August 12, 2008
One of the benefits of my job, is that I get to travel now and then. A couple years ago, I was at a conference in Florida. On the flight home, whoever had my seat on the previous flight, left the food section of the Atlanta Sunday paper in the seat pocket in front of me. (Thank you, whoever you were) They had an entire section on Shrimp and Grits. I had never heard of this combination before, but I love grits, and I love shrimp, so I read through the entire article, along with the 3-4 different recipes for it. The article mentioned that it was a dish originating from Charleston, S.C.
When I got home, I tried a very simple version of this dish, by sauteing some shrimp, and dumping them on top a bowl of grits. Somewhat anticlimatic.
Fast forward to a few months ago, -- I had a conference in Charleston, S.C. Let me tell you, Charleston is a foodie's Mecca! So I found a place that served Shrimp and Grits, and it was Amazing-good! I ate like I was at a trough! So when I got home, I attempted to put together what I'd had in Charleston, and at the risk of sounding prideful, I nailed it! This recipe will produce a version of the famed Shrimp-n-Grits that will satisfy a Charleston native, I promise you.
The key is in the shrimp stock. I'm somewhat fortunate in that most of the grocery stores in my area sell small tubs of steamed shrimp which I take home and snack on while watching TV. I always put the shells in a bowl, and on my way to bed, put them in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Whenever I need some shrimp stock, I pull a handful of shells and tails in some water, and boil it for about 5 minutes. At the end of that, -- I strain the stock and toss the shells. The resulting stock is already well seasoned, from the shrimp shells the grocery store steamed for me. If you're using shells and tails from raw shrimp, just toss some Old Bay in with them. The stock is used in the gravy, and as the liquid for the grits. So without a good shrimp stock, this recipe will be chancy at best. BUT, -- with a good stock, you can't miss. And the best part is, you get to enjoy the shrimp twice! First as a snack, then as the stock for this dish. Now, sans further adieu, -- my version of Shrimp and Grits.
Shrimp and Grits
1 lb. shrimp (51-60)
1 smoked boneless ham slice
2 links Spanish chorizo (or Andouille)
3-4 scallions, green part sliced thinly
1 Roma tomato (diced)
6-6.5 cups shrimp stock (divided)
1 cup grits
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Cut the chorizo links in half lengthwise, then crosswise into half moon slices
Dice the ham in about 1/2 inch cubes.
Peel and get the tails off the shrimp.
Slice the scallions, set aside
Dice the tomato, set aside
Put a saute pan on the front burner, med - med high heat. Put a sauce pan on the back burner, very low heat, covered.
Saute the chorizo slices, ham, and shrimp then transfer to the sauce pan. (the sausage will make it's own juice)
Melt the butter in the sauce pan, then whisk in the flour to make a roux. You'll want a very light roux.
A ladle at a time, ladle in some of the shrimp stock, until what you have is a nice gravy-like consistency. You may want to add another pat of butter, or some cream, (I added both).
When the gravy looks good, add salt and pepper to taste. (At this point, the gravy might resemble chipped beef gravy, without the chipped beef.)
Pour it into the sauce pan and stir everything together.
Now cover the sauce pan and let it keep simmering, stirring now and then. While the different meats have been in there getting acquainted, they've continued to release some of their juices, which will blend now with the gravy and make the whole concoction absolutely delightful.
Now you should have about 4 cups of shrimp stock left. If not, add water until it comes up to 4 cups, and bring it to a boil.
Whisk in your grits, let them boil a bit, then back them down to a simmer. Once they're at the right consistency, you're ready to plate everything.
Put a nice bed of grits down on the plate.
Top this with a ladleful of your shrimp-ham-chorizo gravy.
Now sprinkle some sliced scallions on top of that, and finish with a sprinkling of diced tomatoes, and some parsley if you have it.
You could put this down on any table in Charleston, and it would pass muster.