April 26, 2013

By Ron Aiken
April 26, 2013

Support Our Shrimp!

Not that the spark had gone out – how could it? – but a mini-vacation to Edisto Beach last weekend rekindled my love for freshly caught, locally sourced native shrimp.

Well, because it’s April, our shrimp, purchased from the wonderful Edisto Seafood (, actually was caught in October and had been frozen until we took it home to make a tasty jambalaya. Still, it was our own shrimp, and as we’re coming up on the start of shrimping season in South Carolina, our shrimp needs your support.

Unfortunately, up to 90 percent ( of shrimp sold in grocery stores is farm raised and comes from Vietnam, Brazil, Thailand and other far-flung parts of the world. Not that their shrimp is necessarily bad, but when our own shrimping industry suffers because of it, well, buying local, South Carolina shrimp whenever possible is nothing short of a matter of state pride, and that’s something we fortunately have in spades here.

There are three shrimping seasons in South Carolina, the first of which (called the roe shrimp season) begins in May or June, depending on when biologists determine the supply is sustainable. (This year it’s Monday, May 7.) The second, or brown shrimp season, runs from June to August, though it can last longer when populations support it. The third season, called the fall white shrimp season is the state’s largest, comprising the maturation of the spring spawn, and runs from August to December or January, peaking in October. (By the way the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has a cool page on Sea Science to help you identify native shrimp species here:

Photo at left: This simple salad from Whaley’s ( ) at Edisto featured teriyaki-grilled local shrimp and was absolutely divine.

Sure, buying fresh shrimp takes more time to find, can be a tad more expensive and requires more effort to clean and prepare than ready-to-eat supermarket shrimp, but dang, people, isn’t anything good in life worth a little more, especially when it’s our own? I like to think you think so, and since we now agree, I am anticipating your next question: Hey smart guy, how’s about a link to where we can find this native shrimp you’re talking about?
Well, I am going to look beyond your sassy tone and give you just that (I was going to do it anyway, you just didn’t let me get around to it before butting in). Fortunately for shrimp and seafood lovers in our fair state, we have the South Carolina Seafood Alliance (, a not-for-profit trade organization promoting the sustainable catching and/or production of seafood in state and from the adjacent ocean waters. On the site’s front page, there’s a link ( to help you find the nearest vendor to you.

Now, you have no more excuses – ever – not to buy South Carolina shrimp from South Carolina shrimpers. I urge you to put your Palmetto patriotism to the test…if you wear our gorgeous state flag logo on a hat, shirt or anything else, you have been hereby notified that you are, de facto, responsible for promoting our state with your wallet at all times. Please buy accordingly.

Nanny’s Barbecued Shrimp

I’d be a pretty lousy food columnist talking about all that shrimp and not providing at least one recipe for you to play with, now wouldn’t I? Lucky for you, I am not a lousy food columnist, and even luckier for you, you get the benefit of my maternal grandmother (Nanny, to me) and her spin on the Southern staple called barbecued shrimp. This particular dish is common across the Gulf Coast, specifically Mississippi and Louisiana (hence the mangling of  the word barbecue, something we South Carolinians are particularly fussy about).

I suspect the recipe has been so popular for so long because of its elegant simplicity, because the dish itself is anything but elegant to look at or, for that matter, eat. It’s basically black pepper, butter, lemon juice and lemon slices, worcester sauce, hot sauce and more black pepper.

The other beauty of this dish – which we grew up with cooking the shrimp in the shell and peeling them ourselves – is that it is quite forgiving of a heavy hand and easy for practically anyone of any age to help make. That’s a quality that parents can appreciate when you’re at the beach with children…entertaining them by helping them prepare a meal forges memories that life a lifetime, I’m here to tell you, and half the joy I get from making this dish is sheer, unadulterated nostalgia. I hope one day you’ll feel the same way about it, even with all its messiness.

Note: This dish is not for the meek or prissy. There are no amounts given below on purpose…that’s why it’s so much fun! Season to taste as your conscience guides you.

Nanny’s barbecued shrimp title=

South Carolina shrimp
olive oil
cracked black pepper
lemon juice
Tabasco (no substitute)
Lea & Perrins Worchestershire (no substitute)
butter (no substitute)

Place the whole shrimp, with shells on, in a single layer oven-proof dish. Drizzle the olive oil on top of shrimp as you see fit. Now, the most important part: pepper the shrimp until black, and when you think you have enough pepper, add even more, as it’s the pepper that really adds the kick and the signature flavor to the dish. Salt to taste, and add LOTS of lemon juice, including lemon slices, tabasco and Lea & Perrins Worchestershire. Remember, you are seasoning through the shells, so be forceful.

Photo above: An elegant preparation of an inelegant dish. Photo courtesy

Chop up your butter (at least one stick) on top of the shrimp, and broil (between 450 and 500 degrees) until shrimp are cooked pink, which takes about 15-20 minutes. We would serve these with newspapers on the table, and you’ll want to have lots of napkins or paper towels handy.

Also important is to have French Bread to sop up the delicious sauce you’ve created in the bottom of the dish. Base the amount of shrimp on the number of guests; most recipes say 1 pound feeds four people (¼ pound per person), but I say be generous and go ½ pound per person, just in case – you can always freeze the leftovers, and since the flavor only intensifies, it’s like experiencing the beach all over again when you get home to heat up the shrimp you brought back. Enjoy!

Bourbon + Bacon + Steak = YES, PLEASE, MORE PLEASE

Over the many years now I’ve written about Columbia food doings, one name I never tire of typing is Kristian Niemi‘s, and I’m doing so now to promote a dinner I’m certain never will be forgotten by those who attend.

On Monday, April 29 (my birthday, in case anyone is interested in getting me a ticket to this), City Roots Urban Farm is holding a Bourbon, Bacon and Steak farm-to-table wine dinner. Joining Niemi is chef Travis Rayle and a couple of guest chefs, including The Oak Table’s Chef Joseph Jacobson and Pastry Chef Charley Scruggs for a night of food and wine under the stars.

The dinner runs from 7 to 10 p.m., and tickets are $60 apiece and available online here:


Photo above: This could be you! Really! Don’t you want this to be you? Of course you do! Now, take me! Photo courtesy Forrest Clonts.

In case you’re chicken-and-waffling, here’s the generous menu to help make up your mind:
Reception Cocktails
Early Times 354 Bourbon Smash
American Harvest Strawberry-Lemon Fizz

First Course
BLT – Open-Faced, Wood-Grilled Ciabatta with Bourbon-Bacon Jam, Roasted Tomato Spackle, City Roots Microgreens and Basil Aioli
Barnard Griffin Rose of Sangiovese, Washington 2011
Second Course

Bacon-Wrapped Caw Caw Creek Pork Cheeks with Bourbon BBQ Sauce over City Roots Mixed Green Salad with Smoked Corn Relish and Lusty Monk Mustard Vinaigrette
La Capra Pinotage, South Africa 2012
Main Course
Wood-Grilled Southern Farms Ribeye with Zinfandel-Rosemary Salt, IPA-Battered Onion Rings, Carbonara Fingerling Potatoes and Grilled Watsonia Farms Asparagus with Lone Palmetto Goat Cheese and Lemon
Marietta Old Vine Zinfandel, California 2010
Sazerac Creme Brulee with Peychaud’s Bitters Sugar, Sweet Herbsaint Foam, Candied Orange Peel

Apropos of Nothing

The above phrase, as I enjoy saying to whomever will listen, is among my favorites in the language we use because is allows us to tastefully change the subject from any point in any conversation we have begun to find boring.

The sheer eloquence of the words, the wonderful exoticism of the word apropos and the pinache with which it commands to be rolled off the tongue are more than sufficient to stun even the most tiresome speaker to silence long enough for you to introduce a topic you’d rather talk about.

Photo above: An example of the records being priced for sale. Photo courtesy Christopher Bickel/facebook.

I say that to alert you to the fact that in the future, I intend to use the phrase as a weekly header in my food column to mention things I think you should know about in the community or that simply pass through my mind and want out.

This week, that’s this: On Sunday,  April 28, the Columbia Museum of Art is hosting the Sixth Annual Greater Columbia Record Fair from noon to 5 p.m. According to the facebook page (,  it will feature Record enthusiasts from across the East Coast selling a variety of LPs, 45s, CDs, and DVDs. Records of all types, common to ultra rare, are represented.

Music will be provided by the Greater Columbia Society for the Preservation of Soul, a cash bar will be available for you courtesy of our favorite (north) Main Street drinkery, The Whig, and there will be hot dogs available to eat. Other vendors will participate, too, such Sin Doolah, which will have posters for sale. So go forth, purchase, and exude the coolness you already possess.

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