One of our fondest memories about this time of year is “Spring Vacation.”
The smell of Coppertone suntan lotion and the sounds of Muskrat Love helped set the mood as we packed up the dark blue Bonneville station wagon and headed south to Aunt Lena and Uncle Ken’s house in Tampa, Fla. After driving endlessly for two days and eating on the run, the warm welcome of the 90-degree temperatures and the hot meal Aunt Lena would have waiting for us was greatly appreciated.
It was Uncle Ken who first introduced us to a breakfast of grits, smothered in butter with a red-eye gravy splashed all over them. The gravy is made from the drippings of pan-fried ham, mixed with black coffee and is truly a southern favorite.
As the vacation went on, we found that Southerners would serve grits not only for breakfast but as a side dish or part of the main meal. When freshly caught shrimp cooked in bacon grease were tossed over a big bowl of creamy grits, it fast became our favorite way to eat grits!
Serving this dish with a crisp, refreshing glass of Chardonnay brings us back to fond family memories… and we toast to the great days gone.
Shrimp and Grits
For the Shrimp:
1 pound jumbo shrimp
extra-virgin olive oil, about 1/2 cup for brushing
coarse salt and black pepper
fresh lemon wedges for garnish
Note: By leaving the shells on the shrimp, this will keep the shrimp tender while grilling over such high heat. But if you prefer to remove them you can.
Brush shrimp with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill 2 minutes on each side, until shells are hot pink and shrimp is opaque.
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Place the milk, water, and salt in a large, pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, gradually add the cornmeal while continually whisking. Once all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, reduce heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk often, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is creamy.
Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter, and whisk to combine. Once the butter is melted, gradually whisk in the cheese a little at a time.
Serve immediately, topped with the broiled shrimp.