SEWE Chef Demos have traditionally been about wild game — hogs, venison, turkey, you name it. But this year, the demos are taking on a new look, as the focus shifts to local, sustainable sources and simply prepared dishes where the individual ingredients are allowed to shine. And since the Lowcountry is right on the ocean, most of the proteins are coming from sea — hello, oysters — and the produce will be locally raised and in-season — mmm, kale and collards. Make no mistake, when it comes to modern-day Holy City cooking, local is best, and our chefs aim to prove it.
Chef Miles Huff has been part of the SEWE Chef Demo lineup for years. As the program director for the Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Tech, he's in charge of more than 1,100 chefs-in-training annually, and he loves having the opportunity to come out to SEWE every year.
This year, Huff will prepare local fried oysters served on the half shell over a cabbage slaw with sautéed pumpkin and English peas. The ingredients are all local and in-season for the festival. "Every year we really get involved in the local South Carolina-grown, South Carolina-certified foods," Huff says. "I also follow the seasons. Oysters are in right now. I have purple cabbage in my garden for the slaw, and pumpkin is a fall item that a lot of people don't use, except to carve."
He adds, "You have to follow the seasons because that's when the food is full of flavor. Then you just have to combine ingredients in the right ways."
Cookbook author and food blogger Holly Herrick is delighted to be giving her first SEWE Chef Demo this year. Best known for her cookbooks Tart Love and Southern Farmers Market Cookbook, Herrick will be focusing on good ol' veggies.
"It's that time of year where you're just starting to get in turnips, spring onions, and greens," she says. "Collards are coming in. That's probably what I'm going to work with for the demo. For me, it's always about seasonality, minimalism, and deliciousness."
Though she's not entirely sure what she plans to make the day of her demo, Herricks thinks a salad may be in order. "If I do a salad, simple and fresh is really best," she says. "It's so simple to make a really delicious vinaigrette. I'd love to show people that."
As for Chef Jason Reed of Boone Hall Farms, he plans to demo a recipe of Boone Hall kale with quinoa cakes and seared scallops, served with a red pepper dressing. "We try to do Southern-style recipes," he says. "But with everything leaning toward the more healthy options, we're trying to get a little more acclimated to that as well."
To that end, his recipes will remain fairly simple. The quinoa cakes will be bound with just a bit of mayo and bread crumbs to hold them together and flavored with onions and pepper. The scallops will be seasoned with salt and pepper, letting the natural flavor shine through.
A four-time SEWE chef, Huff says, "I like getting out there, being around the wildlife, and seeing the different kind of exhibits. I try to hold true to that with the recipes I make at the demo."
Chef Miles Huff's Local Fried Oysters, served on the half shell over slaw, with sautéed pumpkin and English peas
• 12 oysters, fresh selects
• 1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
• 1 egg lightly beaten
• 1 c. vegetable oil
• 3 c. pumpkin, washed, peeled, seeded, and cut into medium dice
• 4 pieces thick-sliced smoked bacon
• ¹⁄³ c. sweet onion, diced
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
• 2 TBS. butter, salted
• ½ tsp. thyme, fresh
• ¹⁄³ c. purple cabbage, shredded
• ¹⁄³ c. green cabbage, shredded
• ¼ c. carrot, shredded
• 2 TBS. coleslaw dressing
• ½ c. English peas, fresh
• Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oil in skillet over moderate high heat until hot.
Shuck oysters, pat dry, coat with egg mixture, and roll in bread crumbs. Pan-fry oysters in oil until golden brown approximately for two minutes. Transfer oysters out into a warm dish.
In a large skillet, render bacon and remove pieces and hold bacon. In the same skillet using the bacon grease, sauté onions, garlic, and pumpkin until semi-soft. Add peas and butter and continue to cook until peas are done. Add thyme, salt, and pepper to taste.
In a separate bowl, mix cabbage, carrots, and dressing to make slaw. Fill oyster shells with slaw and top with oysters and serve on top of pumpkin and peas.