What to do for breakfast? Better yet, what to do for lunch or perhaps brunch? Well, there is something I’ve been hankering to make for a long time. Early Girl Eatery (www.earlygirleatery.com) on Wall Street in Asheville does an excellent job of this. And while I haven’t asked owners John and Julie Stehling for their recipe, I decided it might be fun to try and come close to their excellent shrimp and grits.
Researching is the first step in any recipe. I have plenty of cookbooks, access to the Internet, and a lot of local ingredients. As I was choosing among different recipes, one of the first things I noticed was the call for a bit of white wine, so I decided it was time to open a bottle of chardonnay. I enjoyed a Mac Murray Ranch, Sonoma Coast 2009 Chardonnay while I worked.
I decided to pull inspiration from the Creekside Cookbook, a collection of recipes from the Edisto Island Yacht Club. (You can order the book by writing to P.O. Box 434, Edisto Island, South Carolina 29438.) I quickly found a recipe for Rebel Shrimp and Grits, courtesy of City Grocery restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi. Pulling from this and other recipes, here is what I came up with:
Mountain Made Shrimp & Grits Serves 4+
1/2 lb. bacon
3 cups cooked grits
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2-3 oz chèvre
1-2 Tbs Olive oil
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. small-medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. white wine
Parmesan or farmstead cheese, shaved thin
Fresh parsley, chopped
White or black pepper, to taste
In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until it begins to brown. Remove from the heat and reserve the drippings. Once it cools, coarsely chop the bacon and set aside.
Note: Bacon is very special to me. You don’t want to use just any bacon, but rather a product that is locally sourced and naturally salt cured. Several great sources of local bacon include the Chop Shop Butchery (www.chopshopbutchery.com) Big Ivy Meats (www.bigivymeats.com) Hickory Nut Gap Meats (www.hickorynutgapfarm.com) or Benton’s (www.bentonscountryhams2.com)
Cook one dried cup of grits according to the package instructions. (This will make about three cups, and I recommend using milk instead of water.) Buy southern ground grits from a local, sustainable producer such as Barker’s Creek Mill (www.buyappalachian.org/listing/barker-s-creek-gristmill). Once the grits are ready, although you really don’t need the richness, I suggest mixing in unsalted butter and a half round of chèvre. A good one to try is Oak Moon Farm & Creamery (www.freewebs.com/oakmoonfarm) in Bakersville. Stir until melted and creamy, and cover to keep warm.
In a large skillet over low heat, add some of the bacon grease, a little olive oil, green onions, and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft. Take care not to burn the garlic. Turn up the heat and add the shrimp, stirring until they begin to turn pink all over. Add the bacon, lemon juice, and white wine, and cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat.
Prepare a garnish by slicing thin shavings of Parmesan or a local farmstead cheese using a vegetable peeler or slicer. Yellow Branch farmstead cheese (www.yellowbranch.com) from Robbinsville is a good one to try. Also prepare several tablespoons of parsley (curly or flat-leaf) for sprinkling on top of the dish.
Serve the creamy grits in a shallow bowl, topped with the shrimp and bacon mixture, and sprinkle with freshly ground white or black pepper, parsley, and cheese. And if you can manage, fresh baked biscuits and seasonal jam from Imladris Farm (www.imladrisfarm.com) and locally roasted coffee make great complements to this dish, finished off, of course, with another glass of wine!