and knew how cook ribs to perfection. Here is the SouthernAirs recipe inspired by her artistry:
4-6 pounds fresh bone-in ribs, rinsed under cold water
1 quart cider vinegar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon medium cayenne hot sauce (we prefer SouthernAirs ORIGINAL Hot Sauce)
Mix the dry and wet ingredients well in a large bowl. Place the ribs in a large dish, pour the mixture over them, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the ribs in a baking pan, and pour most of the marinade over them, but not enough to cover the tops of the ribs. Bake, turning once or twice, for 30 minutes or until the ribs are brown on both sides. Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and cook, basting occasionally while turning once or twice, for 60-90 minutes until done and the ribs fall off the bone properly.
Pre-heat a grill on high until it reaches 450 degrees or more. Wrap dry wood chips (we prefer hickory)in tin foil, punch holes in the foil, and place on the grill. Keep the grill on high, but turn one side lower and place the ribs there in a pan containing the juices from the oven. Ignite the wood chips quickly and smoke the ribs briefly. Cut the ribs up and serve hot.
This is an adaptation of an old Lowcountry recipe. It provides a mayonnaise-free variation on modern cole slaw, and in our estimation is more interesting than typical cooked cabbage.
1/2 head green cabbage
1/2 cup cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
1 dash hot sauce
Shred the cabbage. Place in a large pot on top of the stove. Add the milk and cream and heat through over medium heat. Add the butter. While it is melting, toast the cumin seeds in a small hot pan over medium-high heat, stirring 1-2 minutes until they begin to smoke. Add them to the pot and stir. Cook the mixture about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and add the vinegar, salt and pepper, hot sauce. Do not reheat. Toss briefly and serve at once.
Hampton Court is of course the magnificent centuries-old palace of Britain's King Henry III and his six wives. It is also a bucolic residential street in Athens, Ga., favored by University of Georgia faculty and the like, where some of the brick cottage homes have hints of English architecture. The latter was no doubt inspired by the former, and we are inspired by both. The origins of Southern sauces have a few roots in the old English ways of cooking, including the use of mustard, horseradish and vinegar that we incorporate here.
1 package of chicken thighs, about 8-10 pieces
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
4 ounces of horseradish mustard
8 ounces of SouthernAirs Kickin' Vinegar Barbecue Sauce, OR
8 ounces of cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey (or molasses if you have it)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 dash hot sauce
Remove the skins from the chicken, rinse them and pat dry. Dredge each piece lightly on both sides with flour. Melt the butter on top of the stove in a deep skillet large enough to lay the chicken out in a single layer. Brown the chicken pieces over medium-high heat, about 6-8 minutes on each side. While they are browning, open a bottle of SouthernAirs' Kickin' Vinegar Barbecue Sauce OR substitute it by mixing together the rest of the ingredients above in a bowl. When the chicken is browned, use a spoon to place a dollop of horseradish mustard on the top of each piece of chicken and spread it with the back of the spoon. Add the vinegar mixture to the skillet, being careful not to wash off the horseradish mustard. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the skillet, and let simmer about 45-60 minutes until the chicken is tender enough to fall off the bone. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.
We have tried each of these recipe alternatives, and like them both. Congealed fruit & nut salads like this were once a staple on the church picnic circuit, and serve to remind of family times gone by.
1 package lime jello
1 package lemon jello
24 large marshmallows
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 can crushed pineapple
(or, substitute 1 small carton of cottage cheese and 1 cup mayo for the cream cheese)
Dissolve jello packages in a large bowl with 3 cups of boiling water. Add 24 large marshmallows and beat until melted. Add cream cheese and beat until melted. Add pecans, vinegar, pineapple. Mix well and chill until firm.
The other way: omit the cream cheese and substitute the cottage cheese and mayo, using only 1 package of jello, either flavor.
Mrs. S.R. Dull is one of our inspirations as a dedicated cook and a luminary of Southern cuisine.
In an earlier piece on the companion Notions from Home blog on this website, we described her as "The South's first celebrity chef," which is hardly an understatement.
Her 1928 cookbook "Southern Cooking" is a basic primer for the regional cuisine that she helped bring broader recognition to. It effectively bridged the 19th and 20th centuries with a wealth of classic recipes, some of them dating to the ante-bellum period.
Here is one of the 1,300 gems from Mrs. S.R. Dull, aka Henrietta Dull.
WATERMELON RIND PICKLES
1/2 gallon of cut watermelon rind
1 quart apple vinegar
1/2 ounce whole cloves
1/2 ounce whole mace
1 ounce mustard seed
2 lbs. sugar
Cut the rind in small pieces, about two-inch cubes; pack in brine until ready to use. Put a layer of rind and a light layer of salt; let stand until ready to make up. Soak in water over-night or until they are fresh. Then boil in weak alum water until they are firm and brittle. Boil again in plain water to remove the alum, and the rinds are clear.
Put sugar and spices into vinegar; boil together for five minutes. Add rind and boil gently for 10 minutes. Put rinds into a jar; pour the hot vinegar over, having the jar full; seal. They will be ready to use in a few days.
The most recent edition of Southern Cooking, from the University of Georgia Press, can easily be purchased online at http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/southern_cooking/
SouthernAirs developed some of these recipes, aiming as always for authenticity. Others are on loan from cited friends and relatives, or from authoritative sources with permission.