Recipes and Stories

23 June 2017: Seafood Stuffed Tomatoes

June 22, 2017

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Savannah, Classic Lowcountry Cooking, Stuffed Vegetables, Stuffed Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Shrimp, Crab, Seafood, Historical Cooking

Seafood-Stuffed Tomatoes, Photographed by John Carrington Photography
One of the many things that Southern cooks share with Italians, especially those along the Ligurian coast that’s known as the Italian Riviera, is a love for filling hollowed-out vegetables with a blend of their chopped pulp, stale bread crumbs, herbs and seasonings, and often some kind of chopped meat, poultry, or seafood.

Here in the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry, stuffed vegetables have long been a beloved part of our summer tables. Recipes for them date back well into the nineteenth century. (more…)

27 May 2016: Mama's Breakfast Shrimp

May 27, 2016

Tags: Shrimp, Classical Southern Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Lowcountry Cooking, Mama's Breakfast Shrimp

Mama's Breakfast Shrimp, the near perfect union of fresh-caught shrimp and butter.
When shrimp season rolls around each May, it always takes me back to some of the best days of my childhood. That may seem odd, since I didn’t grow up on the coast where the opening of shrimp season marks the real beginning of summer. But a small part of most of my childhood summers was actually spent on the Isle of Palms, a barrier island just north of Charleston.

While we were in shrimp territory, we ate as many of them as we could manage. Most of the shrimp we ate were bought from the many local fishermen who sold them roadside from the tailgates of their battered pickups, (more…)

3 May 2016: Shrimp and Ham Jambalaya

May 3, 2016

Tags: Classic Southern Cooking, Creole Cooking, Lowcountry Cooking, Jambalaya, Lowcountry Pilau, Shrimp, Ham

Shrimp and Ham Jambalaya
3 May 2016: Shrimp and Ham Jambalaya

Whether you call it pilau, pilaf, perlow, paella, or jambalaya, in the end, it all amounts to the same thing.

The techniques used vary slightly from dish to dish and the type of rice may differ—a paella, for example, is made with a short-grained rice whereas a pilau is made with long-grain rice. (more…)

23 September 2014: Welcoming Autumn

September 23, 2014

Tags: Autumnal Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Essentials of Southern Cooking, Bacon, Shrimp, Shrimp Stew

Shrimp Stew with Bacon and Tomatoes, the perfect warm-up for welcoming Autumn in Savannah. Photography by Rich Burkhart
It doesn’t often happen, but the first day of autumn was met here in Savannah with a hint of genuine coolness in the air. It’s not quite chili, pot roast, and hearty stew weather, but the suggestion that it is on the way is an unexpected gift that’s not to be ignored. (more…)

30 August 2014: Seafood Cocktails

August 30, 2014

Tags: Seafood, Crab, Shrimp, Seafood Cocktails, Shrimp Cocktails, Classic American Cooking, Classic Southern Cooking, Bonnie Gaster, Tybee Island, Mrs. Dull

A Timeless summer classic: Tybee Shrimp and Crab Cocktail
Labor Day weekend is traditionally summer’s last hurrah for most Americans, even though the season won’t officially end until the autumnal equinox later in September, and, in the Deep South, won’t be effectively over until well into October. But never mind about the calendar and heat index: Summer’s waning, whether actual or merely symbolic, is as good an excuse as any for one more outdoor party. (more…)

1 July 2013: Shrimp and Rice

July 1, 2013

Tags: Lowcountry Pilau, Lowcountry Cooking, Southern Cooking, Shrimp, Shrimp Pilau, Pilau, Shrimp and Rice, Rice Cookery

Shrimp Pilau with Tomatoes is a Lowcountry summer classic. Photography by John Carrington
One of the great defining rice dishes of Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry cookery is the pilau, (pronounced PIH-low—or, at times, PER-low, PER-loo, or per-LOO). Descended from the rice-based cuisines of West Africa, from whence the Lowcountry’s rice culture and most of its rice-growing slaves had come, a pilau is less a recipe than a technique. (more…)

3 August 2012: Seafood-Stuffed Tomatoes

August 3, 2012

Tags: Fresh Tomatoes, Shrimp, Crab, Seafood, Classical Southern Cooking, The Savannah Cookbook, Lowcountry Cooking, Historical Southern Cooking, The Texas Cook Book

Savannah Seafood-Stuffed Tomatoes, from The Savannah Cookbook; photography by John Carrington
Fresh tomatoes, sweet shrimp, and delicate blue crab have a great affinity for one another, so it is no surprise to find any two of them combined in the pot wherever they all thrive, but especially in the tidewater regions of the Deep South. There’s Crab and Tomato Stew, Shrimp Creole, Shrimp and Tomato Pie, Seafood Gumbo—as many variations as there are coastal cooks. One of the loveliest and simplest ways of combining them, however, is when ripe tomatoes are used as a delicate casing for what amounts to a shellfish gratin. (more…)

16 July 2012: Pickled Shrimp

July 16, 2012

Tags: Historical Southern Cooking, Savannah Cooking, Southern Cooking, Pickled Shrimp, Shrimp, Lowcountry Cooking

Savannah Pickled Shrimp, photographed by John Carrington, from The Savannah Cookbook
One of the distinctive flavors of a Lowcountry summer, and a fixture on almost every summer party table in Savannah, is pickled shrimp. Devised as a conserve that could be stored at room temperature, the original was literally a pickle, heavy with vinegar and spices, and its flavor was intense. Consequently, they were eaten as a relish or condiment—not as a cocktail hors d’oeuvres or main dish salad as they are nowadays. (more…)

22 June 2012: Sherried Shrimp

June 23, 2012

Tags: Classical Southern Cooking, The Savannah Cookbook, Historical Savannah Cooking, Sherried Shrimp, Connie Hartridge, Shrimp

Elizabeth Malone Smart's Sherried Shrimp, from the Savannah Cookbook, photographed in the Battersby-Hartridge House by John Carrington.
While researching material for The Savannah Cookbook, one hot, rainy late-June afternoon (the kind that makes Savannah’s pavements steam and its air take on the heavy, sticky quality that has earned summers here the nickname “hot mayonnaise season”), I found myself in the wide, double-drawing room of the handsome Greek Revival Battersby-Hartridge House. While the outdoors was steamy and damp, the room, with its generous windows, lofty ceilings, and many tall mirrors, was airy and cool. (more…)

10 August 2011: Supper Shrimp and Grits

August 11, 2011

Tags: Shrimp, Classic Southern Cooking, Grits, Shrimp and Grits

Summer Supper Shrimp and Grits. Photography by John Carrington
Long before it was discovered by ambitious chefs and made the poster appetizer for the Nouvelle Southern Cooking movement of the 1980s, shrimp with grits was hearty, humble breakfast and supper fare in the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry that no one would have thought of as fancy, let alone an appetizer.

To begin with, it would not have occurred to anyone to have grits at dinner, particularly not at a formal table. In the second place, in those days the idea of something as substantial and satisfying as shrimp swimming in rich gravy as merely an appetizer would have seemed truly strange.

Once it got into the hands of creative chefs, however, there was no turning back until it had been so gussied up and overdone that it was hackneyed and passé. It then came full circle and was rediscovered as fashionably “retro”—whatever that is supposed to mean.

That’s not meant to be a cranky slam of what professional cooks do when they spin on a classic. It’s just that, in all their spinning, everyone lost sight of the original dish and its humble origins.

A lot of us stopped thinking of shrimp and grits as a perfectly sensible breakfast and supper dish and started thinking of it as too fancy for regular meals. We either quit making it altogether or saved it for company—something our grandmothers would rather have died than do.

This past Monday evening, I’d picked up some lovely local brown shrimp for supper. Since there were just two of us, it needed to be something simple, and I stood there with the refrigerator door open, getting nowhere, until the bag of grits on the bottom shelf caught my eye.

How could I have forgotten about shrimp and grits? The perfect supper on a hot summer evening had been there all the time, just waiting to be noticed.

For two persons (and this doubles nicely), you’ll need

¾ pound of medium shrimp
2 strips of extra-thick-cut bacon cut into ½-inch dice
1 small or half a medium yellow onion, trimmed, split, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large clove garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and ground cayenne pepper
4 cups hot Cooked Hominy Grits (recipe follows)

1. Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover, and refrigerate the shrimp. Put the shells and 4 cups of water in a stainless or enameled pot. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, being careful not to let it boil over. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Turn off the heat, strain the broth into a stainless steel or glass bowl. Discard the shells. If not proceeding right away, cool completely, cover, and refrigerate. (If you’re in a hurry, you can omit this step and just use water for the gravy, but this does make it tastier.)

2. When you are ready to continue, put the bacon in a large sauté pan or skillet that will hold the shrimp in one layer. Sauté over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until browned. Add the onion. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, tossing frequently, until it’s pale gold, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant but not colored. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it is lightly browned, about 2 minutes more.

3. Slowly stir in the shrimp broth (or 1 cup of water) and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and season lightly with salt and cayenne. Cook until the shrimp are curled and pink, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings and serve at once over hot grits.

Cooked Hominy Grits
Serves 2

½ cup hominy grits (often labeled “regular” grits . . . whatever that means)
Salt

1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in an enameled or stainless steel saucepan over medium heat. Prepare a teakettle of water, bring it to a boil, and keep it simmering.

2. Slowly add the grits to the saucepan in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Bring it to a boil, still stirring, and reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Loosely cover the pan and cook, stirring often, until the grits are very thick and tender, about an hour. If the grits get too thick before they’re tender, add a little of the simmering water from the kettle.

3. Season to taste with salt and simmer 5 minutes longer.