This year, our Thanksgiving feast is going to the Low Country
This year, our Thanksgiving feast is going to the Low Country
One of the best things about living in the South is its diversity of not only people but also food culture and cuisine. As we all know, Southern food is far from monolithic; each and every pocket has its own distinct culinary identity. And one of our favorite regions is, of course, the Carolina Low Country.
Its marshy system of rivers and estuaries has helped to grow a cuisine rich in seafood and rice. The ancestors of the enslaved Africans brought over from West Africa, the Gullah Geechee people, have given us many of the dishes and ingredients we think of as Low Country today: okra soup, purloo, garlic crab, anything served with rice.
For Thanksgiving this year, we’re honoring this historic Southern fare with a menu inspired by the Low Country region. It may not be a traditional Thanksgiving spread, but we think it’s actually better.
Read on for our menu and stay tuned the rest of this month for more guides and recipe suggestions.
It’s hard to imagine any dinner party, let alone Thanksgiving, without appetizers. But it is worth it to tread carefully when it comes to volume and richness; after all, you are getting ready for a major feast.
Deviled Crab Deviled Eggs
Keeping our theme in mind, we are sticking with seafood appetizers this year. First, we update a Southern classic — deviled eggs — with lots (and lots) of crab. Both blended and folded into the filling, as well as used for a garnish, the crab meat lends the eggs an elegance and bold seafood flavor. Add even more oomph by seasoning with Old Bay instead of salt.
Alongside, we’re plating up a huge platter of butter-topped grilled oysters. Yes, we know that most Carolina oyster roasts don’t add Parmesan and garlic to the mix, but why leave those ingredients off when they’re just so gosh darn tasty? If you want to go ultra-purist here, you grill your oysters sans sauce and serve them with traditional accoutrements like saltines, horseradish, melted butter and hot sauce.
Feel free to call us maniacs, but we’re going to go ahead and encourage you to serve not one, but two main dishes at Thanksgiving this year.
Low Country Boil-Brined Turkey Breast
Grilled Quail with Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Since most believe it isn’t Thanksgiving without a turkey, we’ve got it on our table — but not without a Carolina twist. Instead of a traditional cider brine, we’re going full Low Country boil on it. The Old Bay seasoning and lemons in the brine evoke the flavors of the boil and truly make the subtle flavor of the turkey shine. And you’ll also notice that we scaled back our turkey proportions to just a large turkey breast. It always seems like everyone just wants the white meat, so why not do it justice?
In addition, we’re grilling up semi-boneless quail, glazed in mustard barbecue sauce. Quail, you ask? These diminutive birds truly pack a punch and are likely just as traditional as turkey come feast-time. The tanginess and subtle spice of the barbecue sauce is a fine foil to the slightly gamey flavor of the birds and it adds dramatic color to the table. Even better? Both of these dishes come together far more quickly than a typical roast turkey.
Sure, some may argue that the turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal, but let’s be real — we’re all just here for the sides.
Sea Island Red Pea and Vegetable Purloo
Cornbread Oyster Dressing
It is not Thanksgiving without at least two starch-filled sides. From dressing (or stuffing) to mashed potatoes and gratin, these carb-filled dishes provide the foundation of a plate. This year, we’re serving two such dishes: a vegetarian-friendly purloo and an oyster-studded dressing. Purloo is the Low Country version of pilaf and is similar to Louisiana’s jambalaya.
Here, we’ve highlighted a few of the region’s best ingredients — Sea Island red peas and Carolina Gold rice — to build our dish. Adding in broccoli and squash brings color and a bit of heft to the dish, making it a fine vegetable main for those who want it. Our oyster dressing is based on a traditional cornbread dressing recipe, full of mollusks and their briny liquor.
Green Beans with Clams and Bacon
Sorghum and Benne Seed Sweet Potatoes
Both green beans and sweet potatoes are classic Thanksgiving sides, but we’re betting you’ve never had them like this before. Our green bean dish is almost as much South Carolina clam as it is vegetable, with plenty of smoky bacon to accent. And the sweet potatoes? Well, those are a far cry from marshmallow-topped casserole.
We’ve roasted the potatoes in easy-to-serve bite-sized pieces and completely coated in ever-so-slightly-sour sorghum. For another Low Country touch, we toss the hot potatoes in toasted benne seeds — a nuttier cousin to sesame.
Bourbon Pecan Cranberry Sauce
Finally, you can’t have Thanksgiving without some kind of cranberry sauce and gravy. For our Low Country twist on sweet-and-sour cranberry sauce, we’ve stirred in a hefty splash of bourbon (we want to make sure you taste it) along with a handful of toasted pecans. It’s ultra-easy and far tastier than anything you can get out of a can.
Flavored with fresh sage and tangy cider vinegar, our gravy is more traditional — but it still contains bourbon. (Why not?) Don’t forget to stir in the turkey drippings if you’ve got ’em.
When it comes time for the final course, we encourage you to completely throw tradition out the window and serve two sweets that don’t even come close to resembling pie.
Lady Baltimore Cake
The show-stopping dessert on our Thanksgiving table this year is a Lady Baltimore cake. Said to have originated in the early 20th century at Lady Baltimore’s Tea Room in Charleston, South Carolina, Lady Baltimore cake is a white cake filled with a mixture of dried fruit and nuts, then frosted with a meringue-like icing. It’s a labor of love, which is why many people around Charleston enjoy it as a wedding cake. It works equally well as a dessert for any festive occasion, such as Thanksgiving.
Alongside, an easier dish that’s equally as distinct — syllabub. It’s based on an Old English holiday drink, similar to eggnog. When it found its way to the United States — specifically, the Carolina Low Country — in the 19th century, it morphed into more of a light, airy dessert that is pretty much the best excuse we can think of to eat a bowl of whipped cream.