Shrimp and Grits, a Taste of the South
To Northerners, it sounds like a strange mélange. But to folks from the South, shrimp and grits is the perfect couple, with infinite variations, both personal and regional, and the ultimate comfort food (well, perhaps that honor is shared with really good biscuits).
Having been introduced to shrimp and grits many years ago on a business trip somewhere in the South, myMEGusta knew that this dish had to be part of the repertoire during a recent visit to Charleston, SC, the site of this year’s Les Dames d’Escoffier International Annual Conference (www.LDEI.org) . And the planners must have been reading her mind, offering a version with spicy andouille sausages and gravy (according to the server, “what makes them special”), a perfect breakfast.
For the uninitiated, grits are a coarsely ground corn, sometimes called hominy, introduced to settlers by the Muskogee Tribe who inhabited the Low Country, aka Georgia and the Carolinas, as well as Alabama and Florida. The gritty texture gave the dish its name, and it was consumed by everyone, from the Europeans to the slaves they eventually brought over, and it was these slaves, who enhanced their rations by adding proteins like the abundant shrimp they could catch, who created the dish.
America’s shrimp and grits feeding frenzy began in 1985, when food journalist Craig Claiborne became enamored of them on a trip to North Carolina, and publicized Chef Bill Neal and his recipe. http://www.nytimes.com/1985/07/10/garden/for-a-carolina-chef-helpings-of-history.html
Once the dish emerged, there was no stopping its popularity. While it is most often associated with the Low Country, the dish is been embraced throughout the South as a favorite, with local variations, of course. For example, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, LA, makes theirs with bacon.
It has been updated and popularized as “haute cuisine” by a number of upscale restaurants, but widest known, and most popular, as a breakfast item. Every family has its own variations on it, from what goes into the grits to how the shrimp is cooked to other garnishes, e.g. andouille sausage or other pork products, gravy (what flavors, if any gravy at all), and even vegetables.
But, if you have ever had Nathalie Dupree’s shrimp and grits, you have experienced a taste of heaven. This particular shrimp and grits recipe is a far cry from the cuisine of poor people, a rich treat made with heavy cream and butter, an absolute delight. Click through to read Susan Slack’s commentary, and the wonderful recipe from Nathalie’s book, Shrimp and Grits. https://susanslacktasteofcarolina.wordpress.com/2006/06/14/readers-request-a-shrimp-grits-recipe-from-nathalie-dupree/
Places like Jekyll Island, GA, and Charleston, SC, even have Shrimp and Grits festivals during which chefs vie for honors: http://www.shrimpandgritscharleston.com/ and http://www.goldenisles.com/festivals-events/annual-jekyll-island-shrimp-grits-festival .