Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

cajun

A Shrimp & Grits Christmas

Unwrap a Charleston Food Tradition at Your Christmas Table

Shrimp and grits has become the epitome of elegance; the heart of Charleston cuisine in the minds of many. Originally a simple, quick stew served over long-simmered and stirred grits to feed fishermen after a day at sea, it’s now a principal player at many of Charleston’s best restaurants and locals’ holiday tables.

Donald Barickman, founding chef at Magnolias, often gets credit for putting grits on the elegance map with the addition of cream to his version dating back 30 years ago. But, I contend its rise to prominence has just as much to do with the excellence of its two main ingredients.  The shrimp that inhabits through Charleston’s waters is uniquely delicious. The tidal flows and the grassy marshes both nurture and protect the shrimp, a prince of a shrimp habitat, that yields a sweet,  buttery brine unlike any other, white and brown varieties alike. And, the grits. There are quick and mass-produced varieties available, but served over organic, stone-ground grits available from Anson Mills , you’re in for a toothsome, incomparable, and authentic treat.

This version from Old Village Post House Inn‘s former chef de cuisine, Jim Walker, and featured in The New Charleston Chef’s Table,  uses both. I love this recipe because it’s not very complicated, it’s beautiful, delicious, and relatively easy to prep ahead and finish at the last minute. It’s one of the dishes most requested by my cooking class students and it’s especially enjoyable to prepare, the sweet and piquant fragrance filling the air as it cooks -shrimp, country ham, Cajun seasonings, and andouille sausage. A celebration not just of the season, but of Charleston, it would be a fabulous choice to head your Christmas Eve or Christmas Day table. Do try and get your hands on fresh, wild caught shrimp if you cannot find fresh, local Charleston shrimp and serve it over stone-ground grits. It really makes a difference. I use the shells from the shrimp to cook down with some water into a quick glaze to add to the final sauce or “gravy,” which can be strained and whisked in with the butter (see directions) at the last second.

Old Village Post House Inn Lowcountry Shrimp & Grits

(Serves 4 to 6)

Shrimp & Grits from Old Village Post House Inn as featured in The New Charleston Chef’s Table (Globe Pequot Press, May, 2018) by Holly Herrick

For the grits:

8 cups water

3 cups stone-ground grits

1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter

1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the shrimp sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 3/4 pounds Thibodeaux’s andouille sausage (or substitute another brand), but into approximately 28 1/2-inch thick slices

1 cup cubed country ham (cut into a 1/4-inch thick dice)

1 1/4 pounds large (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup peel and seeded tomatoes, finely chopped

1/4 cup scallions, finely sliced

4 teaspoons garlic, minced

4 teaspoons Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning (suggest R.L. Schreiber brand)

1 cup salt-free chicken stock

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

To prepare the grits, bring the water to a boil over high heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the grits, stir, and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk or flat-tipped wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring, until thickened (the grits should plop like thick cornbread batter), 30-40 minutes. Turn off the burner and let stand covered, so the grits can continue to slowly absorb the water, for 1 – 2 hours.

Just before serving, reheat the grits over medium heat, stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and heavy cream, stirring to incorporate. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes before serving, prepare the shrimp sauce. Heat the oil over high heat in a large, deep saute pan. When hot and sizzling, add the sausage and country ham. Saute, tossing until the sausage and ham begin to turn golden and caramelize, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the shrimp, tomato, scallions, minced garlic, and Cajun-style fish blackening seasoning. Saute for another 3 minutes, being sure to combine well and coat the ingredients evenly with the seasoning. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the butter and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, another 1 – 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the grits into shallow bowls and top with the sauce. Serve immediately.

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With best wishes to you and yours for a beautiful holiday and Christmas season. I promise you, your guests will love this. Not only is it delicious, it is beautiful. For all of these reasons and more, it is featured on the cover of The New Charleston Chef’s Table – which, by the way, makes a beautiful gift for the food and Charleston-lover in your life.

Bon appetit! You can always visit me here with any questions, comments or to book a cooking class or culinary tour. Look for details soon on Cracking the Cookbook Code, a cookbook writing, marketing, and photography retreat I’ll be hosting early next spring with my wonderfully talented friend, culinary professional, blogger, and photographer, Beckie Carrico Hemmerling. Until next time, stay safe, warm, happy, and well fed.

Holly

Cookbook Author and Nationally Awarded Food Writer, Holly Herrick. Photo by Helene Dujardin.

 

 

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Cracking the Cookbook Code Retreat

Join me and blogger, chef and author Beckie Carrico Hemmerling March 29 – April 1, 2019 for Cracking the Cookbook Code, Writing, Cooking, Marketing, Photography + Wellness Retreat. Limited to only 8 people, we will have a blissful few days in a beautiful, relaxing setting with like-minded souls, eating delicious food and having a wonderful time. Click for details.

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