Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

Summer is a wonderful time to entertain – people just seem more relaxed and its easy to do something elegant and impressive without slaving away for days. Like this colorful salad. I love the big platter salad (witness the Southern Buttermilk Cobband the Muffalettaversions). The big platter were purchased from discount stores that have proven fantastically useful. And a big, colorful display of delicious food never fails to impress. And people love to customize their meal without making a fuss – just serve up the bits you like for a perfect meal.

Below I’ve laid out my basic blueprint. This may look like a lot of work, but I promise it is not, but the reward is pretty spectacular. And the elements can be done ahead in stages with only the assembly to deal with, and that doesn’t require turning on the oven or standing over the stove if you plan ahead. Choose any big, generous platter and arrange all the ingredients attractively. I use medium sized shrimp that are easier to eat in a salad, but bigger ones are just fine. I like to line the platter with lettuce leaves, then leave some readily accessible so people can easily build the salad to their own tastes. And get creative – add any other ingredients that take your fancy, I have sometimes sprinkled over crispy tortilla strips or added wedges of lime to squeeze over everything.

Margarita Shrimp Salad Platter

For the Pickled Red Onion:

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup water

½ cup cider vinegar

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon pickling spice

Layer the onions in a pint jar or glass bowl. Bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices to a boil in a small pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine over the onions and leave to cool, then seal and keep in the refrigerator for a least an hour, but the onions will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

For the Cilantro-Lime Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup buttermilk

Zest and juice of one small lime

1 clove garlic

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon celery salt

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup of cilantro leaves and stems

Place all the ingredient in the order listed in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into an airtight container, cover and refrigerated for up to two days.

For the Shrimp:

2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed if frozen (35- 40 count), tails removed

2 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Tablespoons tequila

2 Tablespoons lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour in the oil, tequila and lime juice in a bowl or a ziptop bag and stir or shake to blend. Pat the shrimp dry and place in the marinade. Refrigerate for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil. Drain the shrimp from the marinade and place in an even layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then roast 8 – 10 minutes until pink and curled and cooked through. Cool the shrimp for a few minutes, then put in a bowl or on a plate and refrigerate until chilled. When they are cold, you can cover the shrimp and keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

For the Corn:

12 ounces fresh or frozen corn

2 Tablespoons lime juice

Chile – lime seasoning (such as Tajin) or chili powder

Salt and pepper

Put the corn in a pan and cover with water by about ½ inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Thoroughly drain the corn and place in a bowl, the squeeze over the lime juice and stir to coat. Season well with Tajin, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

For assembly:

One head of butter lettuce

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

5 radishes, thinly sliced

1 (8-ounce) jar pickled jalapenos, drained

10 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled

2 avocados, diced

1 lime, squeezed over the avocado to prevent browning.

Line a big platter with lettuce leaves, then attractively arrange the remaining ingredients, with some lettuce readily accessible. Serve with tongs, spoons and a ladle for the dressing.

Serves 6 – 8

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

Dublin Lawyer

I absolutely discovered this dish because of the name. I first saw it on a pub menu in London and had to ask. After it was described, my dining companion switched his order to it and we both relished bites. But I had to know where the name came from, so I soon set out to do some research. This was many years ago and the internet was not quite so helpful, but eventually I stumbled across an Irish cookbook that clued me in. Dublin Lawyer is traditionally made with lobster, and the story is its name comes from the fact that lobster, whiskey and cream make it “rich as a Dublin lawyer”. I’ve made this for myself for a special treat dinner and served it to friends – a flaming dish is always a hit.

I substitute shrimp in this recipe because they are easier to find and easier to work with. I use great big sweet wild caught Gulf shrimp or almost lobster-like royal reds and think this dish is still rich and decadent. Lobster is not easy to find in landlocked Memphis, and I’ve never been very skilled at cooking with it anyway. You can of course use lobster if you like. Either make the sauce and use it to nap whole lobster tail or stir in lobster meat at the end as you do the shrimp here. You can serve Dublin Lawyer as a first course to an Irish meal or as a main with a green salad. I always serve it with some good bread for mopping up the delicious sauce.

Dublin Lawyer (Shrimp in Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce)

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

4 green onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Dash of cayenne pepper

Sea salt and black pepper

¼ cup Irish whiskey

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley, plus a little for garnish

1 pound very large shrimp, peeled and deveined, thawed if frozen

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chopped green onions and sauté until soft and glassy. Add the garlic and cayenne and generous pinches of salt and pepper and cook a further minute. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the whiskey. Use a long lighter to light the whiskey on fire (stand back!) and let it burn until the flame dies. (Alternatively, you can return the pan to the heat and boil until the whiskey is reduced by about 1/3). Return the pan to the heat and pour in the cream. Stir well and cook at a nice bubble until the cream is reduced and thickened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Pat the shrimp dry and slip them into the cream sauce. Cook just until the shrimp are pink and firm, turning them over in the sauce, about 4 – 5 minutes. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little chopped parsley.

Serves 4 – 6

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

It’s the time of year, as Mardi Gras approaches, that I start to crave some good Louisiana flavors. And I also find traditional hearty dishes perfect for the cold and dreary weather, from Red Beans and Riceto Shrimp Creole. Warmth and spice are perfect for the season. Shrimp gravy has roots in the Low Country and in Louisiana, and my version is a variation of classic Shrimp Sauce Picante, not quite as kicky and with the added heft of smoked sausage and without the process of a roux. It’s also a simple weeknight dish worthy of a space in the regular rotation.

I love rice grits with this gravy. Rice grits, also known as middlins’, are broken pieces of rice and, not surprisingly, have the taste of rice with the texture of grits. Check local rice growers for rice grits, or check out some online sources. I particularly like Two Brooks FarmDelta Blues, or Anson Mills. If you can’t access rice grits, the gravy is delicious over long grain rice or corn grits. I love a simple smoked sausage, but you could use andouille for some added spice.

Shrimp and Sausage Gravy with Rice Grits

For the Gravy:

1 pound medium frozen peeled, deveined shrimp, thawed

4 teaspoons creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere’s), divided

8 ounces smoked sausage

1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with green chile

1 cup chicken broth

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

1 yellow onion, finely diced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Rice Grits:

3 cups chicken broth

1 ½ cups water

¼ cup (half stick) butter

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

1 ½ cups rice grits

For the Gravy:

Lay the shrimp in one layer on a plate and pat dry. Sprinkle 3 teaspoons of creole seasoning evenly over both sides of the shrimp and place the plate in the fridge until ready to use the shrimp.

Cut the sausage into small pieces – I like to cut each link into quarters then cut thin slices across. Put the tomatoes and chiles and the broth in a blender and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat until melted. Add the diced pepper, onion, celery and the sliced sausage and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to brown and the sausage is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Sprinkle over the flour and remaining teaspoon of creole seasoning and stir to coat the vegetables, making sure there is no dry flour visible. Pour in the tomato-broth mixture and scrape up the lovely brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the gravy begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just beginning to turn pink and curl. Cover the pot and remove from the heat until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Serve over rice grits.

For the Grits:

Bring the broth, water, butter and salt to a boil in a large pot over high heat. When the water is boiling, stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are tender, about 20 minutes. Cover the pot for 5 minutes, then fluff the grits with a fork before serving.

Serves 6

Summer Herb Butter Shrimp

I’m always looking for simple, fresh meals in summer and shrimp is a real go to for me. I buy it peeled and deveined and ready to go, and it cooks so quickly without heating up the kitchen. And I love the versatility – it can take on so many flavors. And abundance of beautiful summery herbs makes for a light and sunny meal. This dish is really simple to prepare – a whir in the food processor, a little sauté and you’re done, but the results are absolutely packed with flavor. It’s simple enough for a weeknight meal, but elegant enough for company. And I love the idea of making a big skillet of this and popping it in the center of the table for everyone to dig into – add a fresh summer salad on the side and you are done.

The shrimp are juicy and tender and bathed in a delicious, herby, sauce. You could serve this over rice or pasta, but I really love it served in bowls with some good bread to dip into all that lovely buttery sauce. I buy beautiful wild caught gulf shrimp and fresh herbs at my local farmers market, but this is an amazing way to use up herbs you may have hanging around and shrimp from the freezer. Parsley is a good base, but you can really use a combination of whatever you have on hand or growing in your garden. If you’d like, you can add a little sliced fresh chili or some chili pepper flakes to the oil when preparing the shrimp.

Shrimp Herb Butter Shrimp
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large or 2 medium shallots
  2. 2 cloves of garlic
  3. 1 cup loosely packed dill fronds
  4. ½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves
  5. ¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves
  6. ¼ cup loosely packed oregano leaves
  7. Juice of one lemon
  8. ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  9. 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  10. ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
Instructions
  1. Chop the shallot and the garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the herbs and finely chop. Add the lemon juice and pulse a few times, then with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is well blended and emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scrape the herb sauce into a bowl and set aside. The sauce can be made several hours ahead; cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate. Bring the sauce back to room temperature before using.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for a few minutes, just to seal the outside of each shrimp. Lower the heat to medium and add the butter and stir until it is melted and coating the shrimp. Pour over the herb sauce and stir to coat well. Cook just until the shrimp is cooked through, pink and firm. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Paprika Shrimp with Baked Lemon Risotto

We are in that weird time between seasons, when the great abundance of spring and summer produce hasn’t quite arrived, but the fading greens and gourds of winter are losing their appeal. We’re already for fresh, light fare but nature isn’t exactly cooperating. Citrus to the rescue. Bright sunshiny lemon brings a little brightness and freshness, but this baked risotto is pure comfort food. Topped with lightly seared paprika-dusted shrimp, it’s a delicious meal that perfectly suits the cusp of spring.

Though pretty easy to pull together, this dish really packs a punch. The risotto bakes in the oven, so need to stand stirring over the stove. Fennel and lemon give it a bright flavor, and the well-seasoned shrimp depth. Finely dice the fennel so you get just a little bite in each spoonful of risotto, and a sprinkle of the freshly chopped feathery fronds adds an herbal note. A hint of smoked paprika gives the shrimp a tantalizing touch of the outdoor cooking soon to be in season. If you prefer, you could add a little cayenne to the mix for some spiciness. I like to use big, juicy, wild caught Gulf shrimp. They only take few minutes to sear and cook through, but take on a nice, flavorful crust.

Paprika Shrimp with Baked Lemon Risotto
Serves 4
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For the Risotto
  1. 1 large shallot
  2. 1 small fennel bulb
  3. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 Tablespoon Pernod (optional)
  5. 2 cups Arborio rice
  6. Zest and juice of one lemon
  7. 1 Tablespoon chopped fennel frond
  8. 4 cups (32 ounces) chicken broth
  9. 1 cup white wine
  10. 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  11. Kosher salt
For the Shrimp
  1. 1 teaspoon paprika
  2. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  3. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  4. ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  5. 1 pound extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  6. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
For the Risotto
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Finely dice the shallot. Remove the tough core from the fennel bulb and finely dice – you want about 1 cup of fennel. Heat the oil in a 2 – quart oven safe dish over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallot and the fennel until soft, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add the Pernod (if using) and cook until it is evaporated. Stir in the rice to combine everything and remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon zest and fennel frond, then add the chicken broth and white wine. Measure the lemon juice and add water to make ¼ cup of liquid and add it to the pot. Add the parmesan cheese and a generous pinch of kosher salt and stir to combine everything thoroughly. Transfer the pot to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring every 20 minutes, until the liquid is almost absorbed and the rice is creamy. Let the cooked risotto rest about 10 minutes before serving.
For the Shrimp
  1. Mix the spices together in a shallow bowl. Press both sides of each shrimp in the mixture to coat. Shake off any loose spice, but make sure the shrimp are well coated. Place the spiced shrimp on a plate and refrigerate until the rice is ready.
  2. While the rice is resting, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over high heat in large skillet. Place the shrimp in the hot oil and cook on each side for a few minutes just until the shrimp is firm and cooked through. Serve the shrimp over the rice.
Notes
  1. If the rice has absorbed the liquid, but is not cooked through, add some more water, stir and cook until done.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Shrimp Sauce Piquant

Somewhere between an etouffee and a gumbo lies sauce piquant, a rich, roux-based stew with a little kick. The layered flavors of a caramel dark roux, the trinity of Louisiana cooking, rich tomatoes and the added kick of Creole seasoning and chiles is everything you want in a Cajun meal. It’s a perfect winter dish, warm and comforting and spicy, a slow simmered stew packed with flavor. What could be better for a February Mardi Gras?

You can make this with crawfish, chicken or catfish (or heck, alligator if you want) cut into pieces, just adjust the cooking time accordingly. Traditionally, this is served over rice, but I think it also makes a delicious topping for grits. Serve it in deep bowls with some hot sauce to shake over the top. Make it a Mardi Gras meal with some Cafe Brulot Brownies or Bananas Foster Pound Cake.

Shrimp Sauce Piquant
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 stalks celery
  2. 1 green bell pepper
  3. 1 medium white onion
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 1 cup vegetable oil
  6. 1 cup flour
  7. 1 Tablespoon creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere's)
  8. 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  9. 1 (10-ounce) ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  10. 1 (4-ounce can) diced green chiles
  11. 4 cups chicken broth
  12. 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp (thawed if frozen)
  13. Hot sauce to taste
  14. Salt and pepper to taste
  15. Cooked rice
Instructions
  1. Finely dice the celery, bell pepper and onion. Finely mince the garlic and have it all near the stove.
  2. Now we are going to make a roux. In a large (at least 5 quart) heavy pan (I like enameled cast iron), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth and lump-free. Cook the roux, stirring frequently, until the color begins to darken. As it deepens, stir more frequently, then constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. As it darkens, it can burn quickly so pay attention. I use a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon for my roux. When the roux has turned a deep brown, between the color of sweet tea and a good bourbon, after about 15 minutes, add the chopped onion, celery and bell pepper and stir well. Cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and creole seasoning and give it a good stir. Now add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green chiles and chicken broth, stirring constantly as you pour them in. The roux may appear to curdle or seize, but keep stirring, it will smooth out. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the shrimp to the sauce, cover the pot, and cook for about 10 minutes, just until the shrimp are pink, curled and cooked through. Serve over cooked white rice.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Shrimp Ravigote

I am recipe developer by trade, so friends and family often ask me to recreate favorite dishes from local restaurants or food businesses. I always try, with varying degrees of success. These requests become more frequent, and more urgent, when a place closes. A favorite, classic lunch place in Memphis closed not too long ago, and several friends have since asked me how to make their signature shrimp ravigote, a long time mainstay on the menu. I’ve been tinkering with it for a while, but with the heat of summer creeping in, it seemed like the perfect time to post a recipe for a cold, refreshing summer salad like this one.

There are many versions of shrimp ravigote, cold and hot, spicy and simple. Ravigote is derived from the French word meaning to “freshen up” so a fresh, chilled salad seems logical to me. I started the process of re-creating the recipe by polling everyone who asked me for it what they liked about this particular version of shrimp ravigote. A few told me they loved that it included eggs. One disputed that there were eggs in it at all. Some remembered it as being mild, while others remembered it being spicy with horseradish. That’s why reconstructing a recipe is sometimes so tough – memory and reality often diverge. So I researched recipes online and in old community cookbooks. Fortunately, I had Instagrammed a photo from the restaurants’ last week in business, so I could look back at that for reference. In the end, I am not sure I have faithfully re-created the exact restaurant version, but it is the version I like. Eggs, not too spicy, delightfully refreshing. My photo from the restaurant shows the salad served on a lettuce leaf with a few slices of avocado and a cheese straw – and I recommend that way of serving it as well.

Shrimp Ravigote
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 4 large eggs
  2. 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
  3. 2 cups mayonnaise
  4. 1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained
  5. 4 green onions, finely chopped
  6. 2 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  7. 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  8. 2 Tablespoons ground mustard powder
  9. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  10. 2 teaspoons jarred horseradish
  11. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  12. ½ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
  1. Rinse off the outside of the eggs, then place them in a saucepan covered by water by about an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a boil, cook the eggs for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a sink or large bowl with ice water. When the seven minutes are up, transfer the eggs to the ice water with a slotted spoon. Drop the shrimp into the boiling water and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, just until they are firm, pink and cooked through. Drain and plunge into the ice water. Leave to cool completely, then drain both the eggs and the shrimp.
  2. Mix the mayonnaise, pimentos, green onions, parsley, capers, mustard powder, lemon juice, horseradish, salt and pepper together in a large bowl and stir to fully combine, making sure everything is evenly distributed.
  3. Roll the eggs on the counter to crack the shells all over, then peel. Rinse with cool water to remove any shell, then pat them dry. Finely chop the eggs and add them to the dressing. Add the shrimp and stir to coat with the dressing, again making everything is evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve chilled
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Bacon Praline Shrimp

Many years ago, I hesitate to say how many, the hot appetizer around town, both in restaurants and from party caterers, was bacon wrapped stuffed shrimp, often with a sticky glaze. They were an absolute hit with everyone. I, of course, re-created the dish at home and for some years served it at my own little gatherings. But it was (and still is) a lot of work. Butterfly the shrimp, carefully stuff them, hold them together while wrapping in bacon, securing with a toothpick, brush with a glaze, cook and serving immediately. I eventually gave up the ghost as I thought it was more trouble than I was willing to go to anymore. But bacon wrapped shrimp is just a plain delicious dish, so I worked to create something that mimicked the flavor without all the fuss. So here you go.

I’ve used shrimp of all sizes for this dish, but for toothpick appetizer purposes, little one bite morsels work best. Warm a serving dish in a low oven to serve these in, though they will remain delicious at room temperature. I have served this spooned over rice as a meal as well, and it makes a lovely supper. I do recommend making this and serving it quickly, but the sauce can be made a half hour ahead and kept warm over low heat. Up the heat and cook the shrimp as directed.

Bacon Praline Shrimp

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp

½ cup chopped pecans

3 strips of bacon

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

½ cup water

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 Tablespoons bourbon

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

Rinse and drain the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels.

Toast the pecans in a dry, deep skillet until lightly browned and they have a lovely nutty fragrance. Transfer to a plate and wipe out the skillet. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in the skillet over medium high heat until browned and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then carefully pour the bacon grease into a bowl. Don’t wipe out the skillet, just return it to the heat and add the water and brown sugar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Drop in the rosemary and bring to boil. Cook until syrup and thickened, about 5- 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bourbon and lemon juice. Stir in 1 Tablespoon of the reserved bacon drippings and the butter and stir gently until the butter is melted. Stir in the bacon and toasted pecans. Return the pan to medium heat and add the shrimp, basting them with sauce until they are pink, curled and cooked through, just a few minutes.

Serve the shrimp immediately with toothpicks and some good bread for sopping up the sauce.

Serves 6 – 8

 

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits, technically the child of the South Carolina Low Country has been adopted by Southerners as their own. You will find shrimp and grits in homes and on menus from Florida to Misssissippi, and of course here in Tennessee. I bet most Southerners would put it on a grand list of Southern classics without even realizing its specific geographic origin.

And I imagine there are as many recipes for Shrimp and Grits as there people who cook it. You’ll find it in simple cafes and in upmarket restaurants. I have seen versions with mushrooms, burgundy wine, yellow tomatoes or hot chili peppers. I have seen grits flavored with all manner of things. When I was planning weddings, there was one venue whose most popular item was the Shrimp and Grits bar. Martini glasses with your choice of plain grits or cheese grits, covered in gravy and shrimp, with bacon, onions, herbs, hot sauce and the like that you could sprinkle on top.

I started making shrimp and grits as a dinner for myself, nothing fancy, no real recipe and it often depended on what I happened to have in the fridge. But when I decided to make it company-worthy, I tinkered around until I hit on this version, which is what I think Shrimp and Grits ought to be. It may not be truly authentic or the way you’ve had it at your favorite restaurant, but it is good. So I hereby claim these Shrimp and Grits for Tennessee, but hope you’ll share them with the world.

It’s important to use good grits and good shrimp. You need stone ground grits, not instant or quick-cooking. I know there are many brands available, but my preferred version is Delta Grind, made in Mississippi on an old grist mill. If there is a good source close to you or online, please share it with us. I buy fresh Gulf shrimp when I can (I freeze extras when it’s available in abundance) or buy frozen Wild American shrimp from reputable stores if I have to. Personally, I never use Asian farmed shrimp. The taste is not as good and they are questionably raised.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Shrimp and Grits
For the Grits
  1. 2 cups chicken broth
  2. 2 cups heavy cream
  3. ¼ cup ( ½ stick) butter
  4. 1 cup stone ground grits (I use Delta Grind)
  5. 2 ½ teaspoons salt
  6. Several grinds of black pepper
  7. For the Shrimp
  8. 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I prefer fresh Gulf shrimp or frozen wild American)
  9. 1 teaspoon paprika
  10. ½ teaspoon regular mustard powder
  11. ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  12. ¼ teaspoon salt
  13. A few grinds of black pepper
  14. Dash of cayenne pepper
  15. 6 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
  16. 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
  17. ¾ cups chopped green onion, white, light green and a little dark green (from a big bunch)
  18. 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  19. 2 Tablespoons flour
  20. 1 cup chicken broth
  21. 1 quarter of a large lemon
  22. Finely chopped parsley for garnish
For the Grits
  1. In a deep-sided large pan (grits tend to spatter), stir the broth, cream and butter together over medium high heat until the butter is melted and it all comes to a low boil. Stir in the grits, salt, and pepper and reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 – 45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. The grits should be tender and the liquid absorbed. You may add a bit more broth if needed. When cooked, the grits can be kept covered for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low, stirring in a little broth.
For the Shrimp
  1. Mix together the paprika, mustard, smoked paprika, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pat the shrimp dry if necessary and place on plate. Sprinkle the spice mix liberally over both sides of the shrimp, turning over to get a good coating. Leave the shrimp in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. When the shrimp are ready, sauté the bacon pieces in a wide skillet over medium high until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels using a slotted spoon. Pour the bacon grease into a small bowl. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of grease back into the pan and heat over medium high. Sear the shrimp briefly – just a few seconds per side – to seal in the spice mixture. You do not want to cook the shrimp. Remove the shrimp to a plate (you can scoot the bacon to one side and use the same plate). Reduce the heat to medium and add more bacon grease to the pan so that you have about 4 Tablespoons, then drop in the green pepper and the green onion. Sauté until the pepper and green onion are soft. As they release some liquid, you can scrape the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. While the vegetables are cooking, drain most of the juice from the tomatoes into a measuring cup. You can just hold the top of the can askew and drain out what you can – no need to dirty a strainer. Add enough chicken broth to make one cup of liquid and set aside.
  4. When the green vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are heated through and start to soften. Break up any large pieces. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. There should not be any white flour visible. Pour in the broth and tomato liquid and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat a little and let the mixture bubble away until it is nice and thick, stirring to avoid scorching. Squeeze over a quarter of a lemon (making sure you’ve removed seeds) and stir. Add the shrimp to the sauce in the pan, cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through. You can add a bit more broth if you like a saucier version.
  5. Spoon the grits into shallow bowls and spoon over the shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle over the crispy bacon pieces and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta SpaghettiThe Greek flavors of a shrimp, tomato and feta are a favorite of mine, and always remind me of summer, and a trip to Greece and the island of Mykonos one summer many years ago. Our favorite dish was Shrimp Saganaki, a rich tomato sauce with shrimp nestled in, covered in a blanket of fresh feta cheese. None of my travelling companions or I knew much about Greek food at the time, and when we discovered this, we were glad to see it on almost every menu. I am sure we ate it every day of our trip, possibly even twice a day. This particular dish is also inspired by one of my favorite summer pastas, the Tomato, Herb and Brie Pasta I unknowingly laid claim to as my own creation for years. The idea of leaving ingredients to steep and soften before tossing in hot pasta struck me and I have used the technique in many ways, but this is a great version and perfect for a quick summer meal.

Feta cheese doesn’t melt like the brie in the original dish, but the small crumbles will cling to the pasta and the shrimp. While the sauce mixture is sitting, the tomatoes soften and release some juice and the herbs and lemon meld together, making for a really bright and fresh dish. Feta cheese is salty, so season lightly at first, then adjust at serving.

Greek Inspired Shrimp and Feta Spaghetti
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 4 plum tomatoes
  2. 1 clove garlic
  3. ¼ cup chopped oregano
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  6. ¼ cup olive oil
  7. salt and pepper
  8. 1 pound spaghetti
  9. 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  10. ½ cup white wine
Instructions
  1. Remove the seeds from the tomatoes, finely dice the flesh and place in a bowl big enough to hold all the pasta. Put the garlic through a press, or finely chop it, sprinkling a little salt over it during the process.  This helps mellow the garlic - you don’t want big chunks. Add the lemon zest and juice, the oregano and feta cheese to the bowl and season lighlty with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and stir to combine. Leave to sit for at least an hour, but up to three is fine.
  2. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions, about 12 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, bring the wine to a boil in a medium skillet and add the shrimp. Continue cooking until the shrimp are pink and cooked through and the wine is reduced to just a couple of Tablespoons.
  3. Put the cooked shrimp and reduced wine in the bowl with the other ingredients, then drain the pasta and put it on top. Cover with a towel and let sit a few minutes, then toss everything together and serve immediately.
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