Thursday, March 12, 2015

Southern Style: Succulent Shrimp and Grits

My friend Kathryn is a Southern gal through and through. The lilt of the Kentucky hills is still there in her voice, despite growing up moving all over the world as an Army brat, then living in Saudi Arabia as a young woman and finally settling on the West Coast. Her mom still lives not too far from the family's place on Spencer Ridge, playing a mean guitar, manicuring her lawn with a hatchet and making what are rumored to be some of the finest biscuits on the planet.

Kathryn often returns from her trips there with souvenirs like a several-pound whole Southern ham or bags of White Lily flour stashed in her luggage, which must make the drug-sniffing dogs think twice about their careers and the TSA agents scratch their heads. Booty from a recent trip home included bags of Weisenberger Mills stone-ground white grits, "milled from NON gmo White Grits grown in Hardin Co. Ky at the Rogers Farm," one precious bag of which she graciously brought as a hostess gift when they came for a catch-up dinner at our house. Lucky me!

And lucky again because it gave me an excuse to ask Kathryn for the recipe for the shrimp and grits we'd had at her home on a previous occasion. It's not written down, of course, one of those family recipes that's "a bit of this, a handful of that," but she patiently walked me through the process, putting up with my "how much?" questions.

After two attempts I'm still working on perfecting the grits—apparently Sean Brock of season two of the excellent The Mind of a Chef series says to soak them overnight before cooking—but the shrimp in its roasted tomato sauce more than makes up for any of my indiscretions on the grits end of things.

Shrimp and Grits
Adapted from Kathryn Madison

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2-3 tsp. red pepper flakes, depending on your fondness for heat
6 green onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 qt. roasted tomatoes
1/2 c. white wine
1/2 lb. (or more) large fresh shrimp, shelled with tails on
1/2 c. parsley, chopped fine
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in deep-sided skillet. When it shimmers, add yellow onion and red pepper flakes to skillet and sauté until the onion becomes translucent. Add green onions and garlic and sauté until green onions wilt. Add roasted tomatoes and white wine, reduce heat and simmer for one hour.

Make grits according to package directions. Just before serving, add shrimp and parsley to tomato sauce and simmer until shrimp is cooked, about 5 minutes or so. Add salt to taste. Serve over grits.

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