Friday, July 10, 2015

Shrimp, grits, gravy and greens.

Fried grit cakes with boudin gravy, dandelion greens and shrimp. © Ryan Schierling
Every Southern cook worth their heritage cast iron pot-and-pan collection has a shrimp and grits recipe that's the best. Of course, it's a recipe that was bestowed to them in hushed tones by their mama, from their mama's mama, and so on and so forth, down a long line of mamas. My mother doesn't have a shrimp and grits recipe and I'm not a southern cook. I rock the cast iron, but there is no lineage that would tie me to a historically time-honored shrimp and grits recipe.

I'm not looking to give you one more traditional (or non-traditional) reinterpretation of what started as a Low Country breakfast dish. It's been done.

While I have a deep and abiding respect for the classics, I wanted a fussy, sassy, gussied-up little Southern belle that was more a complete plate than just shrimp and grits. Call me a Yankee all you want – but when you taste these fried grit cakes and boudin cream gravy, the little pickled green tomatoes, the robust, biting dandelion greens and that rich New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp – you will slap your mama.

Fried grit cakes

1 cup stone-ground grits
5 cups water
2 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt 
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup flour 
Vegetable oil (for frying)

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the grits and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring constantly until they have thickened up, about 20 minutes. Stir in butter, a few good pinches of salt and a fair amount of cracked black pepper. Pour grits into a greased 6 1/2-inch by 10 inch casserole dish. We used a Fire King 410 1 1/2 quart casserole and the grits cakes ended up about 1 1/4 inches thick. Refrigerate the grits a few hours, until they are firm. Turn the large grit cake out on to a cutting board and use a three inch round biscuit cutter to cut out six cakes. Beat the egg in a shallow bowl, and put the flour in another shallow bowl. Gently dredge the grit cakes first in the flour, then dip in the egg wash, and back into the flour. Place on waxed paper until ready to fry.

Add oil about 1/2 inch up the side of a medium-size cast iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is 375-degrees. Fry the grit cakes two at a time until they are crisp and golden brown on the outside, turning once. They'll look just like biscuits. Place the fried cakes on a wire rack over a paper towel to drain, then place in a warm oven until you're ready to plate. 

Boudin gravy

1 6-ounce link of boudin sausage, casing removed, crumbled
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 cups whole milk
Salt, to taste
Tomato powder, for garnish

In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, whisk butter and flour together until you have a blonde roux. Stir in boudin, then begin whisking milk in one cup at a time until the gravy comes together. Turn down to a simmer and add salt to taste. If it's too thick, whisk in a little more milk. Too thin, simmer a little longer.

Editor's note: Just making the fried grit cakes with boudin gravy is more than worth the price of admission. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner... it doesn't matter. They're delicious together.

Pickled green tomatoes

1 pint green* tomatoes, chopped
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt

In a small saucepan, bring cider vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil until sugar and salt dissolve. Put tomatoes in a small jar and cover with the hot liquid. Cover, and refrigerate for at least a few hours. These will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. 

*We used green cherry tomatoes from our garden for this preparation, but any chopped green tomato (or ripe tomato, if you're partial) is fine. It's just a nice little acidic hit.

Dandelion greens

2 bunches dandelion* greens, washed well, tough stems removed
1/4 of a white onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste

In a large, non-reactive skillet over medium heat, add butter. Saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in dandelion greens, add a good pinch of salt and put a lid on it. Let the greens cook down until the stems are tender and everything’s nicely wilted. Add apple cider vinegar, a good pinch of crushed red pepper, a few grinds of black pepper and more salt to taste. Stir well, add a smidgen more vinegar if you like it tangy, which we do.

*You can use mustard greens or collard greens if you like. Dandelion greens aren't always the easiest to find.

New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp

3 large, head-on shrimp
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce
Salt, to taste
Parsley, finely-chopped for garnish

In a medium, non-reactive skillet add Worcestershire sauce, garlic, lemon juice, pepper, Creole seasoning, a pinch of salt and the hot sauce. Simmer over medium heat until the garlic starts to soften up a bit, about 5 minutes. Begin whisking in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce comes together. It's important to do this slowly and patiently, keeping things moving, because this is an easy sauce to break.

Reduce heat to low, add shrimp and cook until they're just pink. (This amount of sauce will cook and coat at least six shrimp if you'd like more.)

For each plate, add a bit of boudin gravy, top with a grit cake and pickled tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little tomato powder for some color. Lay down the greens, then on the other side put a grit cake down, place the shrimp on top with a little of the cooking sauce. Garnish with parsley. Apologize to your mother for slapping her. 

Serves three.


  1. This looks amazing. My style of food. I wouldn't be ashamed to like the plate clean.

    1. Thank you! It's definitely comfort food of the highest order. That boudin gravy, I would sop up with almost *anything*.


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