When Vince and I were dating, he used to love to tell me all about Beaufort. One of Beaufort’s claims to fame (that he repeated way more than once) was that The Great Santini had been filmed here. “You know, from Pat Conroy’s book. He’s Conrack. He’s the guy who wrote The Lords of Discipline.” After we were married, screening our VHS copy of The Great Santini was one of our favorite things to do with guests who had never visited Beaufort before. We’d all watch the movie and then Vince and I would take everyone downtown and show them the sites they had just seen on our television. Pat Conroy was our local star and we were mighty proud of him!
Almost all of my Pat Conroy experiences have been food related. Years and years ago, when I worked at First Presbyterian Church, I was introduced to Pat by our mutual friend, Julia Randel. After gathering up enough courage to speak, I think the first thing that I ever said to Pat was something along the lines of, “Would you like a meatball?” I was passing a tray of them (MY recipe, of course) at a funeral reception. Sad but true, for many years my Pat Conroy encounters continued to be at funerals, the occasional buggy pass at Publix or across a crowded restaurant.
Happily for me, in recent years I’ve been the caterer for a number of events where Pat and his wife Cassandra King have been guests. This past February, at a Beaufort International Film Festival event, I was able to give Pat a copy of my most recent cookbook, Celebrate Everything! At our next meeting, the very next evening, he completely flattered me by telling me that he had read my book “cover to cover” and then asked me about a couple of the recipes. I was overwhelmed. It’s true. Pat Conroy is an honest-and-for-true total foodie.
So in June, when Mina Truong asked me to cater a customer appreciation party for Mina and Conroy, the fitness studio that she and Pat share, I was thrilled! “Let’s do a tapas party,” I said. Mina heartily agreed. We all had such a good time! It’s so much fun to cook for people who genuinely love food. My goal for the evening was to prepare small, low-carb dishes. We served a total of eight tapas for about twenty-five guests. I’m sharing recipes for four of the small plates along with photos from our evening together.
Beaufort is celebrating the birthday of our friend, Pat Conroy, this weekend. I hope to see y’all at the Pat Conroy at 70 Festival. I’m very happy to be catering the reception following the screening of, you guessed it, The Great Santini on Thursday night. Vince and I still have our VHS copy. Isn’t it funny how things work out sometimes? Happy Birthday, Pat!
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
2/3 cup Italian bread crumbs, divided
Place artichoke hearts, garlic, olive oil, eggs, Parmesan cheese, parsley and 1/3 cup bread crumbs in a food processor; pulse until mixed, but still chunky. With a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop, form into 24 balls. Roll in remaining bread crumbs. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until just golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
Bourbon-Brown Sugar Salmon Nuggets
2 pounds salmon fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Place salmon pieces in a zip-top plastic bag. Combine brown sugar, bourbon and soy sauce in a small bowl and pour over salmon nuggets. Mix well, seal tightly and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Using a slotted spoon, remove salmon from marinade, drain well. Roll each nugget in pecan pieces, coating well. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until salmon is cooked through. Serve with bottled duck sauce. Serves 6.
Chipotle Chicken Tapas
1 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
10 grape tomatoes, sliced
Combine mayonnaise, chipotles, adobo sauce and lime juice in a small food processor. Process until smooth; set aside. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Toss chicken pieces with chipotle sauce. Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Thread chicken pieces on skewers. Grill chicken over medium-high heat until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove chicken from skewers and place in 8 individual ramekins. Top with shredded cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven until cheese is melted. Garnish with grape tomato slices and green onion. Serves 8.
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade, thawed
2 cups whipped cream
½ cup graham cracker crumbs
Combine condensed milk with lemonade. Gently fold in whipped cream. Layer lemon filling and raspberries in double shot glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish with graham cracker crumbs. Serves 12.
The writer owns Catering by Debbi Covington and is the author of two cookbooks, Gold Medal Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award, Celebrate Everything! and Dining Under the Carolina Moon. Debbi’s website address is www.cateringbydebbicovington.com. She may be reached at 525-0350 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.