Shrimp n’ Grits – Heartland Style

February 16, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Rob Gardner

No, this is not another mea culpa post.  Valentine’s day: the bubbly came from Michigan (L. Mawby), the sauteed Swiss chard came from an indoor grower based in Iowa, the grits, the whole raison d’etre for the rest of the dinner, originated in Ted’s “mill” (Ted’s Grains).  And how does a Yankee boy make his shrimp n’ grits?

We especially needed a grits dish because my wife, as she is wont, made two nights earlier, enough grits for revival meeting.  Cooking for a family of four really does chafe at her.  My younger daughter, I believe, hit on the idea solution for our planned romantic family dinner, the shrimp n’.  An especially apt choice as between Vie burgers on Friday and anticipated Korean BBQ on Sunday, we wanted something more carbon friendly on Saturday.  Shrimps are hardly local to Chicago, but for reasons I might be able to figure out, have been pretty associated with Chicago cuisine.  There’s the tradition of fried shrimp shacks (cf) and there was a time when no aspiring chef in Chicago did not think to have shrimp de jonghe on the menu.  So, I’m kinda claiming shrimps as local.

Shrimp n’ grits, however, is a dish mostly associated with the South, and especially Charleston, SC.  It turns out there’s even a whole book on shrimp n’ grits recipes (which amazingly enough was in stock for guidance at the Oak Park Border’s on Saturday).  I’d say that over half the the recipes consist of nothing more than sauteing the shrimps in some butter, adding something tasty to said butter.  There’s also a school of shrimp n’ grits that makes a tomato gravy.  Being a bit mindful of our waistlines, we went for the tomato version.  It helps that we have put-up local tomato sauce.

My improvised recipe derived from another low country classic, country captain, which combines tomato sauce with curry powder.   An easy prep: sweat one minced shallot and a few cloves of garlic in a bit of oil; add about 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger, a quart or so of tomato sauce, a dose of curry powder, a drop or two of soy sauce and something for heat, like some red pepper flakes or a bit of cayenne.  Let it come to a simmer.  Drop in the shrimps, ideally still in their shells, and cook until they just turn pink.  Heap over grits with the red sauce for love.

A word of warning on Ted’s Grain’s corn grits.  These are seriously gritty grits.  You will be rewarded for the effort, but you need the effort.  Expect well over an hour for the grits to fully cook.  It helps, as in our case, to have the grits already made, just needing to be re-heated.

How local was your Valentine’s dinner?