If the "Forest Gump" character Bubba were to promote Beaufort's 18th annual Beaufort Shrimp Festival, which takes place Friday and Saturday at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park, he would have a whole new repertoire for the many innovative ways the fruit of the sea can be prepared.
There's fried shrimp sushi, bacon-wrapped crab-stuffed shrimp, tequila pepper lime shrimp, shrimp and corn fritters, shrimp sliders, shrimp and grits, shrimp dumplings, Frogmore corn dogs, shrimp and waffles, Bloody Mary shrimp ceviche, shrimp crab dip, shrimp and cheddar grits.
Just to name a few.
Of course, Bubba's perhaps less adventurous favorites will be served, too. Who can imagine Shrimp Fest without fried shrimp or steamed shrimp? But, generally speaking, this year will feature dishes that take on new and spicier flavors.
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Sea Eagle Market of Beaufort will bring some serious heat to the table with a new Buffalo Shrimp dish. Plums Restaurant plans to serve a Frogmore stew with a twist, featuring a potato Andouille sausage fried cake, topped with fried shrimp and a new recipe for corn relish.
Both places will serve their favorites from past years. Plums will bring back its 2011 second-place dish winner, shrimp and grits, as well as mini shrimp burger sliders.
"We offer something for everybody ... as long as they like shrimp," Plums' director of operations Chip Dinkins said.
(Don't worry, landlubbers. Hamburgers and hot dogs also will be available at the festival.)
Sea Eagle will defend its 2011 Silver Cup status with a crowd favorite: the shrimp basket. The market's booth also will serve homemade crab cakes, shrimp on a stick, blackened tuna, soft shell crabs and homemade crab cakes.
Owner Craig Reaves cruised area creeks Monday to catch crab while his father, Laten, caught shrimp aboard the "Gracie Belle."
Craig Reaves said he prefers the fall white shrimp.
"The temperature is cooling off, and that is why the fall shrimp taste better. These are the sweetest shrimp in the world."
Recipe from Craig Reaves:
1 pound of shrimp, deheaded, deveined and peeled and minced in food processor
4 green onions, minced in food processor
1/2 small can water chestnuts minced in food processor
1 shot of Worcestershire sauce
Garlic salt, to taste
Onion salt, to taste
Self-rising flour to coat
Water to form consistency
Use food processor to mince 1 pound of shrimp, green onions and water chestnuts. Add a shot of Worcestershire, garlic salt and onion salt to taste. Stir in self-rising flour and water, just to coat mixture. Stir well and mix. Drop spoonfuls into hot grease and cook for a few minutes until it floats.
Recipe from Chip Dinkins (created with New Orleans restaurant Pascal's Manale's famous "Barbecued Shrimp" in mind):
NEW ORLEANS BARBECUE SHRIMP
1 pound butter
1 tablespoon Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoon black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces beer
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 medium onion, very finely minced
3 ribs celery, very finely minced
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 pounds large local shrimp, heads and shells on
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt 1/4 pound butter in a skillet over medium heat. Sautè the garlic, onions, celery, parsley, rosemary and Tony's for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Melt the rest of the butter in a separate pot over low heat. Add the beer, Worcestershire and lemon juice. Put the raw shrimp in a large baking dish. Combine the vegetable mixture and the butter mixture and drown the shrimp. Make sure the shrimp are covered. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.
Serve in big bowls with plenty of crusty French bread. Steamed rice is also a nice addition.
SHRIMP COOKING TIPS
From Craig Reaves, owner of Sea Eagle Market and Chip Dinkins, director of operations at Plums Inc.:
1. Buy fresh, local shrimp.
2. Be careful not to overcook shrimp, especially if boiling or steaming them, which only takes about 2 to 3 minutes. Overcooking causes the shells to stick. Lean toward undercooking so fresh shrimp will be tender. Otherwise they will be tough or dry.
3. Soak fresh shrimp in evaporated milk, let marinate, then squeeze milk out and dip in self-rising flour or a seafood breader mix. Reaves prefers to dip his shrimp in a blend of flour and Sea Eagle Seafood Breader mix.
4. For grilled shrimp, top first with a Greek seasoning or a teriyaki marinade.