There is something about the Lowcountry that calls to me. I can’t explain what exactly, but I know that whatever it is stirs something deep within my soul. It is a siren song that beckons to me with its spindly live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the ebb and flow of the tidal waters through the marshes, and the iconic lighthouses that dot the shore. The pace of life is slower there – something Ben was quick to remind me of as I became frustrated with a driver who was waiting for Christmas before he’d make his left turn. Once I reset my mind and my expectations, I fell into the pace of the South and felt its warm, comforting arms wrap around me as the sun shined and the palmetto branches waved in the coastal breeze. Ah, vacation.
Our annual trip to Hilton Head Island was certainly anticipated, but I didn’t realize just how desperately Ben and I needed to unplug, unwind, and relax – that is, time off without the inclusion of a medical professional. My sisters, brothers-in-law and parents packed up and prepared to join us on the beach for a little R&R and it was just what the doctor ordered. Can I get a prescription for a few more of those, please? Maybe a year’s supply? With auto refill? I digress. On the beach, I felt a little less like a conspicuous cancer patient. With my floppy beach hat, it was almost hard to tell I was covering my bald head. That is, until a nice gust of wind launched the hat from my head and sent it tumbling across the sand as I shrieked and scrambled to catch it. Sigh.
On every trip, Ben and I always wax on about how we could move there and set up a little home off island. He’d run a wine shop, I’d run a restaurant. We’d fill our days with our pipe dreams and when vacation ended, talk of those escapades disappeared with the retreating tide. This trip was no different and we talked about how there wasn’t really a place on the island that did everything just right – at least, not right according to our standards. This time though, the conversation felt a little more real. There was a little more urgency to “pulling the trigger” knowing what we’ve just been through. This time, we talked about timelines, about building up a nest egg before taking the plunge. Will it ever happen? I don’t know. But, why not? One lesson I’ve learned is life is too short to wonder “what if?”
But a vacation it was and those days, unfortunately, are always numbered. So we boarded a plane and flew home to the Plains to our little pup and our beloved Kansas City. The Lowcountry longing continues for me. It is always strongest in the days when I first return home, when “Carolina On My Mind” plays on an endless loop in my head, when I search the horizon for the wave of a palmetto and look up into the branches of our oak tree, desperate for a glimpse of tangled moss. Alas, I never find what I’m looking for and the feeling starts to slowly recede. This time, however, those Lowcountry longing days might be numbered.
blackened shrimp with roasted red pepper and goat cheese grits
recipe: jb’s pour house
1 red pepper
6 c. water
1 1/2 c. stone ground white grits
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 oz. goat cheese
1 lb. wild American shrimp
2 Tbsp. blackening spice (our favorite is from Magnolias in Charleston, SC)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. canola oil
Preheat broiler. Cut red pepper in half and remove core and seeds. Press each half flat onto a baking sheet. Place directly under broiler and roast until skin is black. Remove from the broiler and place pepper halves in a sealable container or plastic bag. Let the pepper steam for 10 minutes. Peel skin and discard. Dice pepper and set aside.
Bring 6 c. water to a boil. Once boiling, slowly add grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and stir constantly for about five minutes to prevent grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Let the grits simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Once grits have absorbed most of the water, add cream and butter. Stir to incorporate. Add reserved red pepper and goat cheese and stir until goat cheese is thoroughly incorporated. Season to taste and keep on low heat until ready to serve.
Combine 2 Tbsp. butter and canola oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. As pan is heating, toss shrimp with blackening spice. Add shrimp to pan and saute, about 3-4 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. To serve, place about 1/2 – 3/4 c. grits in a bowl and top with shrimp.
Until next time HHI,
All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house