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Southern-Style Meal, on a Shoestring!

What's better than Southern hospitality? "Down-home" Southern cooking!

And one of the South's most celebrated chefs accepted "The Early Show Saturday Edition"'s "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge this week.

Robert Carter, executive chef and partner at Charleston's Peninsula Grill, agreed to try to serve up a delicious, traditional three-course, low country meal for under $35.

And as our "Chef on a Shoestring," Robert automatically takes part in our "How Low Can You GO?" competition, in which the "Shoestring chefs" with the lowest ingredients totals will be invited back to prepare our year-end holiday feasts.

The Peninsula Grill offers diners an elegant and stylish dining experience in the heart of downtown Charleston.

Southern Eggs Benedict
Shrimp with Pimento Cheese Grits
Coconut Cake


Collard Greens: Long a staple of the Southern United States, collard greens, unlike their cousins kale and mustard greens, have a very mild, almost smoky flavor. Collards are leafy green vegetables that belong to the same family that includes cabbage, kale and broccoli. While they share the same botanical name as kale, Brassica oleracea, and some resemblance, they have their own distinctive qualities. Like kale, collards are one of the non-head forming members of the Brassica family. Collards' unique appearance features dark blue green leaves that are smooth in texture and relatively broad. They lack the frilled edges that are so distinctive to their cousin kale. The taste of collards can be described as pleasantly green and bitter.

Pimento: The pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chili pepper.

Pimento cheese is a common food in the Southern United States. The recipe for most pimento cheese spreads has few ingredients: sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, salt and pepper. It is typically served either as a spread for crackers or celery, or as a sandwich. As with many southern foods, its appeal crosses class boundaries. A pimento cheese sandwich may be a quick and cheap lunch for children, or it may be served as an elegant cocktail finger food (with crusts trimmed, a bit of watercress, and cut into triangles). Pimento cheese sandwiches are a signature item at The Masters Tournament.

Grits is a Native American corn-based food common in the Southern United States, consisting of coarsely ground corn. Grits is similar to other thick maize-based porridges from around the world such as polenta. It also has a resemblance to farina, a thinner porridge. The word leads back to the traditional Northern European grit gruels. Grits can be served hot or cold and as a base for a multitude of dishes from breakfast to dessert, depending on the additives. Additives can range from salt and butter, meats (especially shrimp on the east or gulf coast), cheese, rarely (but in nouvelle Southern cuisine) vegetables, and sugar. It is also common for people from above the Mason-Dixon Line to have sugar with their grits.


Southern Eggs Benedict

4 ounces Self Raising Flour, extra for rolling
2 ounces butter
2 ounces milk


Preheat oven to 450°F.

In medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut butter into flour till pea size pieces form. Make a well in the center of the flour, and fold in milk, being careful not to over work. Transfer dough to a flour dusted work surface and roll with rolling pin to ½-inch thick. Punch out biscuits with a 2½-inch cutter. Transfer to a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non stick spray. Place in preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes till golden brown.

Country Ham
4 slices Country Ham


When biscuits come out of oven, place country ham onto hot pan to heat. Set aside.

Creamy Braised Greens
4 ounces Collard Greens (mustard greens, spinach or Swiss chard)
2 tablespoons onion, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 ounces chicken broth
2 ounces heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ounce vegetable oil


In medium sauté pan, heat 1 ounce vegetable oil. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 1 minute. Add Chicken broth and heavy cream. Add Greens and simmer for 10-12 minutes or till tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Poached Egg

4 Egg Yolks
2 quarts Water
1 tablespoon Salt


Bring water to boil. Reduce to simmer. Gently add yolks to simmering water. Simmer for 3 minutes remove and serve immediately. Do not over cook, the yolk should be runny.


Split biscuit in half and place in center of plate. Place a slice of warm Country Ham on top of biscuit.

Spoon braised greens on top of country ham and top with poached egg yolk.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.

Carolina Shrimp & Grits

Pimento Cheese Grits
6 ounces Grits (preferably stone ground)
8 ounces milk
4 ounces heavy cream
2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons pimento, diced in jar
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste


In medium sauce pot, bring milk, heavy cream and butter to boil. Slowly whisk in grits, stirring constantly.

Bring to boil, cover with tight lid, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes (or 45 minutes-1 hour if stone ground). Fold in pimento and cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

1 pound 16/20 count shrimp
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ounce vegetable oil
2 ounces Andouille sausage, diced
2 ounces sweet onion, medium dice
¼ green pepper, small dice
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tomato, medium dice
2 ounces chicken broth
1 tomato, pureed in blender until smooth


In medium sauté pan on medium heat add vegetable oil. Add andouille sausage and sauté 1 minute. Add Onion, Green Pepper and Garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken broth and tomato puree, simmer for 1 minute. Add shrimp and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through.

Coconut Cake

Makes One 6-inch cake

Cake Batter
4 ounces flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4-1/2 ounces sugar
1 egg
3 ounces butter
2-1/2 ounces heavy cream
1/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract

Cake Filling
1 1/8 cup shredded coconut
5 ounces heavy cream
3 ounces granulated sugar
2 ounces unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ounce butter, room temperature
1 ounce cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted golden


Cake Batter:
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until creamy. Sift dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix cream, vanilla and coconut extract together. Alternate dry ingredients and wet ingredients into batter. Fill two six inch prepared cake pans evenly. Bake at 325°F until toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Cake Filling:
Boil cream, sugar and butter together in medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Mix cornstarch, vanilla and water together to form slurry. Slowly add slurry to boiling cream mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add coconut. Let it cool overnight. Just before assembling the cake, whip until soft and creamy.

Cream butter and cream cheese together. Add vanilla and powdered sugar and mix until creamy, white and smooth.


Trim off the brown top of each cake. Slice each cake into 3 layers horizontally. Divide filling into five even amounts. Starting with the first layer, brush with 1/3 cup simple syrup. Spread 1/5 of the filling evenly over cake; continue with remaining 5 cake layers, brushing each layer with simple syrup before spreading the filling. When all 6 layers are assembled, ice cake with frosting. Pat toasted coconut around outside of the cake. Chill for at least 5 hours.

So, how did Robert do in our "How Low Can You Go?" competition?!

Southern Eggs Benedict
Milk $1.09
Country Ham $1.50
Collard Greens $0.50
Onion $0.74
Garlic $0.39
Chicken broth $0.76
Heavy cream $1.19
Eggs $1.09
Total $7.26

Carolina Shrimp & Grits
Grits $1.19
Heavy cream $1.19
Pimentos $1.59
Cheddar cheese $1.49
Shrimp $4.99
Sausage $2.59
Green pepper $0.56
Tomatoes $0.74
Total $14.34

Coconut Cake
Coconut extract $3.59
Shredded coconut $1.49
Heavy cream $1.19
Cream cheese $1.39
Powdered sugar $1.19
Butter $1.79
Total $10.64

Grand total: $32.24

He's our new leader!

Current standings:

1. Robert Carter $32.24
Peninsula Grill

2. Paul Liebrandt $32.35

3. George Mendes $32.49