Stella's Shrimp and Grits

Ever since we returned from South Carolina I have had a hankering for shrimp and grits. Each of the five versions we sampled on the trip were slightly different - one incarnation included andouille, another featured tomatoes, another a brown bacon-based gravy, and yet another a garlicky wine-based sauce. All were good, but none were the holy grail.

When I got back home, I casted about for the right recipe, but nothing sounded perfect. So I decided to do my own thing, which is the way I prefer to cook, anyway. This time, though, I uncharacteristically took notes. Be glad I did, because judging from the happy noises coming from my crustacean-loving dinner guests, I think this was a hit.

Stella's Shrimp and Grits
(Named in honor of my favorite southerner, who introduced me to the dish)

Timing is important here - you don't want the shrimp to be waiting for the grits to get done. This timeline worked for me:

1. Prepare the saute, but don't add the shrimp.
2. Prepare the grits. When they are done, add the shrimp to the saute.
3. Finish the grits with butter and cream.
4. When shrimp are done, divide grits into four shallow, wide bowls and top with the shrimp saute.
5. Say ooh and ahh and groan alot while eating.

Shrimp saute:

1 lb medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
3-4 oz. andouille sausage link, halved and sliced
olive oil
1 rib celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 large red pepper, diced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup good chicken stock
pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
pinch dried thyme, or handful of fresh
fresh ground black pepper
kosher salt

In a large pan, saute the onions, celery, and garlic in 1/2 butter, 1/2 olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes and saute just until they start to break down. Add red and green pepper and sausage and saute another couple minutes. Add seasonings and chicken stock and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Raise heat and add shrimp. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 or 3 minutes, just until shrimp curl and loose transparency. Do not overcook shrimp. Serve over shallow bowls of creamy grits.

Creamy grits:
1/2 cup white hominy grits, preferably stone ground. Not quick-cooking.
2.25 cups good chicken stock (home made, preferrably)
2 T butter
2-4 T half & half or cream
kosher salt to taste

Prepare grits according to package directions, but substituting chicken stock for water. Home made stock is far superior in this. Finish the grits by stirring in butter, salt, and enough cream to make them smooth and creamy.

Serves 4 hungry adults.

Recommended side dishes: Fried okra and capreze salad.

For the okra: cut okra in 1 inch pieces, dipped in egg, rolled in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, pepper, and tabasco, and fried. Even an avowed okraphobe enjoyed this dish.

For the capreze - slice fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, arrange on a plate. Top with ripped fresh basil. Sprinkle generously with fresh ground pepper and kosher salt, and drizzle good olive oil and balsamic vinegar over all.
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