Here was the Mangia, Figlie question of the day: Do I stay on task and offer up a nice Italian family recipe, or do I take a little trip to the southern United States? Read on…
My family and I are just back from a long weekend in Charleston, South Carolina. A longtime friend of mine was getting married, so we put the kids in the car for a little road trip (only 24 hours of driving, here and back – not too bad).
As with any road trip we take, whether a half an hour away or halfway to Florida, our itinerary always includes at least one of the following – cars, planes, boats, zoos, aquariums – and always food! This trip was no exception, taking in the South Carolina Aquarium and Charleston Harbor, as well as Patriots Point, where we toured both the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the USS Clamagore submarine.
Foodwise, of top importance was finding a good plate of shrimp and grits for my husband. A good Pennsylvania Dutchman and a former Marine trained and stationed in the South, he takes kindly to all things carb-filled and greasy. This trip, he lucked out; we all did. Not only did we sample the shrimp and grits at Chucktown’s famous Hominy Grill (along with the restaurant’s phenomenal she-crab soup in the background)…
…we also enjoyed a tomato-based version at the wedding as well. What a fun surprise that was!
Both dishes were quite good, but they were very different. The tomato-based version had more of a sauce to it, while the Hominy Grill version did not. Also, Hominy Grill’s recipe uses bacon, which I did not detect at all in the wedding version. I could go on a bit more, but let me get to my point.
Eating these two very Southern, very comfort-filled recipes left me thinking that shrimp and grits is the Southern family’s equivalent of Italian spaghetti sauce: though every family’s recipe is well worth eating, no two recipes are exactly alike … and I’m going out on a limb here, guessing that if you asked a Southerner, “Who makes the best shrimp and grits?” – their answer in most cases would be: their mom … their aunt … or their granny.
I’ve tried making a couple of different shrimp and grits recipes over the years as a treat for my husband, and this post I’m sharing my favorite to date. It is not tomato based and is not very saucy (hee hee, what a great word!) – though my husband has asked me to play with that part of the recipe in the future, as he favors gravy on his carbs. This recipe is instead heavy on the sauteed onions, which gives great overall flavor to the dish.
I should also take a minute to disclose, by no means am I an expert on grits. I just know I’ve tried the instant kind and the slow-cooked kind, and slow-cooked are much better. I’ve started using a brand – Byrd Mill – that I can easily find in my local grocery store and that has proven a good choice time and again. I can honestly recommend Byrd Mill’s Old Tyme White Grits, though I encourage you to try whatever brands you have available where you are and see which you like best.
I must also disclose that my hunt for other versions of this great southern dish is far from over. I will continue to experiment with this recipe, and I will try others I find along the way … and again, I encourage you to do the same … because, southern manners or not, we are never too old to play with our food.
Later in the week, I will be back on task with a great recipe for a great patron saint (and no, it’s not St. Patrick). Till then, y’all enjoy!
9 months ago