Last week, I shot a little commercial for SAY Media here in my apartment and the food stylist (who ended up being my friend Brett) came with tons of ingredients and left many behind. Most significantly: a bag of shrimp.
On Saturday morning, I decided I wanted to put that shrimp to work along with a bag of very authentic grits that I picked up in Charleston, South Carolina. At first, I thought I might wing it, doing the fast technique that Chef Peter Dale taught me for my cookbook in Athens, GA (it’s a great combination of chorizo, shrimp, and arugula); but then I thought it might be fun to do a more traditional shrimp and grits, and since I was using Charleston grits I turned to the Lee Bros.
Their recipe involves tomatillos and jalapeños, which I didn’t have, so I used their recipe more as a prompt than an actual guide. To start, I got out my bag of Charleston grits:
Following the directions on the side of the bag, I poured 1 1/3 cup into a big red bowl:
Covered them with water and then drained off the water and any debris that floated to the top:
Then I heated 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk, along with a teaspoon of salt, and when it was simmering I stirred in the grits. Lowered the heat and 45 minutes later, I added a pat of butter and they were crazy delicious:
As for the shrimp, the key to the process is making a quick stock with the shrimp shells. I was in a little bit of a bind because most of the shrimp in my little bag didn’t have shells, but I took off what I could find, added them to a pot with 3 cups of water, a few bay leaves, some peppercorns and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. Oh and a little salt. Up went the heat and I let that boil for 20 minutes:
Then I strained that into a measuring glass, yielding about 1 1/2 cups (perfect):
Prep-wise, I chopped half a yellow onion and a red pepper (the recipe calls for green pepper and yellow pepper, but I didn’t have those):
Now it’s time to bring all of this together. In a cast iron skillet, render a few strips of bacon that you cut into lardons:
When the bacon’s crispy, lift it out on to a plate (set aside) and add some butter to the hot pan.
(Note: I added too much butter and lifted that out before it fully melted, stirring it into the grits instead.)
Then add your veg with a pinch of salt:
While that’s cooking, whisk together a tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of your shrimp stock:
Pour your shrimp stock into the pan with the vegetables:
Whisk in the flour mixture and add a chopped tomato (this was my own touch since I didn’t have tomatillos and jalapeños):
Let that all cook together until it’s nice and thick and tasty (be sure to taste here) then add all of your shrimp.
Stir those in and in about 2 minutes they’ll be done.
Hey look, you made authentic shrimp and grits. Spoon some grits into a bowl (don’t those look good?):
Top with your shrimp mixture, the reserved bacon and some chopped parsley (or cilantro which is what I had):
Just goes to show you: sometimes taking the longer route yields big rewards. I’m going to write a poem about that some day.