Cast-Iron Recipe: Sautéed Shrimp and Okra

Peter Frank Edwards; Illustration by Lara Tomlin
by Jessica Mischner and Jed Portman - South Carolina - August/September 2014

Chef BJ Dennis combines two staples of Gullah/Geechee cuisine to create a classic Lowcountry dish

BJ Dennis>Click here for more cast-iron recipes

“I eat okra every week—some way, somehow,” says BJ Dennis. “I’ll make a gumbo. I’ll eat okra by itself, just sautéed. I’ll deep-fry it, too. It’s my favorite vegetable.” It’s also a powerful symbol of history and place for Dennis, a Charleston native with deep roots in the city’s Gullah/Geechee community. Not only has he been eating okra his entire life, but the easy-growing crop was also one of the last things his grandfather planted on the Daniel Island family farm before old age took him out of the field. And as Dennis points out, it’s been a part of his family history for much longer than that. “It came from Africa,” he says. “Culturally, it’s in my DNA.” Shrimp, abundant in South Carolina waters, is another staple of the Gullah/Geechee diet, and a natural companion to the chopped okra and other garden-fresh vegetables in this one-skillet meal or side dish.

Sautéed Shrimp and Okra
Serves 4-6
From BJ Dennis, freelance chef
Charleston, South Carolina

Vegetable oil
1½ lbs. chopped okra
1 lb. peeled shrimp
2–3 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced chile pepper
1 tsp. minced ginger
½ cup diced onion
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Minced parsley, to taste
Minced thyme, to taste
1 cup diced tomato

Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add just enough oil to coat the bottom. Add okra and cook until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. (If okra starts to stick, add more oil.) Then add the next 5 ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes. Next, add herbs and tomato, including seeds and juice, to the skillet. Cook until shrimp is ready, 2 to 3 minutes more. If desired, add more salt and pepper before serving.