Pan Seared Kahala with Shrimp and Spring Vegetable Succotash
“Being a South Carolina chef ambassador allows me to bring what I learn about South Carolina products into the classroom,” explains Chef Kevin Mitchell, who teaches at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. “My students know I'm a huge history buff and that I'm very much into understanding the history of food, the history of the ingredients.”
Mitchell’s love for the history of food and ingredients shines through in his newly published book, Taste the State: South Carolina's Signature Foods, Recipes, and Their Stories. Cowritten with Southern Food Historian David Shields, Taste the State presents surprising stories and engaging profiles of eighty-two of South Carolina’s most distinctive ingredients, such as Carolina Gold rice, Sea Island White Flint corn and the cone-shaped Charleston Wakefield cabbage. The book also explores the wide variety of ways classic Lowcountry dishes, like shrimp and grits, chicken bog and Frogmore stew, have evolved over time.
“I think it's important that, as aspiring chefs, my students understand the importance of where the ingredients come from, the importance of the chef-to-farmer relationship and how that relationship gives them the opportunity to get the best products.”
Located on fertile John’s Island, a beautiful barrier island located just 11 miles from downtown Charleston, Joseph Fields Farm is a 50-acre, certified organic fruit and vegetable farm. Joseph Fields, the sole proprietor of the farm, is a third-generation Gullah-Geechee farmer with 45 years of farming experience. The Fields were recognized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and one of the farm’s signs is exhibited on the museum’s fourth floor.
“As of now, Joseph is planting for our grandson, who is 17 and graduates this year. He has been farming for over 10 years, so he is going to come and take the torch and move with it,” explains Helen Fields, Joseph’s wife. “Joseph is a third generation. Their parents bought this land in the early 60s because they didn't want their children to ever separate. So, all of this land, all the way around, are sisters and brothers.”
The farm produces a wide variety of seasonal produce, including beets, cantaloupe, chard, collards, strawberries, okra, onions, peanuts, peas and zucchini. While the Fields’ farm store is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they also sell their produce at several farmers markets. They participate in market incentive nutrition programs and accept all forms of payment, including SNAP/EBT, so that everyone can enjoy their bounty.
Pan-Seared Kahala with Shrimp and Spring Vegetable Succotash
“As a chef, I like to take advantage of delicious produce that is available to us in the spring. What better way to do this than by pairing it with the wonderful shrimp that comes from Charleston waters? This dish exemplifies the best that South Carolina has to offer.”
For the Kahala:
6 skinless Kahala fillets. Kahala is a member of the Jack Fish Family and is found in temperate and tropical areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. For this recipe, you can substitute kahala with cod, snapper, sea bass or salmon.
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
For the Succotash:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce okra, sliced
1 ounce diced yellow squash
1 pound large, peeled, deveined raw shrimp
1 ounce asparagus, trimmed and cut into pieces, blanched and shocked
½ cup fresh green peas, blanched and shocked
½ cup vegetable broth
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 leaves of Swiss chard or collard greens, rolled and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
To Cook the Kahala
Set a heavy cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking, about 3 minutes.
While the skillet is heating, wash the fillet, then pat it really dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the fish fillet with salt and black pepper.
When the skillet is hot, carefully add just enough ghee or oil to evenly coat the skillet. Wait a few seconds for the oil to heat and then quickly add the fish, skin side down. The fillet will contract and curve upward. When this happens, take a flexible spatula and press the entire fillet gently back down and hold for a few seconds to ensure even cooking and crisp skin all over. Let the fish cook until you can see a golden-brown color on the edge of the skin and the edges of the fish flesh become opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
Carefully and gently use a spatula to lift the fillet and flip it over. Add the butter, if using, and baste the fish until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
To Make the Succotash
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high. Add asparagus; cook until bright green and just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain; plunge into a bowl filled with ice water. Drain again. Reserve for succotash. Repeat process to blanch and shock peas.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn and onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables begin to get soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the okra and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until they achieve a bright green color.
Add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add in the peas, asparagus and tomato. Cook for 1 minute. Add fresh tarragon, parsley, water and broth. Cook another minute. Add in butter and cook for 1 minute. Fold in greens and warm through.
Adjust seasoning to taste.
Spoon succotash onto 6 plates and then top with fish.