Shrimp and Grits

I know of no dish more typically Lowcountry than Shrimp and Grits. Umpteen versions exist for the gravy, from a simple sautéing of the shrimp in butter to complicated sauces made by techniques popular in nouvelle cuisine. Until recently families all over the Lowcountry partook of “breakfast shrimp,” as the dish is often called, every morning during shrimp season. Preferred, as always, are the smallest, “creek” shrimp.

I prepare seven or eight version of this dish; two of them are Charleston classics—the shrimp prepared in melted butter or in bacon grease with onions and peppers. Ruth and Scott Fales, who for fourteen years ran Charleston’s Pinckney Café and Espresso, prepare a tomato sauce that points to the renewed interest among young chefs here in fine fresh local ingredients prepared simply. In November, when the shrimp season is at its height and the fall crops of tomatoes are bursting on the vines, Ruth makes a sauce from the heads and shells of freshly caught shrimp and ripe red local tomatoes—a very Franco-Italian and very Lowcountry concoction that she serves over pasta as well as hominy. Other recipes count on the reduction of shrimp stock made from their heads and shells, an amber liquid that perfectly melds the creamy grits and the pink of the shrimp. Directions for cooking gloriously creamy, whole-grain grits, which are a far cry from those packaged “quick” and “instant” grits, can be found.

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