You would think that someone that cooks as much as would get a lot of specific requests from family members, especially from her husband. In my case, though, you would be wrong. When I ask him what he would like for me to cook for dinner each week, he might have one suggestion. He says I’m just “better at meal planning” than he is. Riiiiight. Oh well. He often goes to the grocery store for me, so I can’t complain. And at least he doesn’t say “Spaghetti?” every week like he used to when we were first married.
Still, you would think that at least he could muster up a request for his birthday. Everyone has something specific they’d like to have for their birthday, right?
While my mom knew immediately what she wanted me to make for her birthday (shepherd’s pie, by the way) Philip never has an answer. I guess he just likes everything I cook so much that he didn’t have much of an opinion, but I like to make something “special”, something that isn’t an “everyday” sort of dinner. Lucky for me, his birthday fell on a Friday this year, so time wasn’t really an issue. I didn’t even bother to ask him what he wanted. I just made shrimp & grits.
On our honeymoon, we visited Savannah and Charleston, home of the revered “low-country cuisine”. Shrimp & grits is, of course, one of the mainstays of low-country cooking, but I don’t recall Philip ever ordering shrimp & grits in either of those locations. In fact, for the first several years that we were married, he didn’t like shrimp. I have no idea when the transformation took place, but at some point he went from disliking shrimp to liking it very, very much. His obsession with shrimp & grits started when we visited FoodWorks for a reunion and it happened to be one of the items on the limited menu being offered.
Over the last five or six years, Philip has eaten a lot of shrimp & grits. Enough to know what he likes and what he doesn’t. What he likes? Well, there are two essential elements to his “ideal” shrimp & grits: (a) fried grit cakes; and (b) cream-based sauce. These may not be traditional, but tradition doesn’t dictate taste. He’s never ordered anything else at FoodWorks, but they were unseated from their “best shrimp & grits” throne by Market Street Tavern. Sadly, MST closed a few months back, so I guess FoodWorks has their crown back. Or maybe I can have the crown now? By the way, I served this with pimento cheese biscuits, which had to earn me at least a few additional points….
Shrimp & Grits
|Prep time||30 minutes|
|Cook time||45 minutes|
|Total time||1 hours, 15 minutes|
|Meal type||Main Dish|
- 1 cup quick grits
- 4 cups milk (I used whole milk)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1lb shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 4oz country ham (diced)
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8oz tomato sauce
- 2 green onions
- salt & pepper
You may have noticed that I do not salt & pepper the shrimp. In fact, I didn't even add salt at the end of cooking. The ham is very salty, so be very conservative with the salt until you taste the final product!
|At least an hour and up to a day ahead, make the grits: combine the milk and the teaspoon of salt in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the grits and whisk until the mixture comes back to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover. Cook, whisking occasionally, for about five minutes or until grits are thickened and tender. Watch carefully as they will boil over if you don't stir them from time to time. Spread the grits in a buttered 8x8 pan, cover, and refrigerate (alternately, you could line the pan with plastic wrap, which is actually what I did).|
|When you are ready to prepare the shrimp & grits, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a sheet pan inside to heat. Cut the grits into quarters then cut each quarter from corner to corner to form two triangles. Preheat a tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook the grit cakes in two batches until brown on both sides, adding more butter before the second batch. Place on the sheet pan to keep warm.|
|Wipe out the skillet and heat another tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Sauté the ham and the shrimp until the shrimp turns opaque and is cooked through, then remove and keep warm (I wrap them in aluminum foil.|
|Heat the final three tablespoons of butter over medium heat until melted and beginning to bubble. Whisk in the flour and cook until it begins to brown, about one minute. Gradually add the cream, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, then add the tomato sauce and cook until heated through.|
|Add the ham and shrimp to the creamy tomato sauce. Stir and heat briefly then salt and pepper to taste. Divide the grit cakes among four dishes and evenly divide the creamy tomato sauce over the top. Top with chopped green onions.|