Monday, March 11, 2013

Country Ham and Shrimp on Grits

Forest Gump, move over! Here comes a very Southern dish! This is so good it would make Forest run for sure. When I think of Shrimp and Grits, I think of Spanish moss hanging from giant oak trees, warm summer days, lazy rivers, front porches, lemonade in tall glasses with sprigs of mint and the scent of magnolia blossoms wafting on the breeze. My goodness, Scarlet just may show up for dinner!

We lived in Jacksonville, Fl right out of college for 10 years. I was in heaven with all the fresh seafood and fish. We used to go to the docks at Mayport and buy shrimp as it came off the boat, heads on for $1 per pound! Oh! My! That WAS a long time ago!! When I was little, my godmother lived in Long Beach, MS literally across Hwy 90 from the Gulf coast. She taught me to eat whole flounder at an early age and ingrained in me a love of all things from salt water. A few years ago, Bill and I went to San Juan, PR and ate at a small local restaurant where I had traditional paella, complete with eyes looking back at me! That was almost too much! But, I still loved every bite even though I couldn't look at it!

I truly believe there are those of us that no matter where we live, we will always have a little sand in our shoes. And for those of you who don't, you will still love this recipe!

This recipe calls for country ham. If you don't have it or chose not to use it, substitute pancetta, thick bacon or smoked ham. Just realize that country ham gives that smoky, salty flavor that adds depths of flavor to this dish.

The worst sin of cooking seafood is overcooking! Shrimp are done as soon as they turn pink. Period. If you cook them longer, you might as well serve rubber bands. And, that is all I have to say about that.

Serve the shrimp over grits, but not just ordinary grits and PULEEZE, NOT instant grits (which to true Southerners are not grits at all!). Stone ground grits with some texture and flakes of crunchy corn husks will make all the difference in elevating this dish from plain to gourmet!

This is a special occasion meal. Serve it for company who will (hopefully) appreciate this Southern specialty. I plan to make it for my sister-in-law from Maine when she visits.

Country Ham and Shrimp on Grits
1 stick butter
12 oz. country ham, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 cup brandy
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 teaspoon sage
1 1/2 pounds small shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Hot cooked grits

Melt butter in large, heavy nonstick skillet over high heat. Add ham and saute quickly. Add garlic and green onion. Saute for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in brandy. Return to heat and stir in cream, cayenne and sage. Cook for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly. Add shrimp and simmer for 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn light pink. Stir in the parsley and serve over hot grits.
Yield: 4 servings.

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