Cooking -- Savannah Style

Welcome to Savannah, America's Most Beautiful City

Southern cuisine has always been famed throughout America, and Savannah has some of the best. Here you will find a bit of the history of Savannah and Low Country cooking, plus some authentic Savannah recipes you can make your own.







Check out these Special Holiday Recipes
  • A Southern Thanksgiving Feast
  • Southern Style Mother's Day Recipes
  • Southern Style St. Patrick's Day Recipes
  • Savannah and Low-Country Cooking

    In early times, Savannah cooking and Low-Country cooking were virtually synonymous. Both cuisines are dependent on a melting pot of heritage and native ingredients. The dominant staple of cooking was the rice, originally brought over in the 17th Century from East Africa, probably Madagascar, to South Carolina, which became the major U.S. rice growing state until the Civil War. Rice grows best when partly submerged in water, so the tidal flats offered ideal conditions.

    Tomatoes, corn and hominy (hulled and dried kernels of corn from which the bran and germ have been removed) were also significant foods, with the latter being served almost daily.

    From the West Indies came the compelling influence of hot and spicy foods, including peppers, cayenne, mustard and pepper sherry, a sherry spiced up with Jamaicas Scotch Bonnet pepper. Jamaican planters, or bushas used to celebrate their prowess in the saddle by throwing lavish diners to decide who would produce the hottest dishes. Jamaican cooks used this hot pepper sherry to add the right touch to soups and stews.

    From Africa, by way of the islands, came benne (sesame) seeds, an East Indian herb supposedly bestowed with a charm by which one could secure entrance and exit through any portal. These seeds arrived in America on the necks of African slaves, who wore them for good luck and subsequently planted them near their quarters on the plantations. Cooks in the "big" kitchens knew how to use the aromatic seed to make delicious dishes.

    The Africans also brought okra, meat jerky, greens, yams (which are sweet potatoes in America) greens, peanuts, black-eyed peas and corn meal. African cooks worked in the kitchens of the big plantation owners, combining these then-exotic ingredients into luscious, long-simmering stews, crisp and tangy deep fried foods using the spices and herbs they knew so well to turn this cuisine into among Americas finest.

    Seafood and game proliferated in this coastal area and became major ingredients in Low Country cooking. Fishing was a major occupation, as was hunting duck, quail, marsh hens and deer. Both pastimes were great sport as well as productive industries.

    The plentiful harvest of the sea has been a basis of Low Country dishes since the Indians harvested oysters, clams, shrimp and crabs. No one visiting the coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina can resist the okra and seafood gumbo, oyster or crab stew, she-crab soup, roasted oysters, jambalaya, deviled crab, catfish, seafood au gratin, fried shrimp or the king of all Low-Country dishes, Low-Country Boil.

    More on Southern cooking, and some typical recipes follow.

    Shad & Roe -- a Spring treat

    For the latest info and recipes about shad, go to the "shad page".

    Here' a interesting recipe you could try:

    Crispy Asparagus Straws Recipe

    Serves: 8-10 persons as an appetizer
    Prep Time: 25 minutes

    This is a fast appetizer with great flavor. You can prepare the Crispy California Asparagus Straws ahead of time and bake them just before serving. As an option, you can add a slice of prosciutto when you roll-up the asparagus in the phyllo dough. Phyllo dough can be purchased pre-made in the freezer section of most grocery stores.

    36 asparagus spears
    4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
    ¼ cup butter, melted
    4 oz. Parmesan cheese
    Parmesan cheese for topping
    salt and pepper to taste

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    Trim ends of asparagus. Blanche asparagus in boiling salted water until barely tender to the bite, about 2.5 minutes. Rinse in iced water to stop the cooking.

    Place one sheet of phyllo on a cutting board. Set aside the remaining sheets and cover with a damp towel. Brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Cut the sheet into 9 rectangles. Make 2 cuts down from the top and 2 cuts from the side. Sprinkle the cut sheet with 1 oz. of grated Parmesan cheese.

    Place an asparagus spear on the bottom (narrow end) of each buttered rectangle with the tip sticking out from the dough by about 2 inches. Roll up the spear and seal with butter. Finish the remaining spears.

    Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each stick lightly with butter, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper (optional).

    Cover the tips with aluminum foil and bake until crispy and browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

    Serve warm.

    Makes 36 asparagus straws.

    Picnic Recipes for Summer! Courtesy of Trustees Garden Open Market

    Cucumber Sandwiches with Strawberries and Watercress

  • 8 large strawberries
  • 4 ounces (8 tablespoons) Neufchâtel, softened
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch watercress, long stems trimmed
  • 8 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
    Serves 4

    When summer fruits are at their sweetest, peaches make a worthy substitution for the strawberries in this recipe.

    Chop 4 of the strawberries and slice the remaining 4. In a large bowl, mash chopped strawberries with a fork. Add Neufchâtel, mint, zest, salt and pepper and mix until well combined.

    Spread strawberry mixture evenly between slices of bread then arrange cucumbers, sliced berries and watercress over half of the slices. Top with remaining slices to form sandwiches then halve each and serve. Enjoy!

    From a recent Cooking Demo at The Trustees Garden Open Market, courtesy of Chef Robbie Wood, Green Tomato Concepts


    Chop the green tops up for salads or relishes and throw the bottoms in the oven or on the grill. Or try cutting the onion bulb in half long ways and marinating in sage and lemon to soften. Then you can chop up the green part and the bulb together to make a great onion salad.

  • 1 baby onion (cleaned and separated)
  • 2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Canola Oil
  • 1 T Ginger (minced)
  • 8 Parsley leaves (chopped)

    Sweat the white part in a little oil after slicing thinly. Add the ginger after the onion has cooked for 2 minutes. Continue cooking until soft and aromatic, then add the vinegar and turn off the heat. Let cool slightly before adding - the green part (that you have sliced thinly as well), parsley, and the Canola oil. Now season to taste and serve room temperature with shrimp, fish, scallops, pork, eggplant, and tomatoes. You can use almost the entire onion, the only part that goes in the compost is the dull outer layer and the root base.

    Low Country Boil

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1can beer
  • 2 whole cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup Old Bay seasoning mix
  • 8 small red bliss potatoes, cut in half
  • 2 lbs. Smoked sausage (kielbasa or andouille)
  • 8 ears fresh corn, halved
  • 4 lbs. Fresh shrimp, large or jumbo

  • In an 8 quart pot, bring the first seven ingredients to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook at a slow boil for about 5 min., or until beginning to get tender.
  • Add sausage and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Add corn and continue another 7 minutes.
  • Add shrimp in their shells and continue for 3 to 4 minutes, until just pink.

    Serve in a big bowl or simply mound on a paper-covered table. This is finger food, designed for casual eating and lots of camaraderie. Serves 8 hungry people.

    Serve with a salad and some good bread or biscuits and youll have a feast that everyone will always love.

    Boiled Peanuts

    If you’re from Yankee Land, chances are, the first time or two you taste a boiled peanut, you’re not going to like it. But take it from me….and every other Northerner who ever hung around in the Low Country for more than a year, eventually, someone will hand you a freshly boiled peanut and you’ll take a taste and you’ll fall in love. My own theory is that the peanut farmers around these parts pump some sort of substance into the air, which infiltrates your pores and transforms your taste buds into boiled-peanut-gobbling fanatics!

    And, according to the latest peanut research, you should be grateful you now appreciate these little goobers. Boiling peanuts, it seems, brings out nearly four times more protective phytochemicals than dry, raw or roasted nuts. These chemicals protect against disease, including cancer, diabetes and heart diseases.

    Once indoctrinated into the delights of peanuts, when the fresh green ones start turning up in the market in fall, your thoughts are likely to turn to how to cook those little nuggets of pleasure.

    So…herewith, a bit of peanut history and peanut boiling savvy.

    Because peanuts first arrived in the Low Country during the slave trading years of the 17th and 18th centuries, it’s often assumed that they originally came from Africa. Not so. These little guys hailed from Brazil and Peru.

    No one seems to know exactly when folks in the South started boiling their peanuts. However, we do know that during the Civil War, both side of the conflict were eating boiled peanuts. Both meat and bread were scarce commodities in those days,. Peanuts were tasty, easy to carry and highly nutritional. They fit the bill well.

    How to boil peanuts

  • 4 or 5 pounds green, unshelled peanuts
  • 4 or 5 quarts water
  • 1 cup or a little more salt

    Wash the nuts thoroughly in cold water. Then put them in a large pot and pour cold water over them. Make sure all the nuts are covered in water. Add salt and bring slowly to a boil. After about 3 hours, start tasting. The peanuts should be about the consistency of a cooked red bean and salty enough to please your palate. If they need more cooking, continue simmering. If they need more salt, add it.

    Be careful, though. You don’t want to overcook them or over-salt them.

    Happy munching!

    Shrimp and Grits - A Savannah Tradition

    No dish says “Savannah!” more clearly than Shrimp and Grits. Chef Robert Stehling offers his Shrimp and Grits with Asparagus (see recipe below) as an easy and traditional Savannah meal. "This is a very traditional Low Country dish," says Chef Stehling. "At its simplest, it's just plain pan-fried shrimp with grits, but it's pretty flexible."

    Savannah Shrimp and Grits with Asparagus

  • 3 slices bacon, chopped
  • Peanut oil (optional)
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-1/4 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus, snapped and sliced on the bias into 2-inch-long pieces
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

    In a medium skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, approximately 5 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels, reserve the bacon fat in pan and add peanut oil, if needed, to give you approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons.

    Toss the shrimp with the flour until they are lightly coated, removing any excess flour. Over medium high heat cook the shrimp on one side, flip them and add mushrooms, bacon and asparagus. Cook until shrimp is just done, about 2-4 minutes. (Take care not to overcook the shrimp.) Add the garlic, stirring constantly so as not to brown the garlic. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, Tabasco and green onions. Spoon over cheese grits.

    Cheese Grits

  • 4-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup stone ground grits
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Unsalted Cultured Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco

    Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the grits and salt, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grits are thickened, approximately 35 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheeses, butter, pepper and Tabasco, adding more to adjust seasoning as desired. Serves 2-4
    Editor's Note: For the lazy cook's version, which I prefer, just get a box of Quick Grits and follow the directions!

    Bluffton Oyster Pie

  • 2 pints Bluffton oysters
  • 1 tbsp. Canola or Vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 1 ½ tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp.white pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp.Worcestershire sauce
  • dash of Tabasco
  • ¼ cup dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp. Butter
  • Glass baking dish

    Directions: Melt butter in frying pan. Add saltines and toss 5 minutes. Drain oysters and reserve liquid. Salt and pepper oysters. Mix half and half or whipping cream, sherry, Worcestershire sauce, and reserved liquid. Beginning and ending with buttered crackers, layer crackers and oysters. Pour cream mixture over top and dot with the tablespoon of butter. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

    Vidalia® Onion Salad

    Spring through summer, we in Savannah are treated to the world's best onions--Sweet Vidalias from the nearby town of Vidalia. Vidalia onions are delicious in anything that calls for onions unless you want a big shot of heat.

    Try this summertime gift:

    Corn, Tomato & Vidalia® Onion Salad
    Makes 4 servings

  • 1½ cups diced ripe tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped Vidalia® Onion
  • 2 medium ears fresh corn, cooked and cooled*
  • 15 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    1. In medium bowl combine tomatoes and onion. Scrape corn and juice off cobs to make about 1 cup; add to tomato mixture. Shred basil leaves; add to tomato mixture.

    2. In small bowl or jar with tight-fitting lid combine vinegar, oil, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; mix well or shake to combine. Add to tomato mixture; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate, for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
    *Use 1 cup cooked frozen corn kernels if fresh corn is not available

    Granny Jackie’s Savannah Peach Cobbler


  • 6-8 Georgia Peaches
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 tablespoons Crisco
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla (optional)
  • ¾ to 1 cup milk
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg (optional)

  • Peel and slice peaches. Put into 8x8 or 6x9 pan. Add water. Sprinkle with sugar. Dot with butter. Add vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Topping: Cut Crisco into flour. Add milk. Stir. (This mixture should be thin enough to drizzle over peaches.) Pour over peaches. Bake at 350° for 40-50 minutes until peaches are bubbly and topping is browned

    Grandmama’s Chicken & Dumplings

    Recipe By Elizabeth Leon


  • 2-3 Chicken Breasts (add more if you like)
  • Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Frozen Dumplings (trust me, Grandmama wouldn’t use them if they didn’t taste the same as hers!)

  • Boil the chicken breasts in a large pot for about ½ an hour. Test to make sure they are done. Remove the chicken from the pot and pour cream of chicken soup into the water. Next add your dumplings (as many as you like) and allow to cook for 15 or 20 minutes. Finally, chop the chicken breast into smaller pieces and add to the pot. Let it cook together for a while and season to taste with salt and pepper. Voila! Chicken and Dumplings has never been this easy to make!

    Jekyll Island is famous for its delicious shrimp dishes, but these crab cakes, courtesy of Executive Chef Abigail Hutchinson of the great hotel dining rooms at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, could rival any in America..... yes, even Maryland, or at least we think so!

    Island Crab Cakes

  • 7 - 8 oz. Lump crab meat
  • 12 oz. Mayonnaise
  • Dash of Sherry
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ Whole egg
  • Dash of Old Bay seasoning
  • 1oz. Ritz cracker crumbs, more as needed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

    Mix mayo, sherry, lemon juice, egg and Old Bay. Fold in crab meat and 1oz. Cracker crumbs/ mix gently. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Using a 2 oz. Scoop, scoop the mix onto a half pan that has been dusted with the cracker crumbs. Let sit in cooler for 15 minutes. Gently coat outside of cakes with crackers. Wrap tightly and chill for service.

    For service:
    Heat skillet over medium, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter. Pat cakes and lightly coat with cracker crumbs. Sear the cakes over medium heat until golden brown on first side. Flip cakes over and finish in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with spicy mustard aioli or sauce of choice.

  • In Savannah, we all love to celebrate, and if we don’t have a holiday of our own, we’ll borrow someone else’s as our excuse.

    Bastille Day (July 14)is a perfect time for a simple but lovely French dinner.

    Steak Au Poivre

  • 4 1-inch strip steaks
  • salt (preferably Kosher) & crushed green or black peppercorns or use coarse ground pepper)
  • 1 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup butter, in two pieces
  • ½ cup Cognac
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

    Season both side of steak with salt & pepper, pressing it in. Let stand for a few minutes. Heat the oil on high in a large, heavy skillet, then cook the steaks over high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Just cook to rare, because carry-over cooking will bring them up to medium-rare. Transfer steaks to a heatproof dish and keep warm in a low oven.

    Lower the heat in the skillet to low to medium, pour off any excess oil, and add shallots and one piece of butter. Saute till shallots are soft and almost translucent. Remove from heat for a moment and carefully add Cognac, put back on low flame and simmer for 2-3 minutes till sauce thickens. Stir in cream and remaining piece of butter, stirring till thick and smooth.

    Check temperature of steaks with an instant-read thermometer. Assuming they are to your liking (medium-rare is usually preferred), pour the sauce over them and serve.

    A spring-green salad with fig-infused Balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and small roasted potatoes are perfect accompaniments.

    You could start off your dinner with an appetizer of good pate and toast points. Finish up with a dessert of roasted peaches over Vanilla ice cream, topped with a little Tawny Port.

    Bon Appetit!







    Savannah Cookery, Low-Cal Style

    Savannah's famous fresh shrimp and wonderful Greek heritage is celebrated in this low-cal dish designed to preserve the beauty of every willowy Southern belle

    Greek Shrimp with Feta Cheese

    Greek feta cheese gives this shrimp dish a tangy Mediterranean flavor.
    Makes 2 servings

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup frozen chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large tomato, diced (1-1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Heat olive oil in a medium-size nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic, and tomato. Sauti 3 minutes. Add shrimp and sprinkle cheese and oregano on top. Sauti 3 minutes, turning shrimp to make sure they are cooked on both sides. Remove from heat, cover with a lid, and let sit 2 minutes, or until cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide on 2 plates.

    Per serving: 349 calories, 41.6 g protein, 9.6 g carbohydrates, 14.9 g fat (6.2 saturated), 280 mg cholesterol, 638 mg sodium, 0.9 g fiber

    Romaine and Fresh Cabbage Salad

  • 2 cups shredded washed ready-to-eat cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded, washed, ready-to-eat romaine lettuce
  • 2 scallions, sliced (1/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 tablespoons no-sugar-added oil (olive or canola) and vinegar dressing

    Combine cabbage, lettuce, scallions, and dill in a bowl. Add dressing and toss well. Serve on 2 chilled salad plates.

    Per serving: 104 calories, 1.4 g protein, 6.1 g carbohydrates, 8.7 g fat (1.3 saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 91 mg sodium, 1.2 g fiber

    Recipes from:
    A Three-Stage Plan for Keeping It Off by Linda Gassenheimer
    (Bay Books, January 2003, $18.95/trade paperback).

    Happy Cooking! ... more to come

    You can buy these books at a discount
    -- order from Amazon
    cover Savannah Seasons: Food and Stories from Elizabeth on 37th by Elizabeth Terry cover Mrs. Wilkes' Boardinghouse Cookbook: Recipes and Recollections from Her Savannah Table by Sema Wilkes, John T. Edge, Mrs. Wilkes Boardinghouse Restaurant cover A Love Affair with Southern Cooking by Jean Anderson

    cover The Lady & Sons Just Desserts: More Than 120 Sweet Temptations from Savannah's Favorite Restaurant by Paula H. Deen cover The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook by Paula H. Deen cover The Lady & Sons, Too!: A Whole New Batch of Recipes from Savannah by Paula H. Deen

    cover Carolina Cooking by Debra Zumstein and Wil Kazary

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