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Inspired Ingredients and Classic Southern Dishes

Contributing Writer Contributing Writer
Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.
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Pick up some secrets about South Carolina’s signature dishes from the people who know them best: our South Carolina Chef Ambassadors. Here, they put their own spin on classic Southern dishes, all while integrating locally sourced ingredients for that truly only-in-SC flavor.


“Pimento cheese is excellent as a dip or a spread on your sandwich. It can even be the cheese on your burger.”

Chef Jamie Daskalis

What’s Cookin’
In its most fundamental form, pimento cheese is a mix of cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and peppers, but chefs across South Carolina put their own special spin on this signature spread. Chef Jamie Daskalis, whose Johnny D’s Waffles and Benedicts has expanded to three locations: Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, and Surfside Beach, adds sour cream for tang and creaminess, plus finely chopped pimento-stuffed olives for texture and saltiness.

Locally Sourced
“When it comes to pimento cheese, it is all about the mayo and cheese,” says Daskalis. “Duke’s happens to have been born here in SC. I also like to visit a local farm stand or farmers market to pick up some fresh local cheddar.”


1 ½ cups Duke’s Mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons sour cream
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt (as needed)
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
10–12 pimento-stuffed olives
¼ cup roasted red peppers
½–1 jalapeño (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, cheese, sour cream, granulated garlic, salt, pepper and cayenne.
3.  Chop olives, red pepper and jalapeño. Add to the bowl and fold in. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Transfer to a small baking dish and place in the oven until it begins to bubble, about 20 minutes. Serve with your favorite chips, crackers or crusty bread.



“The simplicity yet complexity to the dish is what makes it a classic.”

Chef Kevin Mitchell

What’s Cooking
Whether its unusual name comes from the marshy area where it originated or the soupiness of the dish, no one is for sure, but one thing is for certain: this Lowcountry staple is as flavorful as it is comforting. Tender chicken meat, smoked sausage and white rice simmer in hearty chicken stock until the flavors seamlessly intermingle. Chef Kevin Mitchell of the Culinary Institute of Charleston roasts the chicken bones before making his from-scratch stock. “Roasting the bones gives a deeper depth of flavor and adds some color as well,” he says.

Locally Sourced
“To cut through the richness of chicken bog, I chose to serve it with pickled okra and watermelon rind,” says Mitchell. “I used okra from Rooting Down Farms on Edisto Island. If you can get your hands on Bradford Family watermelon rind pickles, serve those—if not, you can do them yourself.” Mitchell also uses locally grown Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice for its sweet flavor and fluffy grains.


1 whole chicken (3–3 ½ lbs.), washed, innards removed/discarded
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into ½-inch lengths
1 celery rib, chopped into ½-inch lengths
3 garlic cloves, peeled
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley stems
4 cups roasted chicken stock – *recipe online
4 cups water
10 ounces smoked sausage, cut into ½-inch rounds
1 cup Carolina Gold rice
1 ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 scallions, minced
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
½ cup benne seeds
½ cup benne seed oil
Pickled okra – *recipe online
Pickled watermelon rind – *recipe online

Day One:
1.  Combine onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, parsley stems, chicken stock and water in a heavy, nonreactive 5- to 6-quart stockpot. Place chicken breast-side up in the pot and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer gently until the chicken legs pull easily from the carcass, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
2.  Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. Let stand until cool enough to handle, remove the meat from bones and pull it into small pieces. Discard the chicken skin. Cover the meat and refrigerate. (Note: 1 pound or 4 cups of chicken meat is all you need for the bog. Reserve extra meat for other use.)
3.  Return bones to the pot, bring broth to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer until reduced to 6 cups, about 45 minutes.
4.  Strain broth through a fine-holed colander or fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight.

Day Two:
  Remove congealed fat from surface of the broth and discard. Return stock to the pot, stir in chicken meat and sausage, and bring to a simmer, covered, over medium-high heat.
2.  Reduce heat to low and stir in rice, pepper, and salt to taste. Continue to simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and broth has thickened, about 25 minutes.
3.  Remove pot from heat and stir in the butter.
4.  Ladle stew into 6 shallow bowls. Sprinkle with scallions, parsley, benne seeds and benne seed oil. Serve with pickled okra and watermelon rind on the side.



“I specifically chose sweet soy sauce, Thai basil and coconut milk to create an Asian flavor profile for this dish.”

Chef Raffaele Dall'Erta

What’s Cookin’
A traditional Gullah dish comprised of black-eyed peas, ham and rice, Hoppin’ John is thought to bring good luck—with the peas representing coins—making it an especially popular meal in South Carolina on New Year’s Day. In this rendition, Chef Raffaele Dall’Erta of Hamptons in Sumter adds an Asian twist for a new take on the savory classic. “The coconut milk gives it a sweet, smooth floral flavor and the Thai basil adds a fresh herb taste to the dish,” says Dall’Erta.

Locally Sourced
The tidal creeks and saltwater marshes of South Carolina’s Lowcountry are teeming with a world-renowned seafood delicacy: blue crabs, beloved for their sweet meat. If you don’t catch your own (extra points if you do), just “make sure you source good quality jumbo lump blue crab meat,” advises Dall’Erta. Also, be sure to use locally grown Carolina Gold rice for an unforgettable dish filled with local flavor.


2 cups water
2 cups Carolina Gold rice
½ cup coconut milk
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 kaffir lime leaf
3 tablespoons oil
1 small carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
¾ cup black-eyed peas, cooked or canned
¼ cup honey baked ham
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
2 tablespoons Thai basil
1 cup jumbo lump blue crab meat

1.  Combine water, rice, coconut milk, salt, sugar and kaffir lime leaf in saucepan and bring to boil. Cover, place in oven at 350 degrees for 19 minutes. Remove and set aside. Let cool and then fluff with a fork.
2.  In a nonstick pan, mix oil, carrot, celery, black-eyed peas and ham over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add cooked rice and sauté until crispy. Add sweet soy sauce, Thai basil and crab meat and sauté for another 2 minutes.
3.  Mix well and serve in a bowl.



“The beauty of the dish lies in its simplicity. Every ingredient speaks for its own self, yet the flavors meld very well.”

Chef Jason Tufts

What’s Cookin’
Sometimes called a Lowcountry boil, Frogmore Stew—which originated in a St. Helena Island fishing community named Frogmore—is a one-pot dish of shrimp, corn on the cob, new potatoes and smoked sausage. This no-fuss, large-format meal is ideal for casual get-togethers in the outdoors. “You get sweet notes from the corn and smoky or umami notes from the sausage,” says Chef Jason Tufts, who helmed the kitchen at Malia’s Restaurant before taking over operations at Village Cafe in Aiken. “The shrimp adds just a bit of brine and texture, and the potatoes act as the conductor of the orchestra, bringing them all together, absorbing their flavors and allowing them each to shine.”

Locally Sourced 
“I sourced some beautiful bicolor sweet corn from Watsonia Farms in Monetta and made my own sausage in the style of a Kielbasa-linguiça hybrid,” says Tufts of his recipe.


2 pounds shell-on Beaufort shrimp
2 pounds high-quality smoked sausage
2 pounds Dutch creamer potatoes, cut in half
8 ears sweet corn
1 large yellow onion, diced large
3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
1 ½ cups Old Bay seasoning
2 whole lemons
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ gallons cold water

1.  In a 375-degree oven, roast sausage until golden brown and cooked through (165 degrees if using a meat thermometer), 10–12 minutes.
2.  While sausage is roasting, in a large stock pot, combine onion, garlic, Old Bay and water and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced, 20 minutes.
3.  Reduce heat to simmer and add sausage, corn and potatoes. Allow to simmer until potatoes are fork tender, 10 minutes.
4.  Cut lemons in half, squeeze in juice and add Worcestershire sauce.
5.  Place shrimp into liquid and cook until shells are bright red and meat is firm, about 3–4 minutes. (Take care to not let shrimp curl too tightly—this means you have overcooked them.)

Featuring a variety of great stories and exciting trip ideas, the 2021 South Carolina Vacation Guide makes planning your next getaway to the Palmetto State easy. Request your free copy or download the guide today.

Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer
More from "Contributing Writer"
Whether they’re checking out the newest restaurants or enjoying a stay at a bed-and-breakfast, contributing writers share their unique insight and stories from exploring the Palmetto State.