It’s nothing less than heresy even to suggest that the folks in Tennessee might know as much about shrimp and grits as those in the Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry, where the specialty originated, but when my obsessed Mississippi cohort Julia Reed put me on to the cheesy, tomatoey creation served at Pearl’s Foggy Mountain Café in the unlikely small town of Sewanee, Tennessee, I knew I’d encountered something altogether different, but special. Of course, this glorious dish is now becoming as fashionable in restaurants all over the country as blackened redfish once was, and God knows the abominable transformations it will suffer at the hands of cocky chefs. This, however, is one modification that gives the dish a truly exciting new dimension, without distorting its integrity.
To make the grits, combine the water and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Gradually add the grits, stirring, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook till the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from the heat, add the cheese and butter, stir till melted. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, peel and devein the shrimp, combine the shells and water in a saucepan, and reserve the shrimp. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat slightly, cook till the liquid is reduced by half, and strain the stock into a bowl.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat, add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring, till softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and thyme and cook about 3 minutes longer. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir well. Add the reserved shrimp and cook, stirring, till they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add
To serve, spoon a mound of grits in the center of each serving plate, spoon shrimp around the grits, and sprinkle parsley over the top.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.