The fall season is here. We set the clocks back to celebrate Halloween and a Blue Full Moon! The weather is a little crisp here in the lowcountry so, I thought it was time to break out some Shrimp & Grits. Shrimp & Grits have become a popular lowcountry dish since the mid 80's when then New York Times restaurant critic, Craig Claiborne, wrote about the dish that was cooked by Chef William Neal, at Crook's Corner restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. If you visit Charleston, SC and other cities in the South, you are likely to find a version of the dish on restaurant menus. Over the years, the dish has evolved and Chefs' take liberties from the original, creating a dish inspired by the original, often a personal rendition.
Because I live in Charleston, and have access to great local ingredients, I try best to pay an homage to the original, while adapting to my own whims based on mood, occasion, ingredients on hand etc. There really is a lot of latitude when it comes to preparing the dish in my opinion, as long as you start with a couple of the basics. For me, the basics include; Fresh head on Shrimp, high quality coarse grits and shrimp stock.
This recent version I prepared includes; Heirloom stone ground white grits from Anson Mills, fresh white shrimp from nearby Geechie Seafood, Sapelo Island Clams from Abundant Seafood, a blend of three different spices from the Charleston Spice Co., honey mushrooms from Out of the Weeds, kielbasa sausage from Storey Farms, green onions, crushed tomato, tomato paste, homemade shrimp stock. Every ingredient was sourced locally by responsible producers.
I was also able to find some beautiful hard green tomatoes at the Sea Island Farmer's Market from Bernard Freeman's Farm on Johns Island. They made a special treat after I sliced them, put into seasoned buttermilk, then dredged in cornmeal, and fried them in a cast iron skillet! The perfect accompaniment to our brunch. Another unique feature was an Apple Butter Bread made by local Artisan Bread Baker, Justin Cherry, of Half Crown Bakehouse.
Serves 2-4 persons
- 1lb fresh shrimp (20-25 count) preferably from the Atlantic coast or gulf coast
- 1 C sweet onions or green
- 18-20 little neck clams, preferably Sapelo Island
- sweet or spicy peppers (optional)
- 1 t minced garlic
- 1 C shrimp or shellfish broth
- 1 C crushed tomatoes, pomi brand
- 1 T tomato paste
- 2 ea. Kielbasa Sausages cut into 1/2 inch disks
- 1 C mushrooms like, shiitake or baby bellas or bunshimeji or your preference
- 1/2 cup of bacon or pancetta or lardo, diced
- 1 T Old Bay
- 1 T Harissa spice blend
- 1/2 T of Paul Prudhomes Cajun Magic
- fresh ground black pepper (use a mill)
- kosher salt
- Lemon (optional)
- 1/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 C coarse white grits, preferably Anson Mills
- 5 C water
- 2 T unsalted butter
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
To Cook Grits:
- Start with bringing 4 C of water in a 4 qt. sauce pot to a boil.
- Whisk grits into the boiling water and reduce the heat too low. I move to my smallest burner, sometimes even adding a diffuser under the pot if heat is too much still.
- You must stir frequently to avoid clumping and sticking to the bottom.
- After 45 minutes, add last cup of water to the grits and season with salt and pepper, stir.
- Continue to cook until thickened, not watery, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Add Butter and stir. Keep hot until ready to serve.
- De-vain shrimp, season with Kosher salt, and 1/2 of the other spices, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat and place in refrigerator until needed
- Purge clams. To purge, cover with water in a small bowl and sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt in to create a salt water condition. place in refrigerator. Repeat every 20 minutes 3X's. After 3rd rinse, drain water and reserve clams until needed. This will remove any grittiness caused by sand. NO GRITTY CLAMS!!!
- Dice or slice onions and bacon or pancetta or lardo, whichever you chose.
- Place oil and heat a large cast iron skillet, add pork, kielbasa sausage, mushrooms and cook until a little color begins to show.
- Add onions, garlic and other half of the spices, stir and continue to cook until a paste begins to form.
- Add crushed tomato and tomato paste, and stir
- Add Shrimp broth and simmer for 5 mins.
- Add Clams and cover for 2 minutes
- Add Shrimp, cover and cook until clams have opened and shrimp is done
- Start by ladling 6-8oz of creamy grits into middle of plate.
- Then, begin to spoon even amounts of shrimp, clams, sausage, mushrooms and broth on to grits until you have desired serving per plate.
For brunch, a light crisp white from the Loire Valley like a Chenin Blanc or a Pinot Gris from Alsace or Rose' from Provence.