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My Great American Road Trip – South Carolina, South Dakota

September 28, 2020

I’m behind in writing about my cooking. I’m less behind in the actual cooking. The past week was the stinkiest one in a year of stinky weeks. I am so grateful for my gorgeous family and a great job. And I have the most wonderful, loving friends in the world, whose numbers were heartbreakingly decreased this week by one powerful, beautiful badass.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but cooking has become a source solace to me. Eating has always been what I do during the tough times, but cooking? That’s new. And my first stop was South Carolina.

I’m not sure if I’ve been to South Carolina. I don’t think I have, but who knows – I might have made my way through at some point during a Pops tour, I forget all the places we went, but that would be the only way I’d have been there.

South Carolina cooking is lowcountry cuisine – seafood based with some African influences. And among the most popular dishes associated with lowcountry cuisine is the one and only shrimp and grits. Shrimp and grits have come up often as I traveled through the southern states, but it felt so intimidating to me, but I had to face it eventually, so here we go.

First up, make grits. Boil the grits in water until they absorb it all and are tender. Then remove from the heat and add lots of butter and cheese and stir to melt them both.

While that is getting good and creamy delicious, fry up some bacon, then set it aside and cook up some shrimp in the bacon fat til it is nice and pink. Crumble the bacon back in and add in some thinly sliced scallions, parsley, and garlic. Full disclosure, I didn’t have bacon, so I used some of the andouille from my Rhode Island stuffies. I think that is the spirit of lowcountry cooking – improvisation.

Then you put a healthy scoop of the shrimp on an even healthier scoop of the grits.

One – there is no arguing with cheesy grits. I could eat a bowl of them every single day. The bright crunch of the scallions were a good counter-point to the richness of the grits. I can’t wait to eat this one day in Charleston.

The next day I traveled far north to South Dakota, a state that anyone who knows me know how much I want to visit. The Pops actually did go like the year after I left. I was so mad. But, I’ll get there one of these days.

In South Dakota there is a leading contender for the official state food – chislic – yet another thing I’d never heard of. Chislic is bite sized cubes of meat, deep fried in oil. Its origin is Turkey or maybe Crimea, and it is now served as finger food in bars, at summer picnics and baseball games. Its generally lamb or mutton, but could be venison or beef, which is what I used. It is crazy simple to make.

Cube your meat and marinate it in Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and s&p for at least an hour, but up to 24 hours. Then you deep fry it. I don’t have a deep fryer, so I put a couple inches of oil in a cast iron pan and did my frying there.

When the outside is crispy, but the inside is still pink, you scoop them out and let them rest on paper towels. Then, if you have them, you stick little toothpicks in each to make snacking easy and serve it with a spicy sriracha sauce. I didn’t have toothpicks.

It was delicious, but a waste of a good steak. I think this is probably the exact right thing to do with mutton. But as part of a spread of snacks – next to the buffalo wings I made for New York, and the Rhode Island stuffies, with some good friends it would be perfect. I spent many a Superbowl Sunday with the friend I lost this week. I think this is a spread that would might even have been worthy of one of her parties. (It wouldn’t – she was amazing. But she would smile kindly at my effort, and let me lay it out right next to her gourmet spread! I miss her so much already).

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One Comment
  1. Betsy Hockstein permalink

    I adore that you have come to love cooking. Can’t wait until you come up to cook together

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