Shrimp are the mainstay of South Carolina coast cuisine. Of course, the key to any great dish is to purchase the top-quality product and prepare it well.
So, where can you find high quality, wild-caught, local shrimp? The Carolina shrimp season began on May 15, so fresh local, wild-caught shrimp are becoming widely available in local seafood stores and on local restaurant menus.
Shrimp are more than delightful to eat. They are a powerful force in the South Carolina seafood industry. South Carolina shrimp were worth more than $7.5 million in 2017 according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Erin Weeks, with SCDNR, said there's lower-than-average numbers of shrimp in the water this spring due to the cold weather in January. She said, “The good news is that shrimp are prolific ‘spawners’ so we can hope for the numbers to increase, especially for the brown shrimp, which are the local variety most commonly harvested in summer.”
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In the summer, shrimp are regularly sold from the side of the road and from ships, but for safety’s sake be sure to buy from vendors you know and trust since South Carolina does not inspect or regulate roadside stands although stores are inspected and graded by the health department.
Once you have the shrimp, what to do with it is an easy decision — almost anything. You can eat shrimp boiled, broiled, grilled, fried, warm or cooked and chilled.
Tips on buying local: what to look for, what to ask
- Be sure the store is clean
- Look for fish preserved in refrigerated cases, in ice
- Look to see if origin of each fish sold is clearly explained to customers
- Ask if the shrimp it local and wild caught
- Ask if the shrimp is fresh or previously frozen. Some stores freeze larger shrimp, even locally caught shrimp in order to have them on hand. This is important to know if you are planning to freeze the shrimp for later use. You should not refreeze previously frozen and defrosted.
- Ask about the size of the shrimp. Shrimp are priced by size per pound as well as by degree of preparation. The fewer per pound, the larger the shrimp and the more expensive they are.
- Ask the price difference between shrimp as they come, (this may mean heads on for some stores) or do I want some preparation by the store?
- Do you want peeled and deveined by the store or to do it yourself? Peeling the shell back, leaving the tail on or taking it off and taking out the center vein from the back of each shrimp before cooking is not difficult but it is time consuming.
Where to buy
All of these will steam shrimp for you and sell accompaniments like grits, breading, sauces and other items. Some are also equipped to fry and a few even have restaurants attached. Check their Facebook page for hours and other information on fresh catch, holiday specials, etc.
North Atlantic Seafood Market, 693 US-17, Little River, 843-427-4485. Owner Holly Levasseur said, “We have fish freshly delivered by truck from northeastern waters as well as local fish, including shrimp.” If you shop here be sure to sign up for their email list for first news of specials and yummy recipes.
Mr. Fish Seafood Market (and Restaurant), 6307 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, 843-492-0374 and 843-839-3474. Co-owner Ted Hammerman says, “You can buy raw or cooked shrimp from us and buy the wine to serve with it in our market. We are glad to make recommendations.”
Eugene Platt’s Seafood Market, 1104 Sea Mountain Hwy. North Myrtle Beach, 843-249-2008. Locals, here since 1969. “Look for glossy tails on shrimp, in all whole fish look for bright eyes.”
Seven Seas Seafood Market, 3476 US-17 BUS, Murrells Inlet, 843-651-1666, Capt. Ron sells head-on shrimp during season—good news for those who want the heads for fish stock.
Cooking Low Country Specialty Shrimp and Grits in Your Own Kitchen
Horry Georgetown Technical College Culinary Arts Department professor and chef, William Twaler has agreed to share his take on an iconic lowcountry shrimp presentation —shrimp and grits.
Twaler says, “My first job offered a shrimp and grits with brown gravy … I have been trying to improve on those ideas ever since.”
Shrimp and Brisket Gravy over Speckled Grits
Speckled Grits: Serves 4
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups water
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup whole butter
- 1 cup speckled grits (equal parts white and yellow grits)
Bring the milk, water, salt, and butter to a simmer. Add grits and stir until they boil and are thick. Reduce heat and stir frequently so that the grits do not stick to the bottom of the pan. I tend to add more milk as they cook if they get too thick, but I would much rather have "fork fast grits than spoon fast grits", a quote from my old boss, Bobo Lee. Cook until soft and supple with no real grainy texture.
Note from Twaler: In my mind, this is a great recipe that evolves from having leftover meat scraps and drippings from a roast or prime rib. Now it can also utilize leftovers from last night's smoked brisket.
Shrimp and Brisket Gravy serves 4
- 2-4 oz melted butter
- 4 oz white onion, julienned
- 1 oz shallots sliced in rings
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- 4- dozen shrimp, 26-30 size, peeled and deveined
- Leftover smoked brisket
- 1 tsp w. sauce
- Salt and pepper or hot sauce to taste
- 2 cups beef stock
- 2 TBLS cornstarch
- 2 TBLS cold water
Melt butter in large sauté pan or do this dish in batches. Sauté the onions, shallots, and garlic for 2 minutes, stirring so that the garlic doesn't brown. Then add the shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink. Add your leftover brisket and toss or stir a few times. Add the teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and beef stock. Bring the pan back to a simmer. Taste the liquid and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, maybe a touch of hot sauce. Combine cornstarch and cold water in a ramekin and mix until smooth. While the pan is simmering add a little slurry at a time to thicken the sauce to desired thickness.
Tip for Plating: On a large dinner plate or pasta bowl place a spoonful of grits, carving out a hole in the middle of the "fork fast grits" and pour your shrimp, brisket, and brown gravy over the top. I would serve this with roasted baby carrots or braised radishes to round out the meal.