There’s an old saying that reminds us that fulfilling a need solves a problem temporarily. But, learning why the need exists and solving the problem will make a man rich forever. Necessity. Standard. Faith. Those were the principles that nurtured some of the hardest times of a people into the legacy that stands today. Forced out of a place they knew as home, Africans had to face a new and harsh reality. Slavery. An absolutely horrific period of time where familiarity, comfort, and love were tossed in the air and landed as turmoil, heartache, and disdain.
Amongst many a conclusion, enslaved Africans were brought to America and forced into an era that would eventually disrupt a culture and shift the entire dynamic of a people into a brand new dawn. The sun would rise to find slaves being forced to do field work at the hand of slave masters in conditions that were beyond inhumane. Forced into a new realm of thinking, slaves had to be creative in how they did almost everything, including developing meals.
Corn. It was a staple in the Native American diet. It was even used as a form of currency at one point. Corn was plentiful. Corn was abundant. And it became a staple of the slaves’ diet. Corn was usually ground down into a fine ground powder and mixed with water, cooked, and eaten – a form or porridge as we know it today.
As simple as it can get, I bring a pot of chicken stock to a boil. I’ll add the grits stirring carefully until the grits get thick. To help loosen, I add butter, cream, and cream cheese. I let the grits simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until they’re rich and creamy.
Being the ingenious people that slaves had to be, those from the costal region would catch fresh shrimp off the coast. They would usually cook it in a variety of ways. They were adept in utilizing resources for their benefit. Eventually, they paired this boiled porridge with the abundance of shrimp from the coast and what we know as shrimp and grits was born.
Through a bit of tweaking, history traveling, and adaptations, variations of the dish eventually started popping up on menus throughout the restaurant scene…each culture adding their flare and tipping the tide toward their associative influence.
Mine – it’s easy. I’ll saute the flavor base of onion, bell pepper, and celery in a bit of olive oil until fragrant. Then, I’ll add some seasonings – salt, pepper, a pinch of fennel, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. In go fresh herbs – oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary. They saute just a bit more and then I’ll deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine and stock. Once that reduces, I’ll toss in a bit of cream and butter and finish with a bit of smoked paprika. Fresh crab and shrimp get sauteed with a bit of Old Bay and salt and then it’s time to assemble. I’ll add the grits to a bowl, then top with the cooked seafood and finally the sauce. The whole dish is finished with chopped scallions.
It’s a recipe that gets it start from many places. It’s influenced generations of culture. Regardless of where it ends up, its origins are all the same. Necessity. Faith. Standard. All the components that helped nourish and sustain a disenfranchised people into their harsh new reality. We speak their names each time we stir. We honor their presence each time we cut. We reverence their sacrifice each time we pour. And when we eat, we give thanks!
Low Country Shrimp & Grits with Crab
For the grits:
1 cup of quick cooking grits
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 stick of butter
4 ounces of mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream
To cook the grits, bring the chicken stock to just under a boil. Whisk in the grits and lower the heat. Let the grits cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the grits get really thick, add in the butter, mascarpone cheese, and heavy cream. Stir to combine and the grits are ready to serve.
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1/4 cup of diced bell pepper
1/4 cup of diced onion
1/4 cup of diced celery
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/4 teaspoon of dried fennel
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
1/2 tablespoon of fresh oregano
1/2 tablespoon of fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon of fresh rosemary
3/4 cup of white wine
3/4 cup of chicken stock
3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
To make the sauce, heat a skillet and add in the olive oil and butter. then, toss in the onion, bell pepper, and celery. Cook on medium high heat until fragrant. Then, add in the seasonings and all the herbs. Cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring, then deglaze the pan with the white wine and chicken stock. Cook for 10 minutes until the stock reduces, then add in the heavy cream and smoked paprika. Cook on medium heat until the sauce thickens slightly. Keep warm until you’re ready to serve.
For the seafood:
1 pound of jumbo shrimp
1/2 pound of crab meat
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of Old Bay
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Then, add in the oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the shrimp and crab and season with Old Bay and salt. Cook just until the shrimp have cooked through.
To assemble, add the grits on the bottom. Then, top with the sauce and seafood.
Note: To make this completely keto, sub the grits with cauliflower grits.