Southern Love Part 1: Saucy Shrimp and Grits

Don't ask us. Even WE don't know what this means.

For those of you who haven’t diligently read my bio ;), I’m a Virginian born and raised. Aside from the wildly disillusioned few who have tried to convince me that this means I’m not “from the South”  (perhaps they don’t teach the same History lessons everywhere…?), most people would agree that I had a pretty traditional Southern upbringing. My mother taught still teaches me the ins and outs of being a Southern lady, and my father and brothers are the truest examples of what I’ve come to expect in a Southern gentleman. This being said, I have come to realize that there are degrees of Southern. Just because I was raised in a Southern family, doesn’t mean other Virginians were made familiar with those traditions, unwritten rules, common phrases and innate hospitality. But South Carolina, y’all…South Carolina has shown me that the deeper I go, the more I find people who understand this sense of Southern pride. It’s not like every so often I find someone from a Southern family. It’s everywhere. I. turn. Bow ties. Monograms. Men holding doors. Madras on shorts, seersucker on suits, and no one thinks twice when I wear my pearl studs with a t-shirt.  Now let me back up by saying, my boyfriend holds or opens the door for me every time I get in the car and leave/enter a building. In Virginia, people compliment this behavior, seeing as it wasn’t necessarily “frequent” (sad). In South Carolina, however, no one thinks twice about it because it’s so commonplace. In Virginia you have Southern and you have Redneck (and then you have NOVA, but that’s a whole other story). But in South Carolina, even the rednecks are Southern.

At first this Southern overload surprised me. Like I said, this behavior was standard for my family but not necessarily for every 15-year-old boy walking into the movie theater or grocery store in front of me. So being in place where good manners and kindness is commonplace? Well, it’s kind of like moving to a place that feels just like home even though it’s your first time here.

On that note, since I’ve been down here, I’ve been trying to perfect some of my favorite Southern recipes and I have to say I’ve done a pretty decent job. My first shot at biscuits were pretty darn good (even though no one was here to enjoy them but me….I swear I’m not lying) and I’ve gotten my cheese straws down to a science. But there was one thing, a self-proclaimed South Carolina specialty, that I’d been putting off.

Shrimp and Grits.

Now grits?  …I’ve got the grits DOWN, y’all. If there’s one thing you can expect from me in a restaurant, it’s that I will immediately put my menu down if I see anything that involves grits or greens. Done. I’m sold. Having this much experience under my belt, you can guess that I am very well-versed on what makes good grits and what makes bad grits. The difference, you ask? Bad grits are good for you. And good grits? Well they’re bad for you.  DEAL WITH IT. But I guarantee once you have them the right way, you’ll never eat good-for-you grits again.

But I digress…  Back to my mission. I got a feeling this past weekend, that I might be ready to tackle this and as my good friend Ryan always says – You gotta chase that feeling. So Jeremy and I decided on a recipe, went to the store and got some fresh shrimp. And y’all? It. was. delicious. I’ve created a monster. I’ll now be trying shrimp and grits every which way until I find no less than five different ways that I love it. This recipe is number ONE.

Shrimp and Grits w/ Andouille  and a Jalapeno Cream Sauce

For Jalapeno Cream Sauce:

1/3 cup hot pepper sauce

1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 shallot, chopped

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tbs rice vinegar

1/2 cup whipping cream (I subbed half and half)

For Grits:

5 cups water

3 cups fat free half and half (or any milk but skim)

2 tbs butter (more if desired – I try to keep things as light as possible!)

2 cups stone ground grits

For Shrimp:

1/4 cup olive oil

8 oz andouille sausage, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup Vidalia onion, minced

4 garlic cloves

30 uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tsp Cajun seasoning

2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Directions:

1) Combine hot pepper sauce, jalapeno, wine, shallot, lemon juice and vinegar in a medium saucepan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to about 1/2 cup (about 10-15 minutes). Stir in 1/2 cup cream or half-n-half. This can be made a day ahead and kept in fridge.

2) To make grits: Bring water and milk to a boil. WHISK in grits slowly. Simmer until grits are soft and thickened, stirring frequently (about 45 min – 1 hr). Note: Whisking your grits is key. Making sure each “grit” gets wet when you first put them in will ensure they stay creamy and not clumpy.

3) Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add sausage, both bell peppers,onion and garlic – saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add shrimp, tomatoes, Cajun Seasoning and Old Bay – saute until shrimp are opaque in center, about 6 minutes.

4) Bring hot pepper sauce to a simmer. Spoon grits onto plate, spoon shrimp mixture over top of this. Top with hot pepper sauce and serve.

Serves 6.

Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2000

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