Shrimp & grits, a Southern classic


How are y’all doing today?

Now you might be wondering why the heck I am calling you y’all. That’s fairly easy: I am writing to you from Charleston, South Carolina, one of my favorite spots on planet earth and a city in the deep South of the United States of America.

The one thing that you quickly learn after coming to Charleston for the first time is that the city’s cuisine can be very unique and particular. You will find meals on the menus that you have not heard of before. I love such situations. They make me want to try out everything that is on the menu. Some of my highlights are fried chicken livers with apple sauce and home-made crab cakes. One dish of which I could not understand the reputation for a while are shrimp and grits, simply because I could not understand why grits are supposed to be such a special ingredient. Now I know that it does not matter. Simple food, and especially what is called soul food down here, is not overly fancy but definitely tasty.

Sweet chicken with lima beans and rice. Another local dish. May not sound so tasty but it  is great. Believe me. So if ever you stumble across local restaurants like Jestine’s kitchen, Hyman’s seafood restaurant, Martha Lou’s Kitchen or places like Hominy Grill or Fleet Landing (these are really only a very few of what Charleston has to offer) do not hesitate to stop and sit down for brunch, lunch or dinner. You will not be disappointed.

Today I would like to introduce you to my take on shrimp and grits:

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Ingredients:

200g polenta (substitute with white or yellow grits if you know where to get them)

1/2 lbs / 250g shrimps (cooked and peeled)

1-2 tablespoons basil pesto

1/2 small, diced red onion or 1 diced shallot

1 can diced tomatoes

2 mushrooms, cut in thin slices

1 teaspoon roasted sunflower seeds (for decoration)

Olive oil, salt, pepper

Preparation:

1) How to prepare the polenta: If you want to make it a quick meal, buy a roll of pre-cooked polenta. I used polenta in the shape of a sausage and cut finger-thick slices that I roasted in a pan. Optionally, you can also heat them up in your microwave. You can also choose to cook the polenta on your own and arrange it on the plate by laying out 4 equal-sized scoops.

If you manage to find grits in your supermarket, please follow the cooking instructions on the packaging.

2) In a pan, stir fry the shrimps in a little bit of olive oil until cooked. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in the basil pesto. Tip: You can peel the shrimps prior to cooking or after. If you decided to peel the shrimps after they are cooked, make sure to peel them while they are still warm because the skin comes off much easier. Remove from pan.

3) In the same pan, saute the onion until glassy. Then add the mushrooms and saute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally add the diced tomatoes and stir at low to medium heat for a few minutes. Shortly before serving, add the shrimps to the veggies and warm everything up.

4) Serving suggestion: On a plate, arrange 4 slices or scoops of polenta and top with the shrimp tomato sauce. Decorate with roasted sunflower seeds.

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