When I was younger, well about the of 1979 to be exact, my Mother took us on a beach trip to Florida. On our way back she decided that we were going to stop in Charleston look around, have dinner, then drive on and visit our relatives in Columbia.
We found ourselves rolling into Charleston about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We did some sight seeing and then, as my Mom wanted to go to dinner at an old established landmark restaurant called Perdita's, we drove down to where the place was located behind the old customs house on a narrow street.
It was very early. Probably 5pm and we saw from the sign that they were just about to open for dinner. We checked inside with the hostess and two things became clear. One, we were going to be the only people in the place that early. And Two, we would have to dress up to eat there as Coat and tie were required. So without any hesitation my Mom told us to dig out our shirts and ties and jackets from the luggage and we changed right there in the parking lot. My brother and I were not amused but got over it as soon as we entered the restaurant.
Now Perdita's was an old place. Dimly lit it had dark wood accents and dark wallpaper, velvet curtains and velvet seats. Crisp white table clothes greeted us as did a battalion of veteran ( aka. elderly) black servers in vests and starchy white shirts with bow ties. We ordered and had a full meal including appetizers, salads and delicious seafood dishes crafted in the old school Charleston style. I was resistant to the changing in the car, but was glad to have had the meal. It was good.
A few years later Perdita's closed it's doors a victim of time and changing tastes. Carolina's a new Charleston style reataurant opened several years later in the same space. They preserved the back dining room of the original restaurant calling it the "Perdita's Room". You can still get the dish that was most famous at Perdita's, the Fruit de Mer. And again it's a winner.
The chef there serves if up very nicely. ( seen here in a photo from Carolina's)
So I have collected information on how to make this dish which Chef Bacon at Carolina's describes as a Portuguese Bouillabaisse with seared seafood. The secret is in the sauce so once you have that just add in seafood you like. The recipe calls for Salmon and Scallops and Shrimp but you could vary that to your taste. It takes a little time but actually is very easy to prepare. The hardest thing is cleaning the mussels! So enjoy cooking up a little SC. history Ya'll.
Seafood Fruit de Mer alla Perdita's of Charleston
For the Sauce
Start with 8 cups chicken stock held warm. Then saute in butter 4 carrots, 2 large onions, 2 cups celery, 1 large bulb of fennel, add 1 star anise and 5 sprigs of thyme. When all the vegetables are cooked down and soft, deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup vermouth and 1/2 cup of white wine. Reduce this down by half and add all of the chicken stock and boil. Add 1/4 cup of whiskey and about ½ cup of tomato paste and boil to reduce by 1/3. Then add 3 tablespoons grated garlic and 3 pounds of Prince Edward Island mussels which have been scrubbed and cook until they open up.
For the Dish
4 Salmon Filets
8 large scallops
8 large shrimp
After the thyme mussel broth is prepared hold warm, and just before serving stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsley.
Heat a saute pan till very hot. Add a little vegetable oil and then sear scallops, shrimp and salmon separately. Hold warm. When ready to serve compile the dish with the pre-cooked fingerling potatoes cut long ways in half. Garnish with the celery heart leaves and chopped chives. Serve it with warm buttery garlic bread for dipping. So good!