I once described myself as “Northerner trapped in a Southerner’s body.” I come from Pensacola, Florida. Most people don’t consider Florida to be very Southern. Generally, you think of beaches, key limes, Miami and Disney World (not to be confused with Disneyland!). Sure, that’s Florida too. But Northwest Florida is very Southern. It’s deep in the heart of the Redneck Riviera and I grew up on sweet tea, grits, and fried chicken. I will, very occasionally, drop a “y’all” in my conversation, though it mostly happens if I’ve had too many adult beverages or too few hours of sleep. And I have mastered the use of the phrase, “Bless Your Heart.”
When I left the P-funk to strike out on my own, I followed my Northern heart and moved to New York City. I spent five years there before moving to SoCal almost two years ago. I love New York. It feels much more like my home than Pensacola ever did. That said, there are definite things I miss about being in the South. Mostly the food. Southern food is good.
Now, New York arguably has the greatest food in the entire world. Living there I fell in love with about 900 different kinds of food I’d never experienced before. Occasionally, though, when I got a little homesick for my childhood favorites, I’d seek out some Southern fare. Just a few blocks from my old place, I discovered Mara’s Homemade. One Sunday at brunch, Mara suggested the special, Shrimp and Grits. I’d never heard of this concoction, but I do love shrimp. And I would marry grits if it were legal to marry a food product. Bring it, Mara.
I fell in love. Where had this shrimp and grits been all my life? How did I grow up in the South and never find this lovely gem until I moved North? I needed to find a way to recreate it at home.
I ended up combining a couple different recipes for my new favorite meal. Adapted from the Jim Shirley’s Good Grits Southern Boy Cooks! recipe for Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits and Joe Barnett’s shrimp recipe. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken, because I had it in the pantry. Side note: Jim Shirley’s Fish House is in my hometown of Pensacola. If you ever find yourself there, check it out and order the Grits a Ya Ya.
Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits
1 quart of vegetable stock
1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound grits (original recipe called for Dixie Lily).
1/4 pound shredded smoked Gouda cheese
Run the vegetable stock into a thick-bottomed saucepan and turn on high til it boils. Mix in the grits and stir like you’ll never need your arms again. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook about 40 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes. Add cream if you need more liquid. Then tumble in the butter, drizzle in the rest of the cream and stir till it’s all in the family. Slowly add in the shredded cheese and stir very well until it’s smooth.
*I found I definitely needed an extra bit of cream to get the right consistency. The original ingredient list I found didn’t include butter, but mentioned it in the directions so I used about a 1/4 c.
1 1/2 pounds (26-30 count) uncooked, tail on shrimp (original recipe called for Wild Georgia Shrimp. I live in LA, so I got Trader Joe’s. It worked.)
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (I used Slap Ya Mama from Ville Platte, LA. My partially Cajun husband also enjoys Tony Chachere’s.)
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce)
First, thaw and peel the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning, paprika, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the shrimp to coat well and set the shrimp aside.
Next, saute the shrimp. In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add in the spice-coated shrimp, and cook only until they’re just done and tender. Don’t overcook. Remove the shrimp from the saute pan and set them aside in a bowl. Taste one! Lady Butterbuns was once appalled that I sent something out of my kitchen without even tasting it, so now I always taste!
Next comes your roux. Using the drippings from the shrimp in the saute pan, add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stir with a wooden spatula to make a roux. Stir it constantly so it doesn’t burn. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes until roux reaches a medium-tan color, then slowly add the vegetable stock and heavy whipping cream. Whisk together and cook for 2 minutes, then whisk in Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Set aside.
To serve, top your cheese grits with the shrimp. I served it in my crock-pot so it would stay warm for my party. It worked perfectly.
Kiss my grits,