Article from The Post and Courier
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
By Teresa Taylor

The 37-year-old chef got to do the cooking segment for “The Early Show” last week in Charleston, part of CBS’ “Summer in the City” tour. He arrived on the set at 3 a.m. to get ready for just 210 seconds of on-air time with show anchor Harry Smith.

“It was fast,” Bacon says.

The chef didn’t wither under pressure. Instead, he went bold, as in Szechuan Peppercorn Shrimp—with the heads on.

Heads-on cooked shrimp make some people squeamish, Bacon acknowledges, but he says it makes a difference. “I talked about it briefly with Harry. It’s like cooking meat with the bone in, you’re going to get more flavor.”

Carolina’s chef Jeremiah Bacon (left) explains Lowcountry dishes to CBS anchor Harry Smith of “The Early Show.” (Watch video)

Bacon was pleased with the dish as well as the exposure. He’s been on local TV a couple of times but nothing like the scale of “The Early Show.”

“It was exciting being part of them coming down and showcasing Charleston. It was quite an honor,” says Bacon, who grew up on Johns Island.

The only tricky part was dealing with the wind at The Battery. “It was blowing the flames out on the stove. I had to leave the saute pan on full blast over the heat to get it as hot as I wanted.”

Bacon has been the executive chef at Carolina’s since mid-February. He had not lived in Charleston for more than a decade. After graduating from Bishop England High School and the College of Charleston with a philosophy degree, he went to New York in 1996 to attend the Culinary Institute of America.

From there, he began working in New York’s restaurant scene, including at the River Cafe and Le Bernardin. When he left for Charleston, he was “poissonnier”—fish cook—for Per Se, the New York outpost of celebrated California chef Thomas Keller.

“It’s good to be back,” says Bacon.

Bacon’s dish, like his menu at Carolina’s, featured local ingredients: shrimp from Mount Pleasant shrimper Tommy Edwards and baby fennel from Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island. Other dishes on the set included crab cakes, shrimp and grits, braised pork belly and almond cake.

People shouldn’t be scared of the Szechuan pepper for this recipe, Bacon says. “It’s not really a heat spice. It’s a very aromatic spice with lots of citrus notes. … It goes very well with the shrimp.”

Szechuan Peppercorn Shrimp With Sauteed Baby Vegetables and a Red Pepper Caramel

Appetizer portion, serves 1

For the sauce:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons champagne or red wine vinegar

For the shrimp and vegetables:

1 cup sliced baby vegetables, such as fennel or pattypan squash
1 tablespoon water
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped parsley, chervil or other green herbs
Canola oil
4 large shrimp (preferably head-on)
Ground Szechuan peppercorns (brown type) to taste
Salt to taste

To make the sauce, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes until the mixture begins to caramelize and turn amber.

Put the bell peppers through a juicer or liquefy in a blender; strain. Stir the juice into the caramelized mixture. Reduce by about a third. The sauce should thicken some but should not be stiff; it will not coat the back of a spoon.

Add the vinegar to the sauce. Reserve.

For the shrimp and vegetables: Quickly blanch the sliced vegetables in boiling water. Place in cold water to stop the cooking. Place back in saute pan to reheat along with 1 tablespoon water. Season with salt and pepper. Add green herbs if desired.

For the shrimp, heat a little canola oil over medium heat in a nonstick pan.

Season shrimp with ground Szechuan peppercorn and salt. Add to pan, cook about 30 seconds on each side.

To plate, place shrimp on top of vegetables and drizzle a spoonful of red pepper caramel around all.