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A taste of Old Charleston

This week’s article is a continuation of my recent jaunt to Charleston South Carolina.  

In Margaret Mitchell’s sweeping epic Gone with the Wind Rhett Butler laments “I’m going back to Charleston, back where I belong...” and I can say with absolute certainty that I wish I was with him.         

One of the most memorable parts of our visit to Chucktown was a tour of the Magnolia Plantation and its romantic gardens. Nestled on the banks of the Ashley River, the plantation, which was originally built in the late 1600s, has remained in the same family for an astonishing 15 generations. It was interesting  to learn how the plantation remained both relevant and running over the last almost 350 years. What began as a rice farm has morphed into a bustling tourist destination, which counts itself as the Lowcountries oldest public tourist attraction, boasting the largest romantic style garden in the United States. The gardens began as a labor of love when in the 1840s John Grimke-Drayton, who was also an Episcopal minister, set out to lure the love of his life Julia from her home in Philadelphia to steamy South Carolina.     

I know how I feel when an unexpected arrangement arrives on my desk or doorstep, John took things to the next level not only bringing the first azaleas to the United States but also cultivating 25 acres into a winding, floral filled lovers dream. When our tour of the grounds, conservatory and swamp concluded we made our way to the stunning plantation house, a portion of which was constructed before the Civil War. The house, which was at one time a true family home, has also played the part of charming country host to glittering guests from Presidents and First Ladies to Reba McEntire and almost everyone in between.                 

When our day in the Lowcountry concluded we made our way back to Charleston proper and enjoyed spectacular hospitality. As the flowing wine warmed us I was reminded of the sage words of Patricia Altschul  “I think Southerners should get a free pass when it comes to drinking. Yankees don’t understand leisure and the casual cocktail hour.” After our leisurely cocktail hour, we transitioned to dinner, feasting on velvety steaks, salty she-crab soup and crispy fried green tomatoes.     

Charleston was such a fun place to visit that I am already planning on going back! I enjoyed so many memorable meals while in South Carolina but one of my favorites was the quintessential southern classic shrimp and grits. This version is as easy as it is  delicious!

Shrimp & Grits

2 lbs peeled & deveined shrimp

1/4 c butter melted

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp Old Bay seasoning

1 tsp black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp Cajun seasoning

1 tsp Louisiana style hot sauce

5 c. chicken broth

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 c quick cooking grits

2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated     

Place the shrimp in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. In a separate bowl combine the melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, black pepper, garlic, Cajun seasoning, and the Louisiana style hot sauce. Pour over shrimp, tossing to coat.     

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until shrimp are fully cooked.     

While the shrimp is baking boil the broth and garlic powder in a large pot. Stir in grits with a whisk.     

Reduce heat to low; cook for 5 minutes or until the grits are thickened, whisking often.     

Stir in the cheese, stirring until melted. Spoon the grits into bowls and top with the baked shrimp and enjoy!

Katherine Compton is a mother of two and a Realtor. She loves cooking almost as much as she loves Jackson County. To contact Katherine, email whatscookingkatherine@gmail.com.

Jackson County Herald Tribune

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