Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shrimp and Grits

If ever there were a dish that screamed "Charleston!", Shrimp and Grits would be it. The following recipe records what I made in my latest cooking class on Low Country cuisine.

I've tasted many dozens of versions of this dish and they're all good. I guarantee that my version, informed by my sensibilities and the ingredients available to me in my locale, is different from what your ancestors might have made, but it suits me to a T. That is to say that I am treading on some sacred ground here: I'm not a native Sandlapper and I know already that your grandmother makes the world's best version of Shrimp and Grits. People have started small land wars over the "correct" version of Shrimp and Grits, for goodness sake.

I don't want any part of your little wars. Just remember that while this isn't grandma's shrimp and grits, you might actually find you like it, if you can bring yourself to make it.

The first thing to talk about is grits. I have told you all I need to tell you in my recent posted entitled Grits 101. In that post, I introduce a couple of new tricks that you old dogs should probably read. If your grits suck and you didn't read my post, don't blame me. And, if you did read my post and your grits still suck, don't blame me either: I didn't cook them!

The next thing to talk about is shrimp. What you want is very fresh, small, head on shrimp right out of your own net. But, if you're like me, that's not happening in your neighborhood until Hell freezes over. If you've got some, by all means, bring them down to the restaurant and I will personally make the Shrimp and Grits for you. All the fat in the head of the shrimp will make this dish mind-blowingly good. Sadly, I'm using 16-20 count peeled and deveined Gulf brown shrimp, available at a supermarket near you.

My version of Shrimp and Grits has a lemony butter sauce redolent of thyme and smoky from Surry sausage. The following recipe serves four.

Shrimp and Grits

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 shallots, thinly sliced vertically
4 Surry sausages, diced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 bunch green onions, bias cut into 3/4-inch segments
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 lemons
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons cold sweet butter, diced
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil on medium high heat. Add the shallots and Surry sausages and cook until the shallots start to brown. Then add the shrimp and cook about half way. Add the garlic, green onions, thyme, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Stir well and add the juice of two lemons and the white wine to the pan. Let the liquid reduce by three fourths as the shrimp finish cooking. Off the heat, swirl in the butter to thicken the sauce and season to taste. Serve immediately.

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