07 November 2009

Shrimp & Gritness

SNOB, East Bay St., Charleston, S.C.

My, my, my. I'm not a lowcountry cook by birth and have tended to avoid messing with the sacredness of grits in Charleston. That may have changed. I was snooping around the spicelines blog and found her adaptation of the Slightly North of Broad recipe for Shrimp and Grits. I licked my plate. I served it to a Charleston native and happily passed inspection with flying colors. Yum.

S.N.O.B.’s Spicy Shrimp and Grits with Tomato, Country Ham and Cayenne

(adapted from chef Frank Lee’s recipe for Maverick Grits from Slightly North of Broad)

To serve four
Ingredients for the grits:
1-1/4 cup stone ground yellow grits (see note)
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup cream

Method for the grits:
1. Rinse the grits in a large bowl of water. With your hand, scoop out any bran or hulls floating on top of the water. Drain well.
2. Combine the water, salt and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the grits and stir. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 28 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the grits stick to the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat and stir more frequently. As Bill Neal notes, “a long slow cooking is necessary to produce the correct, creamy consistency which is still punctuated by a slight pebbly contrast.”
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Keep warm.
Note: Check the directions on the back of your bag of grits. I used Carolina Favorite Stone Ground Grits, which called for 28 minutes of cooking time, which seemed about right once the grits were done. Other brands may take longer. It also called for more salt, but I used Lee’s recommended 1/2 teaspoon.

Ingredients for the topping:
2/3 pound shrimp, 26-35 ct.
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces country ham, julienned
4 ounces smoked pork sausage, or one link andouille sausage, cut into rounds
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of Cajun spice, or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 cup fresh tomato, seeded and diced
4 tablespoons green onion, tops only, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock or water

Method for the topping:
1. While the grits are cooking, peel and devein the shrimp. If desired, swish the shrimp in a bowl of cool, salted water to remove any impurities. Repeat. Finish with a cool water rinse, drain and set aside.
2. When the grits are ready, prepare the topping. In a large skillet, sauté the shrimp in a tablespoon of butter over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Remove and set aside.
3. In the same skillet, sauté the country ham and sausage for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through. Taste the sausage for spiciness.
4. Add the garlic and cayenne, if using, and sauté 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and green onions and sauté 30 seconds.
5. Return the shrimp to the skillet, add water or chicken broth and simmer briefly. Swirl in the remaining tablespoon of butter.
6. To serve, spoon four equal portions of the grits into four bowls. Place 5 or 6 shrimp on top of each portion of grits and spoon on equal parts of the topping, including some of the liquid. Serve at once.

I skipped the country ham and didn't miss it but otherwise pretty much followed the directions. I'll be cooking this again. It's worth a try. I promise.