Shrimp and grits
The last time I talked about grits ("Grits go uptown," in the Feb. 26, 2004 FoodLetter), several of you wrote from Europe and a few from the Northeastern U.S. to ask me what in the heck a "grit" is.
As I wrote at the time, "The always-plural 'grits,' for those who haven't met them up close and personal, are simply ground hominy (white corn kernels with the hull and germ removed by treatment with lye), cooked as a thick porridge. Polenta or cornmeal mush are closely related and may be substituted in today's recipe if you can't get or don't like grits, although you'll lose the characteristic hominy flavor."
Grits are Southern fare, the source of some amusement to those who know them only as that glutinous, shiny white mass spotted on breakfast plates at rural truck stops south of the Mason-Dixon line.
But today's dish - a regional specialty native to the "Low Country," the coastal lowlands of South Carolina around Charleston - might just make a believer out of even the most ardent grits-phobe. Whipping in a bit of cream and a little sharp cheese turns the gritty stuff into something much more silken and comforting; simply topped with shrimp and grilled onions and crunchy bits of smoky bacon, it becomes the breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) of champions.
And yes, you can substitute polenta if you must ... but give it a try with the real thing. I don't think you'll be sorry.INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
1/2 cup (120g) white hominy grits
1. Stir the grits and salt into 2 cups cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. The grits will start to thicken as soon as the water boils. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Avoid "instant" grits, which lack the flavor and texture of the real thing, cost more and don't really save much time or effort.
2. Chop the onion coarsely and mince the garlic fine. Grate the cheese. (I used a sharp white Canadian Cheddar with the idea of keeping the grits an attractive white color, but the sunny yellow that regular Cheddar imparts is an appetizing option, too.)
3. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until it's crisp and brown. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then crumble it and set aside.
4. Pour off most of the bacon drippings, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Put it over medium heat and cook the onions and garlic until they're soft, aromatic and starting to brown. The grits should be about ready at this point and we'll be ready to assemble, so put the shrimp in the skillet with the cooked onions and garlic, tossing them once or twice, then reduce heat to very low so the shrimp will just warm through. (You can start with raw shrimp, of course, and cook them with the onions and garlic - either way, take care not to overcook.)
5. Stir the cream or crème fraiche and the cheese into the grits, adding a dash of hot sauce to taste if you like (or pass it at the table). Stir until the cheese melts and the grits become rich and creamy. Spoon onto plates or bowls and top with the shrimp and onions. Garnish with crumbled bacon and serve.
MATCHING WINE: In its native setting, this regional dish would likely be served with strong morning coffee or iced sweet tea. But it's wine-friendly and will go well with just about any dry white that would work with shrimp. A tart, bone-dry Loire white, André-Michel Brégeon 2002 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie, made a fine match. For brunch, a dry sparkler would be mighty fine ...
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Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.
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