Jekyll IslandShrimp and Grits Festival 2018

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Well you can’t win them all! I was disappointed and a little heartbroken not to even place as a competitor at the 2018 Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival. The week was long and tensions were high, but I did take some wonderful memories away from my first cooking competition. Some of my revelations are as follows:

  1. My husband Johnny and I have never cooked together in a competition setting. We made it through 2 intense hours cooking side by side without a cross word. I like to refer to this past weekend as #marriagebootcamp. We passed with flying colors! Love you Snuggles!

  2. A familiar face can brighten your day and even your whole trip! Chef Liz Morris of Eagle Creek Brewery in Statesboro Ga was the first face I saw competition morning. Johnny and I were lost, hyped up on coffee, and had no idea where to go. Liz led us to the competition tent where we competed side by side. I have known Liz for over 20 years. Her mother Perri was my high school art teacher and yearbook staff advisor. They are good people!

    Liz ended up taking home the gold!! She won 1st Place!! Her win made the trip worth it for me. Her humble nature and sweet demeanor eased my nerves. We will always share this memory. I’m proud of you ES!!!

  3. Jekyll in September is HOT!!

  4. An ice cold beer can ease your nerves. Especially if the shrimp provided for the competition arrive over an hour late.

  5. I took a chance with a not so safe or traditional recipe. I do not regret that decision. I will continue to put pepper jelly on random things like grits! Two of the four judges loved my dish and thought it was novel and fun. The other two judges didn't get it at all. They thought the pepper jelly “weird” and “over powering”. I’m at peace with all of that but who doesn't like pepper jelly??? The Recipe is Below. You be the Judge!!

  6. Everyone LOVES crispy fried okra!! All four judges raved about the pecan crusted okra.

  7. I could not do life with out my sister. She graciously stayed home and juggled two weddings numbering over 500 people, while I ran off to the beach to chase a dream. That's what sisters do or at least my sister. She is the BEST!

  8. I think I enjoy talking about food just as much as I like cooking. I loved talking to the festival goers about my dish, ingredients, and preparation.

  9. I can’t be trusted when put on the spot. My inner backwoods bubbles to the surface. In an interview, I divulged I like to cook turtle. Let me clarify this statement. I helped a friend fry soft shell turtle a time or two. It’s good. Kinda like a chicken gizzard. My Mother was horrified. Its ok. I bet they will remember that girl who likes to inappropriately use pepper jelly and fries up a mean turtle. I need a handler.

  10. Sometimes you just want to go home. After the winners were announced, I looked at Johnny and said “take me home”. I was tired. Body and Soul. We grabbed cold Zaxbys and hit I-95. By 9:00 I was relaxing on my porch overlooking the Ogeechee River. My cocker spaniel Charlie by my side. I went to church that next morning with a thankful heart.

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Pecan Crusted Grits Cake with Shrimp in Country Ham Gravy


Grits Cake:

8 c Water

2 c (Southern Swiss Dairy Whole) Milk

2 c Grits

2 Tbs Salt

4 Tbs (Southern Swiss Dairy) Butter

8 oz (Sweet Grass Dairy) Green Hill Cheese

8 oz (Sweet Grass Dairy) Thomasville Tomme

Rinse grits in cool water. Allow grits to settle to the bottom of a bowl of water, and strain off pieces that float to the top.   Bring water and salt to a boil. Whisk in two cups of grits. Return to boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until grits are tender. Be sure to stir every few minutes to avoid sticking. Remove from heat and stir in butter and green hill cheese. Pour grits into greased 20x12 pan or two 9x13 pans. Chill until firm and set.

Pecan Crust:

1 c finely chopped (Parker’s, Jenkins County) Pecans

2 c (Freeman Mill’s) White Corn Meal

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Egg Wash:

2 c (Southern Swiss Dairy) Whole Milk

½ c (Southern Swiss Dairy) Buttermilk

3 (Lee Family Farms) Eggs

Mix pecans, corn meal, salt, and pepper.


Shrimp Gravy:

2 pints (Southern Swiss Dairy) Heavy Whipping Cream

3 (Poor Robins Garden’s) Fresh Garlic Gloves

1 lb (Lord’s) Country Ham

2 Tbs. (Georgia Olive Farms) Olive Oil

Melt olive oil in large skillet. Cut country ham in short, thin lardons. Sautee in olive oil for 1-2 minutes or until slightly caramelized on edges. Add garlic and sauté for minute.

Add heavy whipping cream and bring to a simmer. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly until heavy cream is reduced by 1/3 and resembles thick gravy. Stir constantly and do not boil!


2 lbs Georgia Shrimp (peeled and deveined)

2 Tbs. (Southern Swiss Dairy) Butter

1 Tbs. Each Fresh Dill, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, and Basil

Melt butter in large pan. Add shrimp and herbs and sauté until shrimp are cooked.



1 lb (Jacob’s Produce) Fresh Okra Pods

1 c (Southern Swiss Dairy) Whole Milk

2 (lee Family Farms) Eggs

½ c (Freeman Mills) Whole Wheat Flour

Slice okra in thin, shoe string size slices. Beat eggs and mix with milk. Dust okra in whole wheat flour, and shake off any excess. Dip in egg mixture, and shake off any excess. Dip in pecan breading and press to make sure breading sticks. Fry in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.


Sweet Peachy Glaze:

1 c (Wisham’s) Peach Pepper Jelly

3 Tbs Franks Hot Sauce

Place in pan and heat until melted.



Shred Tomme and add to chilled grits.  Bngchtydk5e6dtcgbn  nbh.gylt6o56r7fujv klbn’jbhgtfyrfdessdb vbchrwqw45eForm small 2 inch cakes with chilled grits. Dip top and bottom of grits cake in egg and milk wash. Dip into pecan crust. Heat 2-3 Tbs olive oil in large pan. Cook top and bottom of grits cakes in hot oil until golden brown. Cover during browning process to cook through or finish in a 350 degree oven.

Place grits cake on serving dish. Top with sautéed shrimp and country ham gravy. Toss fried okra in sweet peach glaze and garnish to finish.

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