For as long as I can remember, I have stayed at Cassandra McGee’s big pink house midway down front beach on Edisto Island. The drive down from Charleston,^ though less than an hour, is a respite in itself, through marshland and old plantation sites, through tunnels of live oaks with Spanish moss unraveling like gray lace in the amber light of dusk (a friend’s son calls it “squirrel hair”).

All of my memories of that house involve big meals around the two huge dining tables, and I never know when I go if there will be 2, 10, 20, or no people there. I always take some food but rely on the local vegetable stands to provide me with whatever is in season. I also know where countless blackberries grow, and I know every persimmon tree between Charleston and the Old Post Office on Store Creek. Sometimes I take my cast net and catch shrimp on the way down, just off the road about 10 miles inland. And sometimes I buy fresh fish. But always I cook. Cassandra’s roomy, well-equipped kitchen always inspires.

One midsummer Sunday evening I drove down, knowing thunderstorms were brewing (my favorite time to go to the beach). On the way down I pulled several clumps of fresh garlic out of the soil from a long-abandoned homesite where it had once been planted, then stopped at George and Pink’s vegetable stand on the island for some fresh vegetables. I telephoned a friend to come down when I found the house empty, and he offered to bring a fryer.

The fryer turned out to be one of those industrial freaks packed with 2 gizzards and 2 livers, so I took advantage of that windfall to experiment for myself. These fritters have become one of my favorite appetizers, and my sister Sue can eat a plateful of what she calls my “gizzard croquettes.”

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Ingredients

  • 1 package (about 16 ) chicken gizzards, trimmed of all membrane and sinew and chopped (about 6 ounces trimmed) about 10 ounces chicken livers, trimmed of all fat and any green spots (about 8 ounces trimmed)
  • 1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 cup dry bread crumbs (about 2 stale or dried rolls, ground)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 16 grinds of black pepper fresh garlic (see Note) lard for frying

Method

Finely chop together all of the ingredients except the lard (or mix in a food processor, but not too much), saving some of the bread crumbs to coat the croquettes. Make croquettes about the size of 2 fingers, roll in fine bread crumbs, and fry in hot lard for about minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain and serve immediately on a bed of lettuce with lemon wedges.

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