Having been stationed at Air Force bases in Texas and Mississippi, “when I wore a younger man’s clothes,” I became intimately familiar with Grits, as they were served in the mess hall at every breakfast. I recall them perfectly, white, gummy and tasteless. The only way that they became even slightly edible was drowned in butter, salt and sugar.
Last month, while visiting my cousin outside of Beaufort, South Carolina, I happened to mention that we were stopping in Charleston, as we continued on our drive north. She said to me “you have to try Shrimp and Grits, when you get to Charleston!” Recalling that gooey, bland mess to which I had been subjected while living “Down South” in the service of Uncle Sam, I thought boiled shrimp in boiled grits? Not for me!
Upon arriving in Charleston the following afternoon, we checked into the HarbourView Inn, located right in the heart of the historic district. We asked the concierge to recommend a nearby restaurant for a late lunch, and he suggested Slightly North Of Broad (SNOB), as it is just around the corner from the hotel. Sure enough, Maverick Shrimp & Grits were prominently displayed on the menu. However, the description sounded infinitely superior to the vision that was in my mind, so I thought what the heck, and went ahead and ordered them.
Having cleaned my plate of every last morsel of grits, the waitress commented that I had obviously enjoyed them. I explained my hesitation in ordering them, based on previous association, but that the dish had far exceeded my expectations. She explained that there are a variety of grits, each with differing qualities, and that theirs were stone-ground in small batches.When I inquired if Chef Lee had a cookbook, she said that unfortunately he did not, but she was kind enough to give me a copy of his recipe, which I have adapted herein. She also recommended that I visit their affiiliate, Charleston Cooks, a delightful gourmet shop next door, where I was sure to find a bag of good quality grits to take back to the north.
I hope that you try these Grits, as they will make a Grits lover out of any darn Yankee.
Shrimp & Grits
(Adapted from Slightly North of Broad, Charleston, SC)
Total Time 45 minutes – Serves 2
For the Grits:
4 cups water
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsps. Unsalted butter
1 & 1/4 cups stone ground grits
2/3-cup light cream
For the Topping:
4 oz. country ham, julienned
4 oz. Andouille sausage, cut into circles ¼ inch thick
½ fresh tomato, diced
4 scallions, sliced
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. Creole Seasoning
1 dozen medium sized shrimp, cleaned and deveined
½ cup chicken stock
Prepare the Grits:
1. In a 3 qt. pot with a heavy bottom, bring the water, salt and 1tbsp. of the butter to a boil.
2. Stir in the grits, reduce heat to low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the grits are thick and creamy (approximately 35 to 40 minutes.)
3. Remove pot from the heat, add 1 tbsp. of the butter and mix well. Add the cream and mix well again. Taste, and adjust the butter and cream to your liking. Keep warm.
While the Grits are Cooking, Prepare the Topping Ingredients:
1. Slice the ham and sausage, slice and dice the vegetables, clean the shrimp and assemble the other ingredients.
2. Heat a non-stick sauté pan and add 1 tbsp. of butter. When melted, add the ham and Andouille sausage and sauté.
3. When the meat is lightly browned, add the tomatoes, scallions and spices, and sauté for 2 or 3 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Add the shrimp and sauté for about 3 or 4 minutes until the shrimp are pink.
5. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
6. Add the remaining butter.
Divide the grits equally between two plates. Place 6 shrimp per person on the grits and spoon equal portions of the topping over each.