As we close in on our first year of living full time in Petersburg, we love it here, and are growing more attached to it as the months pass. But it would be a bald-faced lie to say that we aren't sometimes more than a little homesick for Savannah.
One of the things I miss most (aside from people) is Russo's fish market and the fresh local brown creek shrimp and blue crab that we so took for granted. There are a few fish markets here, but even though the Chesapeake Bay is just an hour away from us, none of them carry local crab. And the shrimp they do carry aren't local and a lot more expensive.
So, while shopping at an upscale grocer near Richmond, a sale ad for wild-caught American shrimp lured me to the seafood counter. The sale price was what I used to pay for them at Russo's. They weren't just-off-the-boat brown inlet shrimp, but they were large, fresh, and sweet-smelling.
A twinge of homesickness stirred something in my subconscious that whispered "shrimp and grits." Once a summer supper standard in our house, I'd not made it since we left Savannah last fall, and had been too busy to miss it. Until that moment.
A pound came home with us and made enough for two meals.
My Shrimp and Grits
I never follow a recipe when I make this, but it had been more than a year, so after I'd gotten it going, I did look at my old recipe to make sure I'd not forgotten anything. It was a pleasant surprise to find that I hadn't. But it wasn't a surprise to also find that over the years of making it without a recipe it had evolved and was no longer quite the same.
1 pound of medium to large shrimp
3 strips of extra-thick-cut bacon cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium yellow onion, trimmed, split, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and ground cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 recipe Cooked Hominy Grits (recipe follows)
1. Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover, and refrigerate the shrimp. Put the shells and 6 cups of water in a heavy bottomed stainless or enameled pot. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, staying nearby (it tends to foam at first and will easily boil over if it's not watched). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced to 2 cups. Turn off the heat and strain the broth into a stainless steel or glass bowl or measuring cup, discarding the shells. The broth can be made several hours ahead; if you're not using it right away, let it cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until needed.
2. When you are ready to continue, take the shrimp from the refrigerator about half an hour to let them lose their deep chill. If you've refrigerated the broth, bring it back to a simmer and turn off the heat. Put the bacon in a 10-inch heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it's browned and the fat is rendered. Add the onion, raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, tossing often, until it's pale gold, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 10-12 seconds.
3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir constantly until it's smooth and beginning to color, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and, stirring constantly, bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer, season with salt, cayenne, and Worcestershire to taste, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until it's nice and thick, about 5 minutes.
4. Raise the head to medium high and add the shrimp and 2 teaspoons of the parsley. As soon as it is boiling again, adjust the heat to a simmer and cook, turning the shrimp once, until they're curled and pink, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings, and remove it from the heat. Divide the grits among warmed rimmed soup bowls, ladle the shrimp and gravy over them, sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve at once.
Cooked Hominy Grits
4 cups water
1 cup hominy grits (preferably not quick cooking)
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in an enameled or stainless steel saucepan over medium heat. Meanwhile, prepare a teakettle of water, bring it to a boil, and keep it simmering.
2. Slowly add the grits in a steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. 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 45 minutes to an hour. If the grits get too thick before they're tender, add a simmering water as needed. Never add cold water to them or hot tap water.
3. Season to taste with salt and simmer 5 minutes longer. Serve hot.