Greetings from South Carolina! I know…Grits!…I’m so predictable. So New-Yorker-trying-to-be-a-Southerner! Well, yes. The thing is — you should know this about me — I’m so helplessly impressionable. Remember about eight years ago when brown was the new black? Or I should say, when brown paired with any other color — pink, green, light blue — was the new black? Those combinations were all I wore for an entire year. When my friend Jim was cooking for me while dancing to Graham Parker’s “Hold Back the Night,” I cooked and danced to that song in my own kitchen for my next three dinner parties. And so whenever I cross the Mason-Dixon line, which I do at least a few times a year, it is absolutely a non-negotiable requirement for me to make grits. And I don’t feel as spineless as I usually do about it because I think this particular brand of impresionable-ness falls under the very forgiving category of “When in Rome.”
It seriously never occurs to me to eat grits any other time the rest of the year, even though there is in fact a shrimp and grits recipe in Time for Dinner, and even though the girls (and Andy) have been coming to South Carolina their entire lives — Phoebe’s first trip was when she was 3 months old; Abby’s when she was 6 weeks. Tonight, we tossed in some sweet, plump shrimp (the shrimp down here deserves a different shellfish category altogether, btw) some fresh summer vegetables and had ourselves a Lowcountry Lovefest.
Shrimp & Grits and Then Some
The grits I bought didn’t call for stirring, but you should check the package instructions before you follow suit. You could also use instant grits.
Make grits: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup white stone ground grits, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. When it’s ready, stir in butter and salt to taste. (Sort of like mashed potatoes — the more fat you add, the better it will taste, of course. But you really don’t need more than one pat.)
While grits are cooking, saute 1/2 small shallot and the kernels from one ear of corn in a skillet with 1 pat of butter and a bit of a neutral oil. Add red pepper flakes if your kids can handle it. Cook on medium heat until corn looks kind of crispy and brown. Push to the side of the skillet and add a big handful of fresh summery cherry tomatoes (halved), and a big handful of fresh summery sugar snap peas (trimmed…or not). After about 2 minutes, add a bit more butter, turn heat up a bit, and add about 3/4 pound peeled shrimp (bonus for Carolina shrimp) and cook about 1 minute a side. once cooked, stir in with the rest of the vegetables.
Spoon the grits into four bowls. Add the shrimp and vegetable mixture on top. Garnish with basil or thyme if you have it. I didn’t have either and it was still stupendous.