You are here

December 2008

Eat + Drink:
South by Southwest
Written By: 
Marion Sullivan
Photographs By: 
Peter Frank Edwards

The Red Drum chef-owner Ben Berryhill and family 
invite staff and friends to their Old Village home for a spicy New Year’s Day celebration with Ben's signature cowboy cuisine

To most folks in the South, New Year’s Day means cooking up the traditional dishes believed to bring prosperity in the upcoming year: collards, pork, and hoppin’ John. For Ben and Marianna Berryhill, it means bringing a little taste of home to the Lowcountry.

The Berryhill’s Red Drum restaurant is closed on January first. “We’ve all worked straight through December,” says Ben, “including the holidays. About now, I get a little homesick, so Marianna and I invite the restaurant family to our house for some relaxation and Texas Hill Country food.”

Although Marianna is originally from Atlanta, her college years in Austin kindled a love for the Lone Star State. After graduation, she joined the Robert Del Grande team, soon becoming manager and wine buyer at his now-famous Café Annie in Houston. There she met Ben, who had come to the restaurant’s kitchen from the Culinary Institute of America by way of a stint in the Rocky Mountains.

After 11 years with Café Annie, Ben and Marianna were ready to open their own restaurant. “We wanted to live in a small city where we could raise a baby,” explains Marianna. “I had spent my summers on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, so the Lowcountry was familiar. It was hard to get Ben, a fifth-generation Texan, to leave the state, but he fell in love with the beauty of the area. He thinks South Carolinians are like Texans in their friendliness.”

Key members of The Red Drum team not only came with them from Texas but lived with them in their former house on Sullivan’s the first year the restaurant opened: Margaret Vest, their original manager, who convinced her best friend, Lauren Mitterer, to move from Seattle to be pastry chef; Mary Gamez, now manager; and Nathan Hood, sous chef. “We’ve done the New Year’s Day get-together since the restaurant opened. It’s always at our home, first on the island, now in the Old Village.”

Located only blocks from the restaurant, the Berryhill’s Mount Pleasant house reflects their Texas taste. A gray ranch with a tin roof, the interior features white walls and heart pine floors. The weather’s on the warm side, but there’s still enough chill in the air to light a fire in the iron stove on the porch, and a bonfire in the backyard is all that’s needed to keep folks comfortable outside. The mellow music of Ben’s buddy Lyle Lovett drifts overhead.

“Everyone sleeps in after New Year’s Eve in the restaurant, so we usually get going about two in the afternoon,” says Ben. “We start with sangrita, meaning ‘a little blood,’ but in this case, the hair of the dog. I like to have the tamales hot and ready to eat, as well as the guacamole and crab campechana with crisp home-fried tortilla triangles. That way, you get food right from the start—not just alcohol.”

Tamales are a traditional Mexican celebration food, especially associated with Christmas. “They aren’t on the regular menu at The Red Drum,” explains partner/general manager Charlie Chance. “That’s why everyone’s so happy to see them.” Ben’s are Salvadoran-style, wrapped in banana leaves. The shrimp and tomatillo tamales are bright and colorful, with Ben’s characteristic riff on the more traditional versions. Even the pork in red chile tamales have his lighter touch accompanied by crema fresca; toasted pumpkin seeds; and cotija, a dry, salty cheese similar to feta.

The group drifts in and out, some settling on the porch, some in the living room. The children head for the swing, its chains decorated with tiny paper lanterns. Raymond convinces his dad to bring out his great-granddad’s tractor. “That tractor was the first thing I ever drove, laughs Ben, “when I was probably nine. I spent all my summers on my grandfather’s farm in East Texas.” Phoebe, the Berryhill’s gentle Great Dane, moseys about, unfazed by the crowd.

Around four, Charlie starts making his Miracle Margaritas, a satin-smooth fresh margarita made with hand-squeezed lime juice, Cointreau, simple syrup, and silver blue agave tequila. Hunger strikes and the volume rises—both voices and music. Now it’s Willie with Emmy Lou Harris. The Texas toast goes on the griddle, and Ben starts slicing the chile-crusted prime rib.

Never missing a beat, Marianna deftly dishes up mac and cheese for the small fries while setting out the sides for the beef. Here, in Ben’s subtle way, South meets Southwest. The black-eyed peas in the “Texas caviar” are for luck and the cabbage in the spicy slaw for money. All have iconic Southwestern flavors that blend to a wonderfully pleasing whole. As a chef, at home and at the restaurant, his food shows his fine gift of finesse.

“So now that Ben has The Red Drum,” says Del Grande, who’ll be coming to cook with Ben during the Food + Wine Festival, “I’m sure there’s a new cuisine being born—a blending of some great South Carolina ingredients and influences with a little of Ben’s Texas roots. Maybe they’ll call it South Carolina Tex cooking or Lowcountry Texas cooking or something else kind of catchy. What will definitely be catchy will be the stunning flavors—the best of both worlds or maybe a new flavor, something you can call home.”

The television goes on in the living room as some of the guys wander in to catch up on the bowl games. Lauren takes the desserts out by the bonfire so that the kids can play in the yard. Her rich, creamy flan has nothing in common with the all-milk version too often offered for this dish. Deep, dark chocolate brownies hit a high note, and Ben’s mother’s Texas pralines hit a soft, sweet note. Lauren quips, “Ben asked me to make pralines for New Year’s Day, but I’d never made them before, so I had to get advice from an expert!”

As twilight falls, and with it, a late afternoon shower, Lauren brings in the Mexican hot chocolate and puts it on the iron stove. “So much for sitting round the bonfire with the guitars,” says Nathan. But that’s all right. They take their mugs and settle here and there. It’s about being together—this camaraderie of folks who work each day side by side—and starting off the new year among friends who’ve become family.

New Year’s Fiesta Recipes

(Serves 6)

6 cups tomato juice
6 oz. lime juice
6 oz. orange juice
12 oz. high-quality silver tequila
Kosher salt, to taste
3 green jalapeño peppers, finely minced (Remove seeds before mincing for less spice.)

Mix juices in pitcher and chill. Add tequila. Pour over ice into glasses rimmed with 
kosher salt. Garnish with jalapeños.

Charlie’s Miracle Margarita
(Serves 1)

2 oz. silver blue agave tequila
3/4 oz. Cointreau
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Sea salt

Combine all ingredients except sea salt and shake with ice. Strain over fresh ice into a glass rimmed with salt.

Crab Campechana
(Serves 12)

1 lb. lump crab
1 cup campechana sauce 
 (recipe below)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 green jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 Tbs. finely diced mango
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
Small cilantro sprigs or leaves, for garnish

Place crab into metal or glass bowl resting over another bowl filled with ice; gently pick meat over for shells. In a separate bowl, combine campechana sauce, onion, jalapeño, mango, olive oil, cilantro, and lime and orange juices. Add crab. Refrigerate over ice until ready to serve. (Chef’s note: dish can be made up to a week in advance, but wait to add crab until just before serving.) Garnish with cilantro sprig or leaf. Serve with home-fried tortilla chips.

For the Campechana Sauce:

8 cups seeded and chopped 
Roma tomatoes
8 cups seeded and chopped 
red bell peppers
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 rib celery, chopped
3 ripe mangos, seeded and chopped
1 red jalapeño pepper, stem removed
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 cups tomato juice
1 tsp. horseradish
1 Tbs. fresh oregano leaves
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh lime juice, to taste

Combine all ingredients except salt, pepper, and lime juice and simmer until tender, about one hour. Cool. Puree in a blender. If needed, adjust thickness with equal parts water and vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and lime juice. (Chef’s note: tightly covered, this sauce keeps for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.)

Tamales with Shrimp & Avocado Tomatillo Salsa or Pork in Red Chile
(Makes 36)
*Chef’s note: In Salvadoran tamales, the filling is typically wrapped within the masa in banana leaves; however, since these fillings cook differently, Ben finds it simpler to prepare them separately from the masa in the banana leaves and let guests top their own tamales later.

For the masa:

1½ qts. chicken stock
1 lb. masa harina (La Pina brand recommended)
1/4 lb. white stone-ground grits, 
soaked overnight in water (Anson Mills brand preferred)
1½ Tbs. kosher salt
3/4 lb. butter
1 tsp. baking powder

In a nonstick pot, boil chicken stock. Add masa, grits, and kosher salt. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until mixture forms a thick, moist dough.

Transfer dough to bowl of an upright mixer. Add butter and baking powder, and whip with a paddle for three to four minutes until mixture is light and fluffy. Refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.

For the Lowcountry Shrimp with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa:

10 tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup roughly chopped white onion
2 green jalapeño peppers, seeded
1½ lbs. fresh shrimp, boiled, peeled,
and deveined
3 avocados, peeled, pit removed, and finely diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

Discard outer husks of tomatillos. Thoroughly rinse tomatillos with cold water. Add garlic, onion, and jalapeños to one quart boiling 
water and boil for one minute. Add tomatillos and boil for five to seven minutes or until they begin to soften and are hot through the center. Do not allow tomatillos to overcook or they will break down and become mushy. Pour vegetables into a strainer and allow to cool. Chop in a food processor until mixture is smooth. Gently mix shrimp, avocado, cilantro, and tomatillo puree until thoroughly incorporated. Flavor with lime juice and kosher salt.

For the Pork in Red Chile:

4 lb. pork shoulder, skin and fat 
 removed, meat cubed
Kosher salt
2 cups chopped yellow onion
8 garlic cloves, chopped
8 guajillo chiles, seeded and toasted
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
4 cups chopped Roma tomatoes
1 tsp. coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 cups chicken or pork stock

Working in batches, season pork with kosher salt and brown it in a heavy-bottomed pot. Remove browned pork, and in the same pot, sweat onion and garlic. Add chiles, cilantro, tomatoes, and coriander. Stir and sauté for five to 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Add enough stock to cover vegetables. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Remove from heat and puree in food processor. Place sauce and browned pork in pot and simmer for about half an hour or until pork is tender.

Prepare & garnish tamales:

Banana leaves, available at Asian markets (or substitute corn husks)
Fresh lime juice
Sour cream
Toasted pumpkin seeds
Cotija cheese, grated

Wilt banana leaves slightly over an open flame so they become pliable enough to work with. (If substituting corn husks, soak them for a few hours.) Place a heaping spoonful of cooled masa in center of a leaf or husk. Fold like an envelope so there is no exposed dough. Steam in a covered double boiler for 15 to 20 minutes. (Chef’s note: These can be made a day or two in advance. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then reheat in a double boiler over low heat.)

Place one masa envelope on a plate, seam side up. Open banana leaf, then top masa with shrimp or pork filling.

Add fresh lime juice to sour cream to simulate crema fresca. Garnish tamales with pumpkin seeds, cotija cheese, and sour cream or crema fresca.

Chile-Crusted Prime Rib of Beef
(Serves 12)

10 lb. rib eye roast, trimmed, boned, and tied
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. kosher salt
1 cup “Red Drum BBQ Spice” (available at The Red Drum—a combination of chili powder; toasted and ground coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin; and brown sugar)

Preheat an oven to 450°F. Rub roast with olive oil and season with kosher salt. Rub roast liberally with BBQ spice so that it will form a crust. Put roast on a rack in a roasting pan and place it in oven. After five minutes, lower oven temperature to 225°F. Do not open oven during this stage. After 45 minutes, rotate roasting pan. Check internal temperature after an hour and a half. Remove roast when it reaches an internal temperature of 127°F to 129°F for medium-rare. Allow roast to rest on the rack for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Texas Caviar (Black-eyed Pea Salad)
(Serves 12)

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
1 smoked ham hock or small piece of kosher salt pork
4 ears corn, kernels removed from cob
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups finely diced red bell pepper
4 green jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely diced
2 red jalapeño peppers, minced with seeds
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
1 cup finely diced red onion
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup finely diced tomato
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cover peas in water and soak for five hours. Drain. Put peas and ham hock or kosher salt pork in a pot with enough water to cover them and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender but not overcooked, about 30 to 45 minutes. Drain cooking liquid and remove ham hock or kosher salt pork. Allow peas to cool.

Sauté corn in one tablespoon of olive oil until tender. Combine all ingredients except salt and pepper and mix well. Season. Cover, refrigerate, and serve cold. (Chef’s note: dish can be made up to a day in advance.)

Pickled Vegetables
(Serves 12)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/8-inch diagonals
10-12 cloves garlic, peeled
1 quart white vinegar
1 quart water
10 red jalapeño peppers
10 green jalapeño peppers
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered
1 cup lightly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. cumin seed, toasted and ground
2 tsp. coriander seed, toasted and ground
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt, to taste

Combine onion, carrots, garlic, vinegar, and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately add whole jalapeños. Bring back to a vigorous boil and remove from heat. Strain, reserving two cups of liquid. Place cooked vegetables in a large mixing bowl in refrigerator. Also chill reserved liquid. When both are cool, add tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, coriander, syrup, olive oil, lime juice, and salt to vegetables. Mix well and add reserved liquid. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. (Chef’s note: dish may be made up to three days in advance, but wait to add cilantro until the day it will be served.)

(Serves 12)

For the caramel:

1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar. Stir only until sugar dissolves. Cook over medium-high heat until syrup turns a medium caramel color. Working quickly, remove from heat and pour into bottoms of 12 three-ounce heat-proof ramekins. Set aside to completely cool.

For the custard:

4 eggs
5 egg yolks
1¼ cups sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. salt
7½ oz. milk
20 oz. heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Gently whisk in milk. Strain through a fine strainer, using spoon or ladle to lightly press it through. Add heavy cream and stir. Slowly fill each ramekin with mixture.

Place ramekins in a shallow baking pan and fill pan with enough water to reach halfway up sides of ramekins. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until custard is set. To test for doneness, gently shake baking pan. If custard moves like Jell-O, it’s done. If center still moves as if it’s liquid, custard needs to bake a little longer.

Once set, remove pan from oven and immediately remove ramekins from water bath using a towel or tongs to protect your hands. Allow ramekins to cool to room temperature before refrigerating overnight.

Serve in ramekins or run a sharp knife around edge, invert onto serving dish, and gently tap until custard and caramel release. Serve chilled or at slightly room temperature.

Ben’s Mom’s Texas Pecan Pralines
(Makes about 12)

2 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
Pinch salt
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1½ cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper that has been coated in cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt. Over medium-high heat, constantly stir until mixture reaches 210°F on a candy thermometer. Continue stirring and add butter and pecans. Bring mixture up to soft ball stage, or 235°F. Working quickly, add vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon until mixture loses its shine. Immediately drop by tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet.

Once cool, store pralines in airtight container, separating layers with parchment.


Recent Comments