In recent years shrimp and grits has become an iconic dish of the South. The South is that area in the south-eastern United States, from Virginia to Texas, that is synonymous with hospitality and good cooking. When I first came to Georgia many decades ago, I wanted to become part of my new community and cooking, and sharing, became a fun hobby. I still look for new ways and new recipes.
In recent years shrimp and grits has become an iconic dish of The South. It is a favorite of mine at local restaurants and I have been developing my own version. Shrimp boats ply the waters off the Georgia coast, although the industry has declined due to heavy competition from Asian sources. Local shrimp is hard to find away from the coast. Preparing fresh shrimp is a very time-consuming chore. It goes about like this: cut off the head, crack off the shell, pull off the tail, cut a slit all the way along the back and remove the “vein”. Rinse and do the next one. After a few hours, you might have enough to cook your dish. I usually buy Gulf shrimp shelled, deveined and frozen and spend by afternoon in a more fun activity.
Local grits, however, are plentiful in every grocery. Grits is coarsely ground corn and has been a staple in these parts since long before Europeans discovered America. Traditionally grits have been prepared by boiling in water. Of course, competitive cooks have taken grits to culinary heights. Grits is often cooked in milk and loaded with cheese and butter and spices for unique and distinctive variations.
When I came across a recipe in my local paper that called for creamed corn, I was intrigued and just had to adapt it to my own ways. Fresh corn is, of course, quite different from the ground dried grits, it is softer and sweeter, and should make an interesting dish.
As luck would have it, before I could try the recipe, I saw a tweet from Garden & Gun magazine, offering “the way” to prepare Southern corn. Now any recipe that starts with crisping bacon in olive oil is really up my alley. Corn is then browned in the oil and bacon bits. Add cream, butter, and Feta cheese and finish cooking. Nobody has ever accused Southern cuisine of being diet food.
As you would expect, cooking the shrimp is not any less complicated. There must be other ingredients, or “seasonings” as an admired friend calls them. This recipe calls for bacon, of course, two red onions, one green pepper, and two large tomatoes. Also, butter, Worcestershire sauce, and a spicy pepper sauce. We don’t go for spicy food in my family, so I substitute bourbon – what could be more Southern.
But first the shrimp are marinated with salt and minced garlic for a couple of hours. The onions are then cooked with crisped bacon, olive oil and butter, slowly until they just start to caramelize. The other ingredients are then added with the shrimp going in for just the last ten minutes.
Mmm, shrimp and creamed corn. Not bad at all. A fine variation on shrimp and grits. Sorry, dear reader, that I can’t share the dish with you, there were no leftovers.