Some Kinda Good Goes Shrimpin’ on the Lady Jane

The Lady Jane
The Lady Jane is the only licensed commercial shrimp boat in the world.

I grew up in a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Augusta, Ga. To get to any beach was at least a three-hour ride, but somehow, my soul has always been at home on the water. One of the highlights of my summer was at long last, getting to go Shrimpin’ on the Lady Jane with my handsome new husband, and what an excursion it was! I’ve read so many novels about shrimpin’ (check out Mary Alice Monroe’s Last Light Over Carolina), and have long dreamt of climbing aboard a real shrimp boat and casting my net. On a rainy August day, thanks to Credle’s Adventures, that dream became a reality.

For just $40 a ticket, we got to spend the afternoon cruising the St. Simons Sound, taking in the picturesque views of the Georgia coast and relishing in the wonderment of under-sea life. If I hadn’t gone to school to study marketing and public relations, I would seriously have considered becoming a marine biologist. The creatures that swim below the ocean absolutely fascinate me! Don’t be fooled by the name of the outing–we caught way more than shrimp! Jeffery, the naturalist and guide on our boat, quickly told us that “Shrimp are actually one of the most boring things we catch.” Our cast net reeled in everything from two varieties of shark, angel fish, squid, butterfly rays and the most bizarre little creature, called a hog choker. See for yourself!

You can just hear the excitement!

Jeffery was so informative. He educated us on every creature in the net!
Jeffery was so informative. He educated us on every creature in the net!

This guy has a great job!

It was so exciting to anticipate what would be in the net.
It was so exciting to anticipate what would be in the net. Those seagulls were trying their best to get a taste of shrimp!

We cast our 20-foot net twice during the 2-hour event. It stayed down for 16-20 minutes each time. Among the things I learned? How to de-head and de-vein a wild Georgia Shrimp fresh from the Atlantic, that a marine estuary is a mix of fresh and salt water to make brackish water, and all about the oyster beds along the coastline.

Now that I live on the South Carolina coast, I’ll be doing a lot more of this!

The Spartina grass against the stormy sky made for a breathtaking view.
The Spartina grass against the stormy sky made for a breathtaking view.

The beautiful green grass along the boarder of the water is called Spartina and surprisingly enough, this plant gives the water its color. It’s the base of the ecosystem’s food chain, and uses salt water to survive.

If you’ve never held a real, live shark in your bare hands, it’s an experience to remember! Even though this guy was only 2-3 feet long, he had me at his mercy.

My good lookin', husband Kurt held the Bonnethead shark.
My good lookin’, husband Kurt, held the Bonnethead shark. It doesn’t seem as scary in his hands. Ha!

I’d recommend this outing to anyone! View the slideshow below for more fun photos from our trip.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Y’all know how much I love my Georgia coast, and a good shrimp. One of my favorite ways to cooks these babies is to pile them high on a bed of Southern, buttery grits. Get my recipe for Wild Georgia Shrimp & Grits here.

Fresh catch!
Fresh catch! June 1 – December 31 is Georgia shrimping season.
Jeffery and Kurt discuss the wide open seas.
Jeffery and Kurt discuss the wide open seas.

Thanks to Captain Larry and his crew for a really memorable, fun and great day on the water. We can’t wait to go Shrimpin’ again!

At home on the water.
At home on the water. (P.S. An awesome perk: You can bring your own cooler!)

Table for Two at Home

Valentine’s Day is well on its way, and if you find yourself without a restaurant reservation, or simply prefer to have a romantic night at home, I’ve got a three course restaurant-quality meal that’s Some Kinda Good and easy to prepare. What’s more romantic than setting the mood in your own home, and cooking next to the one you love? Continue reading “Table for Two at Home”

Shop Local for Wild Georgia Shrimp & Grits

This photo was taken prior to the show, at home in my kitchen. My signature dish of Shrimp & Grits with a Creamy White Wine Sauce.
My signature dish of Shrimp & Grits with a Creamy White Wine Sauce.

Shrimp and Grits: The Lowcountry staple has been around for more than 100 years and you can hardly visit a restaurant these days without seeing it on the menu. In 2011, Shrimp & Grits was the most popular dish served at weddings across the United States.

The cookbook, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart, says the first printed copy of the original recipe, titled “Shrimp and Hominy,” was located in the 1930 edition of Two Hundred Years of Charleston Cooking. Many variations of the recipe exist today, but one thing is certain: a recipe is only as good as the quality of ingredients.

We’re especially blessed in Statesboro to live in the coastal plains where wild Georgia shrimp is easy to come by and Georgia farmers are aplenty, producing those healthful vegetables like sweet red bell pepper and jalapenos that accompany the special sauce in my shrimp and grits recipe. Statesboro is even home to Freeman’s Mill–stone grinding grits and corn meal daily. Here’s a tip: When cooking grits, always take the opportunity to layer in depth of flavor. Instead of using water, try milk or broth. I love the creamy texture milk gives grits and the flavor of them when they’re cooked in chicken or beef broth. That special touch takes the dish from mediocre to restaurant quality faster than you can say “Go Eagles.”

Whenever possible, shop local. Nothing beats sitting down to a meal grown on Georgia ground, planted by the hands of people in our own community and supporting the local farmers. One visit to the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market, and you’ll be well on your way to cooking my recipe for Shrimp & Grits with a White Wine Sauce featuring Hunter Cattle Company’s hardwood smoked bacon and Prosser’s Wholesale Shrimp in Brooklet.

Open every Saturday from 9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., the Statesboro Main Street Farmers’ Market is chock-full of everything you need to get cookin’.

Here’s my recipe. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Grits with a White Wine Sauce

  • 1 pound of Prosser’s Wholesale Wild Georgia Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Freeman’s Mill Stone Ground Grits or (Jim Dandy Grits in pinch!)
  • Chicken Broth, heavy cream for finishing
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese per every two cups grits
  • 6 Slices Thick cut, Hickory Smoked Hunter Cattle Company Bacon
  • Half of 1 medium Sweet Vidalia Onion
  • 1 Large clove of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Medium Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, minced
  • 2 Tbs white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Green onion or chives for garnish

    Cook shrimp in about 2 Tbs. of olive oil until they turn pink. Season with Old Bay. Cook grits according to package directions using the appropriate amount of chicken broth, depending on the portion size you’re serving. Season grits with salt & pepper, then add butter and stir in Parmesan cheese. Stir in a splash or two of heavy cream for added richness. Meanwhile, cook approximately six slices of bacon. Drain on paper towels. Pour off bacon grease, reserving 2 Tbs. to sauté vegetables. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring. Add garlic last. Once vegetables have married together, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add heavy cream and let come to a simmer, stirring constantly. To plate, spoon grits in a bowl, top with white wine sauce and surround grits around the perimeter of the bowl with about 10 shrimp per serving. Garnish with green onion or chives.

Making it Happen – My Dream in Action

It was 1:37 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon when the email came. The subject line read: ABC’s The Taste. I had pre-registered for the show the week before, after a friend shared on my Facebook wall that they were casting for Season 2 of the cooking competition reality show.

A casting producer was interested in me! I stared at my computer screen in amazement for about 10 minutes before I pulled myself together. I emailed her back and got the details. She’d invited me to come to Nashville that weekend for a private on-camera interview, and to skip the Open Call auditions and long lines. Mind. Blown. I had already committed to traveling to Atlanta to write a restaurant review for Hottie Hawg’s Smokin’ BBQ, but had previously planned to submit an audition video. She completely understood and encouraged me to do so. In the 10-minute video, I had to cook a dish that represented me and really showed my personality, including any other talents.

I chose shrimp and grits with a white wine sauce, of course.

Today marks over one week since I’ve heard back and I’m eagerly awaiting the outcome. It would be amazing if I made it any further in the process, but the truth is, I’ve already won. During the midst of the week, I’d shared the news with a few folks I hold close. My dear friend, Bill, knows my story and where I’ve been. He said it best.

“You have a brand new testimony of someone who stopped, took stock of her life and decided that life was too short not to pursue her passion. You are proof that success isn’t about the size of the stage or how big the audience, but making it happen. You have taken what you love and pursued it with passion. And, in the process, you have discovered that regardless of where the road takes you, you already are living out your dream.”

If you’d like to see my audition video, you can check it out below. I’ll keep you posted on where the road leads.

New Restaurant A Hit for the Golden Isles

Island Chop House and Seafood Grill
St. Simons Island, Georgia

UPDATE 3/27/13 – Island Chop House and Seafood Grill Has Closed

It takes a lot of persuasion for my family to branch out and try a new restaurant, especially in the Golden Isles. We have our favorites, and you know how it is when you’re hungry–you want to go somewhere that’s guaranteed to be good, somewhere you know. On the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend, we decided to take a chance on Island Chop House and Seafood Grill, a new St. Simons Island dining establishment that just opened this spring. The food was exceptional, the decor tasteful and I appreciated the fresh take on their inventive side dishes.

Call me a snob, but I typically prefer to dine in stand-alone restaurants. Located on Frederica road smack dab next to the Cleaners, there it was. Though I hadn’t expected the restaurant to be in a strip mall, it stood out among the other stores with an inviting exterior. Mom and dad waited in the car while I went in to scope out the scene. I came back with a thumbs-up, having been impressed with the clean, sophisticated decor, friendly host and desirable menu.

Upon greeting us, the hostess informed us that there’d be a 30 minute wait. It was 7:15 p.m. and we were hungry, so we weren’t thrilled about the news.  Then 10 minutes later, she led us to our table. There we sat and waited until a cheery fellow appeared from the kitchen with three tall glasses of cold water garnished with lemon wedges–a welcomed sight after a long day in the summer heat. Our waiter was as nice as could be and immediately apologized explaining that he was waiting on clean glasses, as the restaurant had been so busy that night. There was a party of 20 at the table to our left and I could see he was right. He told us about the specials for the evening, asked if we had any questions and took our drink and appetizer order.

We began with a classic southern menu item: Fried Green Tomatoes. They were lightly fried Georgia green tomatoes layered with goat cheese combined with balsamic-tossed arugula. The presentation was reminiscent of an ice cream sundae. Stacked high, garnished with strawberries and drizzled with what reminded me of chocolate syrup, the tomatoes were crispy and the balsamic dressing provided a sweet tartness with the creamy goat cheese.

As I looked the menu over,  I narrowed my decision down between the Smoked Gouda Shrimp & Grits and the Wild Coastal Shrimp. I chose the shrimp & grits for $18.95 with the mixed veggie medley: zucchini, carrots, onions and yellow squash. The dinner entrees come with 2 sides, so I also got a caesar salad. The grits were cheesy and hot, seasoned just right. The sausage was spicy and plump and the shrimp had a Cajun kick. Island Chop House and Seafood Grill offers the usual sides in addition to some pretty cool interpretations of basic carbs and vegetables with the volume turned up. Examples? Grilled Asparagus, Horseradish Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms or Blue Crab Mac-N-Cheese. Mom got the Blue Crab Mac-N-Cheese and man alive, it was Some Kinda Good y’all. It’s fried and spicy!

Maybe to maximize space, the restaurant seating is mostly tables. There is one booth in the rear of the restaurant reserved for larger parties.The restaurant is open 7 days a week from 11 a.m. – Until, with Happy Hour from 3 – 6 p.m. daily. I predict it’ll soon be a local favorite and yet another place my family visits to experience fine food on the beautiful St. Simons Island.

Have you been yet? What’d you think?

Island Chop House and Seafood Grill on Urbanspoon

Carolina Lowcountry Classics with My Best Friend

Charleston Crab House Seafood Restaurant
Charleston, South Carolina

I don’t know what it is about being in the Carolina lowcountry that makes me want to eat fried green tomatoes and shrimp and grits, but every time I visit, without fail, those are the dishes I order. My best friend and I recently visited Charleston for the Miranda Lambert On Fire Tour and among shopping on King Street, sampling benne wafers in the City Market and getting wind-blown on the giant porch swings at Waterfront Park near the battery, we had lunch at the Charleston Crab House Seafood Restaurant. What did we order, you ask? You guessed it–Fried Green Tomatoes and BBQ Shrimp & Grits.

Check out that presentation! Don’t you just love the pop of color those scallions give this dish? The BBQ Shrimp & Grits is a house specialty. It was actually an appetizer, but it will fill you up! Now, I had never had barbecue sauce on my shrimp & grits before and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. Let me tell you, it is a beautiful combination. Man alive, it was Some Kinda Good y’all. The tangy barbecue sauce really compliments the cheddar jack cheese grits and the perfectly succulent shrimp. This dish will run you $8.99.

We were really hungry after our two and half hour drive from Augusta, Georgia so needless to say we gobbled down the fried green tomatoes before I thought to get a picture. I might add, we had a very hard time making a decision because the menu had an awesome selection! Sandwiches, pasta, seafood platters, garden selections and raw bar items are just a few of the options.

After lunch, we made our way to the pier. It was a stormy and windy day but the seagulls were out and about just the same. I love looking off the dock at all the shrimp boats and large carriers wondering where they’re headed.

This blog post would not be complete without a shout out to my girl, Miranda Lambert. She packed out the North Charleston Coliseum and rocked the house!

And now, just for fun, a little film strip of our attempts to get a good picture while hanging out near the Battery.

So, there. Country music, good seafood and my best friend in the Carolina Lowcountry…the finer things in life. It really doesn’t get much better.

What’s your favorite lowcountry classic activity?

Charleston Crab House on Urbanspoon

Shrimp and Grits at Home

Shrimp and Grits. Just the two words together take me to the coast and suddenly, I’m smelling the salty, ocean air and listening to the waves crash. Only this time, I’m in Statesboro, Georgia bringing the flavors of the lowcountry to my very own dinner table.

The sauce in this dish is money. It’s what sets it apart from any old recipe and makes you want to lick the bowl. This is stick-to-your-ribs kinda cookin’.

Be sure to make this recipe when you’ve got some time to be patient. It’s not one you want to throw together on a weeknight. If you prep your vegetables beforehand, that’ll save you some time. The recipe serves two, but I could only finish half. It’s rich and filling and needs nothing but a good appetite.

Bring salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, let your olive oil get hot. You want a good, crisp sear on the outside of the ham you’ll add later.

When the water comes to a boil, stir in quick-cooking grits (not instant) until well mixed.

As the grits cooks, toss chopped ham into the skillet. The recipe called for tasso ham and I searched every accessible grocery store high and low for it until I decided to settle for a smoked, chopped ham by Carolina Pride. Also, I had to add at least a half cup more water to the grits than the recipe called for because the consistency was too thick. The grits should be easy to stir like a good cream of wheat, not clumpy.

Once you toss in the ham, don’t stir it continuously. Just let it do its thing. Give it one good stir before tossing in your other vegetables.

I chopped two tablespoons each of onion, red bell pepper and leeks. Hint: Always read the recipe completely before embarking on cooking. I chopped two entire leeks before I realized I needed white parts only.

Once the ham is nice and crispy, add in the rest of your vegetables and saute. The smell in the kitchen is enough to make you stick your entire head over the skillet and inhale deeply time and again.

If using frozen shrimp, thaw them overnight, drain and rinse.

Toss the shrimp in and gently stir them around with the vegetables for 45 seconds or so until they turn pink. It’s very easy to over cook the shrimp, so keep a close eye on them. Once cooked, you’ll remove them and finish up the sauce.

I just love cooking with wine. Always cook with a wine you’d drink. It doesn’t have to be an expensive bottle. In this recipe, you use two tablespoons of wine to deglaze the pan, then you add the heavy cream, stir, watch it thicken and reduce by half.

The sauce will slowly thicken as it comes to a boil.

The ham is the true star in this sauce. The texture really compliments the grits and adds a nice depth of flavor.

To assemble the dish, divide the prepared grits into two bowls. Surround the grits with cooked shrimp, then drizzle the sauce right over the top of the grits. Woo whee!! That’s Some Kinda Good y’all! I start getting excited right here. Finish it off with a sprinkling of scallions. Don’t leave off the scallions. I know it’s easy to x-nay the garnish, but it really adds a bright, fresh and special finishing touch to this delicious dinner.

Light a candle, pour a glass of wine and take in the flavor like it’s the last meal you’ll ever eat. Just take a bite and imagine your backyard is the ocean. Savor it. Indulge. You’ll be glad you did.

The complete recipe can be found in Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. Paula doesn’t disappoint!