Back to the Sea in South Carolina

The irony of having a successful blog about Philadelphia when you’re not a native of this town, doesn’t escape me.  In fact, I think it helps.  I look at Philly with fresh eyes every day, and am able to find joy in all of her hidden treasures and overt weirdness that the natives may be stepping over.  But I’ve been here over a year now, and it was time to take advantage of some free time and head back with my mother to the state of my childhood, South Carolina.

Why is my little trip back home featured in our food section, you may ask?  Because in 4 days I consumed shrimp and grits with fried flounder, crab and artichoke dip, boiled peanuts, homemade chili, freshly baked date bread, freshly baked raisin bread, blackened salmon wrap with fried green tomatoes and bacon, she-crab soup, apple pie moonshine and Piggly Wiggly fried chicken.  But we’re not here to talk about Piggly Wiggly (although I gotta say, I’m now “Big on the Pig”)  We’re here to talk about the real jewels of the South Carolina low country.

My family owns Crosby’s Seafood and Fish Company in Charleston, South Carolina.  where the Crosby’s have been fishing and selling and serving their shrimp, crab, oysters and fish for over 30 years.  We were fortunate enough to be on the dock when one of the Shrimp boats came in with hundreds of pounds of the most beautiful shrimp I’ve ever seen, and watched as they unloaded it all from the boats.  Crosby’s is run by serious chick power, as twins Ellie and Joanie  run all aspects of the business, from meticulously sorting through the shrimpers trawls to select only the most perfect shrimp, to packing everything up for selling,  running the store (complete with the spices and grits you may need for your seafood dinner) to their famous Dock parties, where you can fill up on the delights of the sea, grilled right before your eyes.  Just don’t try to fish off their dock without paying.  I’ve seen it, and it ain’t pretty!

The Crosby girls were also kind enough to arrange a boat tour for us.  Capt Gresham Meggett of Absolute Reel Screeming Charters took us for a tour of the Folly Beach area, overloaded with Oyster Beds, Shrimp, Crab, and bottlenose dolphin, who are famous for “strand feeding”, the world’s only dolphin population who feed by pushing their dinner up onto the shores.  We were taken out to Morris Island, with it’s view of the Morris Island lighthouse, the sixth oldest in the nation.  The tidal pools are not to be believed.  Crabs scamper about on a deserted island where civil war soldiers fought, died and are still buried.  The beach is carpeted with oyster shells, sand dollars and bones, a real walking paradise.

Plane fare round trip from Philly is about $200.00.  Or take a road trip.  But see where your food really comes from, while we still have oceans and beaches teaming with life.  And when you get home, make shrimp grits.  You won’t regret it.

Video of Dolphins beaching fish: Dolphins Strand Feeding on Folly Beach

SHRIMP GRITS

Grits:

  • 1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
  • 1 cup grated sharp white cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Shrimp:

  • 1/2 cup 1/3″ cubes tasso, andouille sausage, or bacon
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, divided
  • 16 large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined
  • 1/4 cup (or more) beer
  • 1/4 cup low-salt chicken stock
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

For grits:
Bring 3 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Turn heat to low; gently simmer until grits begin to thicken. Continue cooking, stirring often and adding water by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick, until tender, about 1 hour. Stir in cheese, butter, and jalapeño, then cream. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

For shrimp:
Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add tasso; sauté until fat begins to render, about 5 minutes (if tasso is very lean, add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet). Add garlic and 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Add shrimp. When garlic begins to brown, add beer and chicken stock. Simmer until shrimp is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoom butter to skillet; swirl to melt and cover bottom of pan. Crack eggs into pan and cook until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

Divide grits among bowls, forming a well in center. Spoon shrimp mixture into center of grits. Top with egg. Sprinkle tarragon over.

 

 

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