Thoughts From a Place Called Home

Charleston Style & Design is proud to share excerpts from Pat Branning’s latest book, Magnolias, Porches & Sweet Tea.


FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 1Charleston Style & Design is proud to share excerpts from Pat Branning’s latest book, Magnolias, Porches & Sweet Tea. Eye-popping photos by her son, celebrated photographer Andrew Branning, bring the recipes to life. Magnolias, Porches & Sweet Tea is, according to the author, “rooted in love, history and memory.” Enjoy!

Nothing more defines the heart and soul of a Southern home than the front porch and momma’s cooking.

My porch is a place for quiet conversations, reflections after a busy day, al fresco dining and the place where guests are greeted. We linger over coffee here at the dawn of the day, pry open oysters, crack crabs, watch sunsets, make plans, and share ideas and hopes for the future.

It’s the place for napping, laughing with family and dear friends after Sunday supper, for cooling down with a tall glass of iced tea after a day at the beach on a hot summer afternoon. This is where we carve our jack-o’-lanterns, hand out treats on Halloween, put up Christmas wreaths and string lights.

Growing up, I spent countless nights sitting with my parents and friends out on the porch, watching the sun go down anticipating the thrill of catching lightening bugs once dusk settled upon the land. The bullfrogs played their symphony in the pond out back while crickets got so loud they nearly drowned out our conversations. In the darkness the whippoorwills called out to us from their woodland home, and each night the faraway sound of a train whistle broke the silence as the Southerner rolled through town on its way to Georgia and all points south.

As I grew older, we sat on the porch and shared dreams of our lives to come and the limitless possibilities. Eventually, I grew up and went to college far away. Those evenings on the porch with my mom and dad, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends happened less frequently until they became a cherished memory of my childhood.

Once I was married and had my own children, I realized how sacred were those times on the porch. It represented a time and place where slowing down was held in reverence above all activities. There was soccer practice, horseback riding, choir practice, football practice—the race was on from work to school to extracurricular activities.

The front porch people are mostly gone now. I suspect they sit in air-conditioned comfort behind walls of wired components and TV sets. Lives of celebrities take importance over the live of neighbors and friends. We miss out on a part of what makes life rich and wonderful. I blinked my eyes and 20 years had raced by.

Recently there was that time when I didn’t have a porch. That’s when I decided to make a stand. I moved to a new house and reclaimed the porch. I love that neighbors walk by and greet us, and I’ve found all food tastes a little bit better and conversations last a whole lot longer out there.

This is a most sacred part of my home because now it holds the stories of our days and the endless ramblings of conversations, dreams of what is to come and visions of those endless possibilities.

FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 2Dinner Plans, oil on canvas by Hilarie Lambert


SERVES: 8-10

Husk has been hailed as possibly the most important restaurant in the history of Southern cooking. Time will tell but the culture of the restaurant was clear from the start. Mr. Brock is a son of the South and believes the finest cooking must contain locally grown and harvested products from either land or sea.

By definition, Mr. Brock is a locavore – a person who wants to eat only food that is grown within a radius of 100 miles from their dinner table. Local foods are becoming increasingly popular because they are fresher, healthier and more beneficial to the environment and the local economy. Local fruits and vegetables are less likely to be waxed, dyed or ripened with ethylene gas and they are by far more flavorful. Picked at the height of freshness, often making it to market within 24 hours of being picked, while food from non-local sources may have been in transit for more than 7 days and warehoused for many months.

Here is an amazing recipe that can be made simply and quickly with nothing but fresh, local ingredients. It’s guaranteed to be a huge hit and the Hollandaise is the perfect sauce for crab – buttery, lemony perfection. This classic brunch dish also makes a great supper when paired with a simple green salad.

“If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t coming in the door,” says Chef Sean Brock of Charleston’s Husk.


1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions
1/8 cup finely chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cup very fresh lump crabmeat,
picked free of cartilage and shells

2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons cream
4 large tablespoons butter, softened
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar
dash of salt and cayenne

4 cups water
1 tablespoon white vinegar
4 eggs

1. Whisk together all ingredients except the crab and red peppers. Gently fold in the crab and peppers being careful not to break up the crab too much. Reserve.

2. HOLLANDAISE SAUCE, Combine all ingredients, except the vinegar, in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Whisk until thick, about 3 minutes and set aside. Do not reheat or cover the pot. Thin the mixture with a small amount of chicken broth if needed. Stir in the vinegar.

3. Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a low simmer in a medium saucepan. Crack an egg into a small dish and gently slide the egg into the water. Crack another egg into the same dish and while the water returns to a low simmer, slide the second egg into the water. Repeat and let simmer until the eggs are set. Count on about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate.

4. Top a slice of whole grain toast or a fresh biscuit with a poached egg. Add a small scoop of the crab salad on top of the egg. Top with hollandaise sauce.


SERVES: 12-14

Inspired by Chef Kevin Cavanaugh of the South Carolina Yacht Club.

“Use only the best fresh regional ingredients and keep it simple.” –James Beard

The illustrious James Beard was not referring specifically to soup when he administered this culinary advice, but his wisdom is certainly pertinent. Soup is the ultimate comfort food and our farmers’ markets are the best places to find the freshest vegetables and fruits of the season. They offer all the inspiration I need to cook something special for dinner. Cold blustery winter nights lose their chill when we curl up by the fire with a bowl of delicious bisque or chowder. I believe that soup making is the most gratifying culinary experience. Gentle stirring and simmering can’t help but bring forth the nurturing instincts of every soup maker, and the finished product has the power to sooth the soul in truly magical ways.

Our delight in food reaches far beyond the plate. The simple act of slicing, chopping, tasting, and adding seasonings that make it all come together becomes an act of contentment rather than a chore to be dreaded and hurried along.

1/4 pound unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup flour
2 carrots, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 yellow onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 leek, julienned
1 tablespoon garlic
1/2 bunch parsley
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup fresh tarragon
2 cups cooking sherry
2 quarts clam juice
2 cups lobster stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup blue crab-meat
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2 ounces crab roe
1. Make a sachet of cheesecloth containing parsley, bay leaves, fennel seed and tarragon.

2. In a large stock pot melt butter; then add carrots, fennel, onions, bell pepper, celery, leeks and garlic. Sweat until onions are soft and clear, being careful not to brown. Incorporate flour, whisking to create a roux.

3. Add sachet, sherry, clam juice, and lobster stock. Bring to a boil and reduce liquids by 1/4. Add tomato paste, cream, and half and half. Bring to almost a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Add roe and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove sachet and blend. Season to taste.

4. Garnish with jumbo lump crab-meat, red bell pepper, fennel and corn kernels.

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Inspired by Chef Robert Wysong of Colleton River Plantation.

4 soft shell blue crabs
all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
peanut oil

1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Blend all together

1 cup good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1/2 tablespoon capers, finely minced
1/2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, washed and minced
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

1. Prepare crabs and dust with seasoned flour. Carefully fry in heated oil, 325° until golden brown.

2. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

3. Season liberally with seafood spice mixture. Split in half and arrange with lemon slices and whole leaf parsley for garnish. Serve with remoulade on the side.

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FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 5Stag, oil on canvas by Nancy Ricker Rhett



Hunter, artist, acclaimed woodworker, historian and philosopher, Billy Rhett (William Means Rhett, Jr.) is a man of considerable talent, sharp wit and strong opinions. His wood sculptures of waterfowl are done feather by feather with the most meticulous eye for detail. Billy studied under Gilbert Maggioni, the Lowcountry icon, raconteur, artist, duck hunter and third generation oysterman. Billy Rhett was smitten and took on work at the oyster house just to study with Maggioni after hours. There was another aspiring carver on the docks named Grainger McCoy. Together they learned to take bird-carving from folk art to fine art.

Step into his kitchen on Lady’s Island and you’ll find among his many talents is cooking wild game. This is a prize venison recipe and he has a few recommendations about processing.

Venison must be hung in a cold locker just above freezing for 4 or 5 days, otherwise it has a very “gamey” taste which can be unpleasant. Properly cured, it’s delicious. If you want to remove this game taste yourself, clean and divide meat into sections. Place in an ice chest, covered with ice. Change the melted ice water every day until there is no pink color to the water, usually 4 or 5
days. Cook venison either very quickly or very slowly. Anything in between and it’s shoe leather!


1 venison tenderloin
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 glugs red wine (1 for the cook)
1 package rice noodles


1 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cream

1. Slice the tenderloin of well-processed venison into small medallions, no more than 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt and pepper.

2. Brown quickly on both sides in olive oil in a heavy skillet. Remove from pan.

3. ROUX, A roux is a thickener for sauces and soups that combines equal parts flour and butter. Begin by melting 1 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, whisk in 1 cup flour gradually until a thick paste is formed. As it cooks the roux will become smooth and begin to thin.

4. After about 5 minutes of cooking and stirring, slowly add 1 cup cream to the roux while whisking and continue cooking to desired thickness. Cooking for about 35 minute will produce a sharp nutty taste.

5. Put the medallions into the roux, add the chopped onion and red wine and simmer, covered for 3 to 4 hours, adding liquid if needed. Serve over rice noodles.



To bump up the mushroom flavor, as well as deepen the color of the stroganoff, I added a half ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and minced. With their intense, woodsy flavor, they greatly enrich the broth. For the braising liquid, I am using chicken broth for its clean and neutral flavor. This dish already has a rich flavor foundation and just needs a little brightening up with the dry white wine or vermouth.

For the creamy sauce which is the hallmark of stroganoff, simply temper the sour cream with a little of the cooking liquid before stirring it back into the pot to finish. Don’t be tempted to add the sour cream to the hot mixture without this step or you’ll end up with a curdled mess.


1 (5 pound) boneless top sirloin tip roast,
trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 onions, minced
2 carrots, finely minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
several sprigs of fresh thyme
Kosher salt
3/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
10 ounces white button mushrooms, wiped
clean, trimmed and sliced

2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Minute tapioca
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
and minced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1. Add oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the minced onions, finely minced carrots, several sprigs of fresh thyme and tomato paste along with 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and cook until the vegetables are softened and browned. Stir in the wine, scrapping up any browned bits.

2. Pour the vegetable mixture into the stockpot and add the meat, white mushrooms, broth, soy sauce, tapioca and porcini mushrooms and gently stir to combine. Cover and braise in a 300° oven for 4-6 hours until the meat is fork tender. Length of time will depend on the size of the meat cubes.

3. Scoop up about 1 cup of the liquid in the pot and stir it into sour cream to temper, then pour it back into the stew and stir. Add mustard, season with salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve on wide buttered noodles or rice.

FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 6Oceans Nineteen, oil on canvas by Laurie Meyer


Inspired by Chef Robert Wysong of Colleton River.

Starting in June, squash becomes plentiful in the Lowcountry so you’ll need to have a lot of different ways to serve this hearty vegetable. Here’s a wonderful dish I learned while visiting Chef Robert’s grand Southern kitchen at Colleton River Plantation.


1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, quartered
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed,
stemmed and roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup olive oil

1. PARSLEY OIL, Blend all together in a blender until a bright green oil forms. Reserve.

2. Lightly brush sliced zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant, tomato and onion with parsley oil and season to taste.

3. Broil until tender and lightly caramelized. Allow to cool and serve on a platter garnished with the roasted tomato and onion.

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FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 8The Five String Banjo, oil on canvas by John Carroll Doyle


SERVES: 8-10

Cover artist Nancy Ricker Rhett is an original in every sense of the word and a true Renaissance woman. While she enjoys hunting, she is just at home in the kitchen cooking wild game and her famous sweet potato soufflé from her mother’s recipe. She is a self-made artist, historian, avid birder, world traveler and consummate Southern lady. Although I have lived here for many years, to view her paintings is to see the Lowcountry as if for the very first time.

Nancy grew up in Gardens Corner, located between Charleston and Beaufort, where her parents owned the Gardens Corner Motel and Restaurant – a restaurant recommended by Gourmet magazine. Nancy says, “Mother, whose name was Elizabeth was nicknamed, ‘Zip’ because Daddy’s little brother couldn’t pronounce her name. So he called her ‘Lithazip’ instead. She was a superb cook who hated to cook! Nonetheless, she did on occasion, and this is one of her most popular recipes.” One word of caution: make plenty because people who don’t even like sweet potatoes will come back for seconds!


3 large cans sweet potatoes,
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 stick of butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
a dash of sherry
lemon zest and lemon juice
to taste


1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter, melted

1. Using a mixer, combine all the ingredients for the souffle. Spread evenly in a 9 x 11 pan.

2. In a bowl, combine ingredients for the topping and spread on top of the casserole.

3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes until nicely browned.

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FeatureRecipesVer2 Image 10Near Bull Island, oil on canvas by Mark Horton



Every now and then in the course of salad making a real star is born. I find there is no fortuitous kitchen technique that leads to a stupendous creation, but I do know that a summer spent by the sea invites culinary exploration. The lovely pastel colors of our seafood, shades of salmon, apricot, coral and opalescent pearl, appeal to the eye as much as the palate. No summer in the Lowcountry is ever complete without casting a shrimp net into our creeks and rivers, wrestling a blue crab off a string into a bucket, braving the high seas or vying for a parking space in front of the local fish market.

The best dishes are quite often nothing more than the artful combinations of a few top quality ingredients beautifully presented so that their essence shines through. Each trip to one of our local farms or farmers markets has been inspirational and I come home eager to convey the purity, simplicity and spirit of that food. I use the ripest tomatoes, the very freshest produce and then treat them with simplicity and respect. A toss with some very good olive oil, a great balsamic with a few shallots or Vidalias, freshly ground black pepper and Fleur de Sel and you’re ready.


12 large wild caught shrimp
1 1/2 cups cooked fresh shell beans
1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup Sherry Vinaigrette, see below
8 basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
1 pound local lump crabmeat
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
zest of 1/2 lemon

1. Toss the cooked beans in a bowl with the Vidalia onions, and two tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with some of the basil, salt and pepper. Divide among 4 small serving plates. Ladle the avocado halves with the remaining vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Place an avocado half on top of the beans on each plate.

2. Gently stir the crabmeat with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette being careful not to break up any lumps. Mound into the avocado halves. Top with the basil chiffonade and lemon zest.

3. Toss shrimp with remaining basil chiffonade and 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and arrange alongside the avocados. Garnish with tomatoes, lemon zest and basil leaves.



For those languorous spells of hot and hotter summer days, we need effortless meals we can prepare quickly. These mussels are fast and simple but make a hearty meal when paired with a loaf of crusty bread to soak up the rich tomato broth.

As a bonus, mussels are a power food packing more iron and Vitamin B12 than beef and are an excellent source of iron. Just like oysters, they are filter feeders and clean our sounds by filtering over a gallon of water every single hour.


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pound mussels
1 tomato, diced and seeded
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Heat a heavy bottomed sauté pan; add olive oil and mussels.

2. As the mussels open, add the tomato and garlic. Cook the mixture over medium heat for several minutes.

3. Deglaze the pan with white wine or vermouth and reduce the liquid to almost dry. Add cream and reduce to a sauce consistency. Season the mussels with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.

4. Discard any mussels that are unopened after 8 minutes of cooking.
Serve immediately with crusty bread.

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SERVES: 8-10
Inspired by Chef Kevin Cavanaugh of the South Carolina Yacht Club.


1/2 pound jumbo lump crab-meat
2 ears of sweet corn, oven roasted
1/2 cup small diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fine parsley
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarse purified wheat flour
1 cup milk
1 egg, lightly whisked
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook for 3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and parsley, cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Drain liquids. Let cool.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine batter, onion mixture, crab-meat and corn. Heat 3 tablespoons canola oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Carefully spoon batter into skillet, using spoon to shape batter into small cakes. Cook through and brown fritters on each side. Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate.

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Inspired by Chef Robert Wysong of Colleton River Plantation.

Raised to be Southern in mid-Atlantic Maryland, Robert now calls the coastal Lowcountry home. He found his place where Southern culture and customs meet cuisine, climate, and environment. A graduate of Johnson & Wales in Charleston, he is now a lifetime student of cooking and hospitality.

Following the philosophy of social customs in agreement with nature, this restaurateur, hotelier, teacher and chef now calls upon the full breadth of his experience to guide the team of culinary and dining professionals in their unique private golf club setting.


1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow squash, sliced
1 small shallot, peeled and sliced
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup dry aged Gouda, finely shredded
1 tablespoon Panko
salt and pepper

1. Slice squash then blanche, refresh and drain.

2. Peel and slice the shallot, shred aged Gouda, and warm cream. Slowly add 1/2 of the Gouda cheese, reserving remaining for topping.

3. Arrange squash and shallot in an oven-proof baking dish. Season vegetables, and add fortified cream and cheese mixture.

4. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes until creamy and bubbly. Remove from oven and add remaining Gouda. Dust with Panko.

5. Bake another 10 minutes until nicely browned. Cool slightly and serve.

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