Tuesday, July 5, 2011

1402 palmetto shrimp & grits

First, a confession:  although I've lived in the Carolinas my whole life, until this weekend I had never made shrimp and grits. (I still haven't been to a NASCAR race or seen Gone with the Wind...I have a long way to go.)

Although I grew up in the South, my mom was an Air Force kid so we didn't eat your typical southern cuisine. We called our evening meal "supper," but it was more likely to be Chinese stir fry than chicken-fried steak.

If you know southern cooking, you probably know the Lee Bros...and if, like me, you have just started to get acquainted with it, their Southern Cookbook is a great introduction.

My recently wed sister and brother-in-law used this as a guestbook at their wedding this spring, and lucky for me they also gave copies as bridesmaid gifts. This is the kind of cookbook you can actually read, with stories to go along with every recipe and pictures that make you want to jump in and eat what's on the page.

I'm making my way through the recipes slowly but surely, and I thought I'd start with an essentially Charleston dish: shrimp & grits. My family changed it up a little to suit our tastes and what we had on hand, so for now, in honor of our beach house, I'm calling it 1402 Palmetto Shrimp & Grits.


1402 palmetto shrimp & grits 
adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook (83 East Bay Street Shrimp & Grits) 
4 servings

shrimp stock
   1 1/2 lbs headless large shrimp
   3 c water
   1/2 tsp peppercorns
   1/2 tsp celery seeds
   1 bay leaf, in pieces
   1 tsp kosher salt
   1 tsp ground red pepper (if you like things spicy) 
   1 1/2 c stone-ground grits (recommended:  Anson Mills)
   1 1/2 c whole milk
   3 c water
   kosher salt and black pepper to taste
   kernels from 3 ears of sweet corn 
   1 lb tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes)
   1 tbsp olive oil
   1/4 lb andouille sausage, diced
   1 small green bell pepper, chopped
   1 small yellow onion, chopped
   1 tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
   kosher salt and black pepper to taste
   handful chopped chives, to garnish (optional)

Peel shrimp, reserving the shells. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add shells and rest of stock ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the stock and reserve. Discard shells.

While stock simmers, stir grits into a bowl of cold water and allow to settle. Corn hulls may float to the surface. Skim off hulls and drain grits. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and 3 c water to a boil over high heat. Add grits, stirring to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce heat to medium, add salt and cook, stirring occasionally

Once grits thicken (about 10 minutes), reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently and adding water if grits become too stiff. Cook until grits are fluffy and creamy, 35 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir in corn kernels.

While grits cook, place tomatoes in a medium roasting pan or cast-iron skillet. Broil them about 3 inches from the flame or heating element, turning as their skins blacken, until they’re blackened all over, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a food processor or blender and pulse to a soupy liquid, about three 1-second pulses. Press the liquid through a food mill or coarse strainer into a medium bowl.

Pour olive oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or sauté pan set over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and with a slotted spoon move the pieces around until they are browned, about 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and onion and sauté until they just begin to soften, about 2 minutes.

Pour 2 tablespoons of the shrimp stock into a small bowl, add the flour and whisk until it becomes a smooth paste. Pour remaining shrimp stock into the skillet with the sausage, pepper, and onion. When the mixture reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook at a vigorous simmer until vegetables have softened.

Add flour paste to pan, whisking vigorously to distribute flour evenly. Add sieved tomato mixture to skillet, stirring, and return to a simmer. Cook until the mixture turns into a gravy thick enough to coat the back of a spoon heavily, 10 to 12 minutes more.

Add shrimp to gravy and continue cooking until they are pink and cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide grits among 4 plates and ladle the shrimp and gravy on top. Garnish with chives.

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