Last updated on November 17th, 2016
That sense of wonder and discovery makes its way through each dish and story in the book, which intersperses tales of traditional parish hall tea rooms and ornery shrimp boat captain Junior Magwood between recipes featuring shad roe, collards, conch, sorghum, Madeira, and other Southern ingredients. There really is no better way to experience a city than through its food, and the Lee Bros., storytellers par excellence, masterfully use these elements to immerse the reader in their world. Though I’ve never (yet) been to Charleston, reading the cookbook cover-to-cover feels like a baptism in the city’s history and culture.
One of the best tales accompanies a dish called “shrimp supreme,” a retro country club standard that includes ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and butter in its ingredient list. Though the meal is surprisingly charming (tasting much like the classic seafood stews I love to eat at Grand Central Oyster Bar), it pales in comparison to the juicy revelation that Matt and Ted found a picture of the dish being served in their own living room in an old issue of Smithsonian magazine. The Lee house at 83 East Bay Street had such distinctive Chinoiserie-style wallpaper—lemony yellow with preening gold peacocks—that it was unmistakably their home.
Even the most humble recipes, like the curiously named “groundnut cakes,” reveal a taste as complex and rich as the history of the city they come from. Groundnut cakes are essentially peanut praline cookies, named after an archaic term for the legume. Made from freshly chopped peanuts instead of peanut butter from a jar, and folded gently with brown sugar and egg whites, they’re like Southern florentines, lacy and crisp and impossible to get away with eating only one. Or two.
Thanks to the generosity of Clarkson Potter, I’m giving away a copy of The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen to one lucky reader.
Enter to win a copy of The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen:
The giveaway is now closed—congratulations to Karen, commenter #6!
adapted from The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
- 1 cup (5 oz. ) roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1 cup (7 1/2 oz.) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (2 1/8 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. (In a reversal from my usual methods, I don’t recommend Silpat liners for baking these cookies, since the batter is sticky as all hell and it’s hard to remove the cookies once they’re baked!)
Coarsely chop the peanuts by hand or by pulsing in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the brown sugar, flour, and salt.
Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form.
Drop teaspoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 1/2 inches between each round, as the cookies will spread.
Bake until the cookies are brown and crispy at the edges, about 15-20 minutes. Slide the parchment paper onto a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool to room temperature. Repeat with any remaining batter.
The Lee Bros. say that groundnut cakes will keep for 4 days at room temperature in an airtight container, but mine were devoured in a single evening.