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Fish Tales

Fish Tales
March 2012
Hank’s Seafood Restaurant dishes up its coveted recipes and more in a new cookbook

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant dishes up its coveted recipes and more in a new cookbook

Hank’s Seafood has been serving rave-worthy sea-to-table cuisine for more than a decade. Now, just in time for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the Holy City institution has released a new cookbook, Cool Inside: Hank’s Seafood Restaurant. Co-authored by chef Frank McMahon and our very own senior editor, Melissa Bigner, the tome features nearly 100 recipes, each shown in delectable photos by Peter Frank Edwards.

But this is not your average cookbook. Cool Inside, named for the words on the well-known mural by the establishment’s door, is in fact three stories in one: the history of iconic Henry’s restaurant, which inspired the creation of Hank’s; the tale of Hank’s founder Hank Holliday and his revitalization of the historic Charleston City Market; and an account of chef McMahon’s life, recipes, and culinary innovation. “It was important at this point in our history to have something documented about what we do. Something people can enjoy,” says McMahon.

In the book, Holliday, a native Charlestonian, recalls, “Henry’s was the Charleston restaurant experience.” But, by the time the former bank vice president and real estate developer returned to Charleston in the ’90s, Henry’s was long gone, presenting a seafood void in the City Market. “I wanted to put the Charleston back into Charleston again,” he says. Enter two lucky twists of fate. First, the onetime home of the Garden & Gun Club came up for sale—the perfect location in which to launch his seafood concept. And second, he was introduced to a plucky chef from Limerick.

Frank McMahon moved from Ireland to the U.S. in the mid-’80s. After honing his skills at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Bernardin, he made his way South. Hank found him launching Elliot’s on the Square(next door to the Francis Marion Hotel) and quickly hired him to head up his new seafood spot. The two have had their squabbles regarding the menu over the past 13 years—recounted in one particularly humorous anecdote regarding red rice—but ultimately the union has been a recipe for success. To McMahon, the real achievement has been marrying Holliday’s favorite Henry’s-inspired dishes with his own haute cuisine.

“One of the most meaningful recipes for me is our tuno crudo with speck,” he notes. “Tuna is like a tenderloin of the sea. It’s got this meaty color and texture. To incorporate it with speck, which I grew up with from the Austrian side of my family, and have it work so well makes it really special.”

Yet classics still hold a place in the chef’s heart. “I love our shrimp curry,” McMahon says. “It’s a plantation-style curry—homey, earthy, and full of flavor. When I first started, Hank asked me to try making it so he could compare it to what was done at Henry’s. He loved the result, and it’s been on the menu ever since.”

For these recipes and more, pick up a copy of this delicious read at Hank’s.