Shrimp and Enough Already

Enough

Enough already

Stop

Quit

Leave it alone

Really

Stop

About what am I speaking?

That most representative dish of Lowcountry cooking

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and hominy

Breakfast shrimp

Shrimp gravy

It’s not hard

It’s not complicated

But, for the love of all that is, chefs from Key West to Campobello, from Charleston to Los Angeles, from Seattle to Jacksonville, from New Orleans to Detroit and everywhere in between have to mess with it time and time and time again

A chef in Asheville, North Carolina, espoused her creative use of foraged bounty in making her version

Foraged?

In the mountains?

Who eats seafood in Asheville?

Mountain trout?

Yes

Shrimp?

No

Just quit

In glossy food magazines, there are paeans to plates of muddled messes of shrimp cooked with olive oil, garlic, tasso, mushrooms, red pepper, sherry vinegar, jalapeno peppers

It ain’t right

Growing up, the now highly exalted Shrimp and Grits were simply, well, breakfast on the weekend or supper on nights when moms were too tired to make much else

It’s easy fare

Peeling the shrimp is the hardest part

On weekends at our fish camp on Pritchard’s Island, the dads would saute a chopped onion, may be a diced bell pepper, in butter or a little bacon grease, they would throw in some Worcestershire sauce, perhaps a bit of sausage, may be make a roux, may be not,  and then they’d add some water to make a fairly thin and wan colored gravy.  Lastly, they would cook shrimp in the sauce, then sprinkle it with bacon

Definitely not Instagramable

The Junior League of Charleston’s venerable old Charleston Receipts has “Breakfast Shrimp” by Mrs. Ben Scott Whaley (Emily Fishburne), late of Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden fame.  Her version is almost the one I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s.  She adds a little ketchup.

Mrs. Whaley advised serving breakfast shrimp “with hominy”

I’m sure her hominy was simple boiled grits. No heavy cream and chicken stock to be found. Just water, salt, and grits.

In the heading of the section with her receipt there’s an explanation called “Shrimp for Breakfast.” The editors of the cookbook wrote that shrimp have long been a breakfast favorite in the coastal region.

Good enough remains good enough

No mousselline sauces

No beurre blancs

No oyster mushrooms

No sugar

No tomatoes

No stock made with shrimp heads

No diced green onion garnishment

Just simplicity on a plate on a Saturday morning

That’s what we knew

Beaufort’s own Larry Taylor, who cooked at the Beaufort Yacht Club and his now shuttered restaurant, L.T.’s, made the absolute best shrimp gravy

My mother would order from him and take him containers to fill with that velvety goodness to be reheated slowly in a pot and served with hominy.  He put cooked sausage in his. There was nothing fancy about it, though

I get that chefs want to…

…wait for it…

…my least favorite expression which is overused by everyone in the culinary world…

…wait for it…

…you can’t un-hear it once you hear it…

…wait for it…

…riff on the classics

Stop it

Really

Stop it

Last year, at this amazing party weekend, a friend who lives in Denver of all places challenged me to a shrimp and grits cook off.

She said that she would crush me

Dahlin, where you get your shrimp in the Mile High City in the middle of the country?

Bless your heart, Sweet Pea

She will probably add ghee and lemon juice and parsley and cheddar cheese to her version which would most likely derive from Brooklyn’s own Bobby Flay or Long Island’s Ina Garten.  She will probably roast the shrimp in a convection oven or something else amazing

 

img_9369
They don’t got these in Denver

 

My version will be so simple and will highlight the fine creek shrimp we get around here, especially in late summer

I have a great pal who is a damned fine cook.  Recently we were all together, and he said he was going to make shrimp for breakfast to go with his grits. No, he didn’t call it shrimp and grits.  He just said he was making shrimp for the grits.  He’s an umpteenth generation local.  He knows the deal

All he did was melt some butter, add the shrimp and saute, add a little salt and pepper and a bop of Worcestershire at the end.  He crumbled a little cooked bacon over and spooned over warm hominy.  Perfection.  Not a hint of fish stock or andouille sausage, which is from New Orleans and not from South Carolina

Here’s what I make when the shrimp are running

I don’t charge $25.00 a plate, either

Again, really, just stop with the silliness and make you some true Lowcountry shrimp and grits, shrimp and hominy, shrimp gravy, breakfast shrimp

It’s the real deal

 

Shrimp Gravy

1/2 stick butter, salted, unsalted, it does not matter

1 small yellow onion, diced small

1 small green pepper, diced small (optional)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

A dash of hot sauce

1/4 c. flour

1 cup water

2 lbs shrimp, peeled, devein if you wish, but I don’t bother

5 slices bacon, cooked crisp, crumbled, reserved

Cooked grits

Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the vegetables. Add salt and pepper and saute until the vegetables are soft.  Add the Worcestershire and hot sauce.  Add in the flour and cook for 1-2 mins to get the raw taste out and then add the water and make into a smooth sauce, using a whisk.  Bring to a boil slowly. It will thicken once it boils. If it gets too thick, add more water.  Once the desired consistency, add the shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink. The water in the shrimp will thin out the gravy.  Do not overcook the shrimp.  About 3 minutes is all it takes to cook the shrimp through. This is a super fast receipt.  You can cook it and then let it sit.  Add some more water if you want to reheat it that way

Serve the shrimp gravy over the grits and garnish with crumbled bacon

Don’t garnish with lemon juice, or parsley, or sous vided anything

It doesn’t have a hint of pretension, though, and truly represents that simple dish now highly exalted in fancy kitchens around the world

As Dorothy Parker was fond of saying, “An ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure”

This is no manure

Bring back the humble hominy of my youth

Really

Just stop it, Chefs

Stop it

Enough already

 

6 thoughts on “Shrimp and Enough Already

  1. Respect. In the Keys there is a humble dish called Grunts and Grits. Same basics different protein. Dennis Pharmacy on United Street had it with Cuban toast for 5 bucks when I first moved to Key West. I went there when I felt homesick because then it just felt like I was in Port Royal with clear water. It seems that the culinary hoy-Paloy can’t accept that some things are perfect and don’t need changing. Frogmore stew and shrimps gravy are some of those perfect things.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Another winner, Hamlin! I never got to taste Larry’s shrimp and grits, but nothing can hold a candle to Sherwood Fender’s version! He makes the very best I’ve ever had anywhere! Maybe Larry copied his receipt since Sherwood used to spend so much time at the Yacht Club!! LOL!! Thanks for your articles that re-live the “olden days”!! Great memories always!

    Liked by 1 person

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