Being an Okie, one could argue that I am not a true Southerner and for that matter, I would have a hard time disagreeing. Southern or not, I do love southern cooking and have had the pleasure of traveling throughout the South sampling some truly exceptional cuisine.
When I was young, our family often made our way down to the Mississippi Delta region to visit some lifelong family friends. Like all good southern families, these friends had grown up in the region for many generations and rarely had a reason to venture outside the bubble. As a result of their sedentary lifestyles, the Delta has developed into a truly unique region, steep in tradition and good ole southern hospitality. In the eyes of Delta folk, “slow and easy wins the race”.
Throughout the years memories of the Delta have faded, but one memory that seems as vivid and clear as the day it was created would be that of my first bowl of Shrimp and Grits. Originally created as a seasonal breakfast dish by local fishermen, Shrimp and Grits is the definition of Low Country cuisine and is considered a true Southern staple. And although I could never convince our family friends to share with me their family recipe, I have been able to recreate something pretty darn close, but of course with a little “Twist”.
2 c chicken stock
1 c stone-ground cornmeal
1 c heavy cream
1 T butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb Spanish Chorizo, cut ¼ inch thick **
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T all-purpose flour
1 c chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 T flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ c green onions, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
Grits: In a large sauce pan, bring chicken stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Slowly stir in cornmeal and reduce to medium-low. Simmer approximately 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once grits become smooth and thick, remove from heat and stir in cream, butter, salt and pepper.
Shrimp: While grits are cooking, add half of olive oil to a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season shrimp with Bayou Cajun Seasoning and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Once shrimp turn opaque in color, remove from skillet and set aside. Next add remaining olive oil and chorizo and brown for approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Once browned, add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until onions begin to turn translucent. Next, sprinkle in flour to make roux. Slowly pour in chicken stock, stirring continuously. Once incorporated, add bay leaf and simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes. Just before serving, add shrimp and allow reheating. Season with salt and pepper.
Plating: Spoon cooked grits in individual serving bowls. Place several shrimp on top of grits and pouring gravy over the top. Sprinkle with parsley and green onions. Serve immediately.
* Bourbon Street Painting by Debra Hurd
** Spanish Chorizo is different than Mexican Chorizo. Spanish chorizo is flavored differently and precooked.