Somehow as I continue to write these posts and come into my office at Branning Fine Art, I have a tiny sense of normalcy. For me, writing is as essential to my life as breathing. I cannot imagine not being able to write, similar to an artist who must continue to paint for as long as he can. It’s just so much a part of who we are. Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. The world always seems brighter when you’ve created something that wasn’t there before.
I am one of the fortunate ones. I get to work – to continue doing what I love to do. It is my hope that through these posts, you will be uplifted and gain a sense of place and enjoyment that comes from imagining life in this beautiful region of our great Southland.
I’d like to thank Charleston artist Sandra Roper for creating this painting of the Gullah ladies of St. Helena Island.
Although many of these things I am writing about are not possible now that we must live in isolation, it’s fun to imagine the day when life returns.
When the dinner bell rings, it’s time to serve up some delicious fried, local shrimp. I love to drive out to Village Creek on St. Helena Island and watch the boats come in during the summer. You know they are fresh from the sea and the very finest wild shrimp ever.
If you drive out to the docks, don’t be surprised if you hear Gullah hymns rising in the air as you approach. These women have been working on the docks since they were children and now most are in their 80s. For most, this is what their mothers and grandmothers did before them.
Right now, since it is April, we can purchase local shrimp that has been flash-frozen – almost as good as fresh off the boats. I love shrimp anytime and cannot wait for shrimp season in Beaufort.
Just remember never, ever buy imported shrimp or farm-raised from foreign countries around the globe. They are often raised in unsanitary conditions with ponds filled with antibiotics. No one wants that.
“Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp! ” That’s the slogan in the Lowcountry. And there are plenty of good reasons for that.
Pull up a front porch rocker and sit a spell as I tell you how to cook some of the best fried shrimp you will ever eat.
St. Helena Island Fried Shrimp
vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot, begin heating 3 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat.
Combine the shrimp and half and half in a large bowl. Ina second large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, kosher salt, Old Bay and pepper. Remove the shrimp from the half and half, shaking off excess, and place in the bowl with the flour mixture. Toss to coat thoroughly.
When the oil is hot, remove one-third of the shrimp from the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and carefully place in the hot oil. Fry until the shrimp are crispy and cooked through about 3 minutes. Using a wire strainer or slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the oil and transfer it to a paper towel-lined platter. Use this Louis sauce for dipping or serve shrimp over lettuce with fresh tomatoes and quartered hard-boiled eggs.
Shrimp Louis Sauce
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup green onion, minced