Grits Should Be Gritty
When it gets to southern favorites like shrimp and grits, I’m hard to please. Shrimp and grits dishes show up on menus to the north of the Mason Dixon Line more regularly, but the flavors and the textures are erratic.. While Southerners tolerate ridiculous food combinations–sugar in the grits, hot sauce in the spirits, biscuit, and eggs and bacon chopped up and mixed in with the nerves–there is one I think we all agree on grits need to be gritty. At least slightly. The creaminess is excellent, but some restaurants are turning out spirits that are damn near pudding. We need to know we’re eating grits.
Sear the Shrimp and Sauce It
Now about the shrimp: grill or sear them before adding them to the grits. Visually, the shrimp will stand up to the texture of the grits if they are grilled or roasted. If there is one thing that finer restaurants consistently get correct and which generally can’t be rivaled by home cooks, it’s the sauce. I can (almost) forgive wimpy grits if the sauce is smoky flavored or creamy with bits of lobster (I could go on).
When you can’t find a restaurant with your kind of shrimp and grits, or if you want to make an outstanding bowl or two of shrimp and grits for company, give my recipe a try. I’ve developed it over the last few weeks with the help of The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. This is the best book on the market (in my opinion) for combining compatible foods and flavors (more on this book in another post). In my recipe, the grits are creamy but still recognizable as grits, the sustainable shrimp are seared, and the sauce is made from miso paste, which adds a satisfying smokiness and savoriness.
Recipe Sauce and Shrimp (Serves 2-3)
- 1 cup of vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons of red miso paste
- 2 green onions, sliced thin (reserve the sliced green tops for garnish)
- 1 dozen raw, cleaned and deveined, medium shrimp
- The warm vegetable broth on medium heat, but don’t let it boil (boiling would kill the live cultures in the miso once it is added).
- Stir in the miso paste and green onions.
- Allow the sauce to reduce (10-12 minutes); stir occasionally.
- Sear the shrimp for 1 minute on each side while the sauce reduces (finish cooking shrimp in the sauce).
- Add shrimp to the sauce during the last minute or two of reducing.
- Pour shrimp and sauce over hot grits.
- 3 cups water
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1/2 cup of stoneground yellow grits
- 1 tablespoon of mascarpone
- Add a pinch of salt to the water and bring to a rolling boil (be careful to use only a fraction. The miso paste, which you will use to make the sauce, is salty).
- Add four tablespoons of grits and immediately begin to stir with a whisk.
- Add garlic powder; continue stirring.
- Simmer the grits at medium-low heat, frequently stirring to avoid lumps.
- Add mascarpone and stir until creamy.