Fabulous fresh shrimp featured this week

Published 12:04 am Saturday, September 7, 2013

I cannot get enough of good sweet shrimp. Every visit to the seafood store I always buy one pound for using that day and one for freezing. But I am picky about what kind of shrimp I buy. Never from China!

More and more consumers are demanding seafood that is natural, traceable, and sustainable. Since I am close to Louisiana I try to buy their wild caught, local shrimp. They are caught fresh and not frozen with any preservatives. I can buy a pound of medium shrimp for about $5.99 a pound at Tony’s Seafood in Baton Rouge, La., and I consider that a bargain. I miss Joe Patti’s in Pensacola, Fla.

I went to a one-hour lecture on Southern Culture and Food at the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, N.C., last week and it did not tell me a lot of new things. But the speaker did remind me that the late Bill Neal was the chef who started using shrimp and grits together in 1982. Mr. Neal was a food writer and he published several cookbooks before he died. He influenced many young chefs across the South and his dish of shrimp and grits is still on the menu of his famous restaurant, Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C. I have not eaten there but there was a Crook’s Corner in Wilmington, N.C., in the 80s, and I remember eating shrimp and grits there. Neal, according to Craig Claiborne, reinvented a low country breakfast dish to an entrée, which is now served all over the South.

It seems that every restaurant has their own version of shrimp and grits these days. Well, I even have my own after years of working on this dish. I had one version of this dish at Stanton Hall in Natchez, Miss., some while ago, and I did come home and duplicate it. The treatment of this shrimp dish was the use of a fried grits cake with a tomato sauce on top. Here is my take on this recipe.

Shrimp and Grits from Stanton Hall

(My version of Chef Bingo Starr’s)

2 servings

Make a pan of stone ground grits and cut out two squares and fry them in olive oil until crisp. About four minutes per side.

Sauté eight shrimp in 1 tablespoon of butter and add 1 tablespoon of Creole seasoning while they are sautéing. About three minutes.

Make a sauce of 1 cup of diced tomatoes, sautéed in 2 tablespoons olive oil with I green pepper chopped and ½ of a chopped onion. Cook for eight minutes.

Make a small sauce of 2 tablespoons Worchester sauce and 3 tablespoons butter and stir until well blended about two minutes.

To serve: Put one half of the Worchester sauce swirled around the bottom of the plate. Place one fried grit square on top of this. Place four shrimps on top of the grit cake. Lastly, put the tomato sauce on top of the shrimp. Another take on ‘shrimp and grits’ but quite good, I thought.

I found the original Shrimp and Grits recipe from Crook’s Corner. I use it somewhat but sometimes add different spices such as tarragon or whatever might be in the garden. But this recipe is a good guide for your next dinner of shrimp and grits.

Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits

From Bill Neal’s cookbook, Southern Cooking

4 servings

2 cups water

1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth

¾ cup half-and-half

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup regular grits

¾ cups shredded Cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter

½ teaspoon hot sauce

¼ teaspoon white pepper

3 bacon slices

1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

¼ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sliced mushrooms

½ cup chopped green onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

Lemon wedges

Bring first four ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Add cheddar cheese and the next four ingredients. Keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and salt; dredge with flour.

Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet five minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté two minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté two minutes or until shrimp are lightly brown. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and cook two more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.

Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon; serve with lemon wedges.