Recipes that are regional specialties seem to require a hidden ingredient—one that cannot be picked up at the grocery store or procured by mail order. In my mind, they require, implicitly, that you’re a native. And the catch, of course, is that you can’t choose where you were born, where you grew up, the food on which you were raised. For this reason, as a midwesterner and a northerner, I tend to shy away from recipes like North Carolina barbecue, New England clam chowder and Texas chili.
Shrimp and grits, too, is a dish that fits squarely on this list. It gives the distinct impression that northerners need not apply.
My shrimp-and-grits hunch—that northerners shouldn’t bother—was repeatedly confirmed as I ate the dish in the south itself (including a recent, ridiculously delicious, andouille sausage-strewn iteration at Lüke in New Orleans) and when I’ve happily tucked into the dish right here in Chicago, noting that the menus on which the dish appears always boast a chef with southern roots. So, despite the fact that I can saute shrimp with ease and I can make a decent polenta (grits by another name, in my book), I long ago resigned myself to eating shrimp and grits in restaurants only.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out what took me so long to try my yankee hand at this. But I can tell you that I’ll be doing it again real soon.
Shrimp and Grits
Adapted from Paula Deen by way of Bobby Flay
Yield: 4 servings
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 cup stone-ground grits
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large clove garlic, minced
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Spoon grits onto plates. Top with shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.