Chef's Table: Thanksgiving at Edisto
In the spirit of long Lowcountry summers spent on Edisto Island as a girl, Charleston native Elizabeth Boineau invites family and friends to gather on the marshes of their childhood haunt
Meet Elizabeth Boineau, one of those enviable, naturally talented hostesses who can throw together a gourmet lunch in 15 minutes flat. It’s no wonder, then, that her family flocks to Elizabeth’s house for Thanksgiving. But it isn’t just the draw of savory fare that brings relatives and friends alike to her front door. Since putting the finishing touches on her woodsy, marsh-front retreat south of Charleston, it has as much to do with the nostalgia that comes with where her front door happens to be.
“My family spent summer after glorious summer out at Edisto,” recalls Elizabeth, owner of a local marketing and public relations firm, of the days she and her family (with friends in tow) played on the beaches and explored the region’s waterways aboard their boat, The Island Queen. The family’s summer home sold when Elizabeth was 20, but she was recently inspired to spend time on the island again when her firm began work on a project for the Sewee Preserve, a protected stretch of pristine coastline north of Mount Pleasant, reaching up into the Santee River Delta. “The natural landscape of this acreage really reminded me of our days at the beach,” says Elizabeth.
She commissioned architect Sandy Byers and longtime Edisto pal Fisher Walter to design and build, respectively, a Craftsman-style Napa Valley farmhouse (inspired by a home she’d spotted in Town & Country), with board-and batten siding and casement windows. Given Elizabeth’s penchant for entertaining, the interior was designed with an open floor plan, with particular attention given to the kitchen.
“I was showing the house plans to a close friend, and he took one look at them and said, ‘Elizabeth, I don’t think your architect has ever watched you cook. With the way you take up counter space, you need to double the size of that kitchen.’” She took his advice and sacrificed one door to the dining porch for an expanded cabinet and countertop area and has never regretted it. “He was right—I use every inch of it,” admits Elizabeth.
But the Columbia native came by her foodie inclinations long before adulthood. “I remember inventing a cake recipe when I was five, and it actually worked!” she laughs. “Plus, Mom is a wonderful cook—she taught all of us,” Elizabeth says of Dotsy, the family’s matriarch, who served as the curator for the Confederate Museum for more than a decade. “She raised us to be independent and resilient, and knowing how to cook was a big part of that.”
With many of her lessons happily passed along, Dotsy arrives for Thanksgiving dinner with just a couple of mainstays—a walnut chutney cheese ball and coconut pecan pie—to ensure the occasion begins and ends on the right notes. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and brother Trippett season and dress the turkey and tend to the oyster pie, while niece Emily assembles a spinach and goat cheese salad. Trippett’s wife, Maggie, readies a sweet potato casserole; close pals Kim and Rick Benson arrive armed with an Italian torte for pre-dinner nibbles, which, according to Elizabeth, “is always a huge hit. No gathering of ours is complete without it.” The now-famous torte is just one of many longstanding traditions for this group.
From Elizabeth’s come-one, come-all approach to playing hostess to the family’s holiday migration back to Edisto, gatherings here arrive with more time-honored routines than can fit around a table. “I’ve always said Edisto is a state of mind,” smiles Elizabeth. “Coming back, it’s nice to see that some things never change.”
Italian Torte with Pesto & Toasted Walnuts
Orange- & Herb Butter- Roasted Turkey
Lightly Scalloped Oyster Pie
Sweet Potato Casserole
Spinach & Goat Cheese Salad
Carolina Gold Rice Stuffing with Wild Mushrooms
Coconut Pecan Pie
- 1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
- 12 oz. goat cheese
- 1/2 lb. unsalted butter, softened
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup basil pesto
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped, then measured
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Beat first three ingredients at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy. Flavor to taste with salt and pepper.
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving enough over edges to fold over bottom of torte. Layer one-third of the cheese mixture, one-third of the pesto, and one-third of the tomatoes. Repeat, ending with cheese mixture.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, invert onto serving platter and sprinkle with walnuts.
- 1 10-18 lb. turkey, preferably fresh and thawed if frozen (thaw in refrigerator about three days, then let stand 15 minutes to take the chill off)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Paprika, to taste
- Herbes de Provence and/or poultry seasoning
- 1 3/4 cups butter, softened and divided
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup orange juice
- 1 recipe giblet gravy (recipe follows)
- Turkey neck and giblets
- 4 1/4 cups of water, divided
- 1/4 cup turkey drippings
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups giblet broth
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper
For the giblet gravy:
Preheat oven to 325ºF and place rack in lower third of oven.
Remove neck and giblets from turkey and set aside. Wash turkey inside and out with cold water, drain, and dry with paper towels. Seal the cavities with skewers and string. In a large roasting pan, place two four-foot-long strips of heavy aluminum foil in a cross-bar fashion. Spread one cup of the butter on the foil, then center the turkey on the foil and pour the orange juice over it.
Spread the rest of the butter on the turkey and under the skin (run fingers between skin and meat to loosen skin from breast, legs, and thighs, being careful not to pierce skin). Sprinkle with seasonings. Shape foil into a tent over the turkey and seal edges to keep butter in. Baste every 20 minutes and remove foil from the top to allow further browning the last hour. Roast for three to three and a half hours or until thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh (not the bone) registers 170ºF.
Carve and serve with giblet gravy.
Chef’s Note: I sometimes soften a stick of butter, cream with herbes de Provence, freeze, then slice thin and stuff under the skin of the turkey.
For the giblet gravy:
Simmer neck and giblets in four cups of water for one hour. Strain and reserve broth. Remove giblets, chop, and set aside. In a saucepan, combine turkey drippings, flour, Worcestershire, salt and pepper, and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Gradually add broth, stirring over medium to low heat until gravy thickens.
- 2 Tbs. grated onion (preferably Vidalia or other sweet onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbs. butter or extra-virgin olive oil (for sautéing)
- 1 to 11/2 cups cracker crumbs (Escort or Town Crackers suggested)
- Two pints single select fresh oysters, drained, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquor, then rinsed
- 1/2 to 3/4 stick of light butter, cut into thin slices
- Fresh ground pepper
- Garlic salt
- Celery salt
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup reserved oyster liquor
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1/2 cup fat-free half and half
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg white
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Use canola oil cooking spray or butter to lightly grease the bottom of a large casserole dish.
Saute garlic and onions in one tablespoon of butter, margarine, or extra-virgin olive oil. Set aside.
Layer the bottom of the dish with crushed cracker crumbs, then arrange a layer of oysters and follow with butter, garlic, and onion mixture. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and a dusting of garlic and celery salts. Repeat the layers, ending with crumbs and butter slices arranged on the top.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the last six ingredients and pour over the layers. If there is not enough liquid to come just under the top of the layers, mix up a little more milk, cream, and oyster liquor, and add. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly around the edges and golden brown on the top. Cool five to 10 minutes before serving.
- 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/3 cup self-rising flour
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spray a round nine-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl. Spread evenly in baking dish.
Combine flour, butter, and sugar in a medium bowl. Layer mixture evenly over potatoes in the dish. Arrange pecan halves over top to cover completely. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until hot throughout.
- 1 bag (10 oz.) fresh spinach leaves, pre-washed
- 1 small bag Craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)
- 1 (8-oz.) log goat cheese
- 1 cup caramelized pecans
- 1 recipe balsamic vinaigrette
Layer first four ingredients in a medium serving bowl. Add dressing and toss just before serving.
- 8 Tbs. butter, plus more for foil
- 4 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 lb. wild mushrooms (cremini and stemmed shiitake), sliced
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
- l garlic clove, minced
- 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tsp. chopped fresh sage
- 11/3 cups wild rice (about one 8-oz. package)
- 11/4 cups Carolina Gold Rice
- 13/4 cups chopped dried cranberries
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Melt four tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until tender and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Transfer to large bowl.
Melt remaining four tablespoons of butter in same pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, one tablespoon of the thyme, and the minced garlic. Sauté until the mushrooms are deep brown. Add to bowl with the onions.
Bring broth, one tablespoon of the thyme, and two teaspoons of the sage to boil in deep, heavy saucepan.
Mix in the wild rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Mix in Carolina Gold rice, cover, and simmer until all rice is tender and almost all liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the caramelized onions and mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of thyme, and the remaining teaspoon of sage. Stir in cranberries. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cover and simmer five minutes, stirring often. Stir in 3/4 cup of the parsley. Transfer stuffing into buttered 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish. Cover with buttered foil, buttered side down. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. Uncover and bake a few minutes longer, until top is slightly crisp and golden. Sprinkle with remaining parsley.
- 1 stick butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup Angel Flake coconut
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
- 1/2 cup pecan halves for topping
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine the first five ingredients together in a pan over moderate heat, stirring until well-combined. Pour into uncooked pie shell. Arrange whole pecan halves on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with a dollop of whipping cream or vanilla ice cream.