Shrimp and Grits with Bacon

Shrimp and Grits with BaconThe Low Down
I can be obsessive when I find things I like. It can’t be just a close copy. I’ve got to have the real thing. This is especially true when it comes to cooking.

Anytime I find a new recipe I love that comes from a region or cuisine that I am not familiar with, I can go off the deep end a bit. For example, when I, first discovered Moroccan food, I was obsessed with finding the correct ingredients. Not just ingredients that would work but the most authentic ingredients. The ingredients they use. Same goes with the cookware. If I am going to make a paella or a French cassoulet, you better believe I am going to have the correct pan or clay pot.

It’s the same with cookbooks. I may start my adventure into something new with one cookbook but eventually, I will end up finding the most authentic resource for whatever that cuisine may be. (Think Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Paula Wolfert’s Mediterranean cookbooks.) What I enjoy the most about finding that “reference” cookbook is that you not only get the most authentic version of whatever dish you are cooking but you also get the history of the food, the people and the region it comes from. That’s when the day dreaming stars. I picture myself in the markets of Marrakesh or biking through Provence with the day’s groceries in my basket. I am a culinary romantic.

One of my favorite cookbooks for day dreaming is a book by John Martin Taylor called Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking. If you have ever been interested in the regional cooking of the US, this would be my pick as the best reference for Lowcountry cooking.

For those who don’t know, the Lowcountry refers to the coastal plain region of South Carolina from Cat Island down to the Georgia border. Full disclosure, I have never lived there nor have I had the chance to visit. But I do love to read. And after reading books by Pat Conroy and John Berendt, I was hooked by romantic visions of crab and shrimp boils on the beach with and entertaining cast of characters.

Lowcountry cooking is the source for She Crab soup as well as Frogmore Stew and Hoppin’ John. There is so much to the cooking of the region that it is hard to pick just one recipe to love. If pressed though I would have to pick the Shrimp and Grits with Bacon. It’s one of my favorite comfort foods.

If you find yourself in need of an escape from the day-to-day and with no time or money to actually go somewhere, take a chance and pick up this (or any other cookbook) and step outside your world for a bit.

Shrimp and Grits with Bacon
Adapted from Hoppin’ John’s Low Country Cooking

These typical shrimp and grits are served for breakfast, but they are good any time of day. We love the addition of bacon!
Yields 2 Servings

Creamy Grits

2 tablespoons salted butter*
2 cups water
1/2 cup stone or water-ground whole-grain grits (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 to 2 cups milk, cream, or half-and-half

Add the water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and drop in the butter. Bring to a boil. Stir in the grits, return to a boil, and reduce the heat, allowing the grits to cook at a low boil for 10 minutes or so, until the grits are very
thick and have absorbed most of the water, stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from sticking.

Add about 1/2 cup of the milk or cream to the pot and turn down the heat, allowing the grits to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Add more cream or milk as the liquid is absorbed. Cook the grits until they reach the desired consistency. They should be full-bodied enough to chew, and not runny. The total cooking time should be at least an hour.

Serve piping hot.

*If you only have unsalted butter on hand, add 1/4 teaspoon salt to the grits.

Prepare the Bacon
Separate 1/2 pound of bacon, and cook the bacon to render the fat according to your favorite method. Remove the bacon from the pan, and set aside. (Learn how to make perfectionist bacon.)

Strain and reserve the fat. When the bacon cools, chop it into 1/4 inch pieces.

For the Shrimp
1/2 pound peeled shrimp
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
3 tablespoons bacon fat
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
about 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Creamy Grits (see below)
3/4 to 1 cup hot water or stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)

Prepare the Shrimp
Put the shrimp in a medium-sized mixing bowl and sprinkle it with the lemon juice, salt, and cayenne. Set aside.

Heat the bacon grease in a skillet and sauté the onion and pepper over medium heat until the onion begins to become transparent (about 10 minutes). Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir continuously until the flour begins to brown (about 2 minutes).

Add the shrimp and about 3/4 cup water or stock, stirring continuously. While stirring, turn the shrimp so that they cook evenly. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the gravy is uniformly smooth. Thin with a little extra water or stock if necessary.

Serve immediately over the grits, and sprinkle with chopped bacon and parsley (optional).

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