Not exactly shrimp and grits because we’re not exactly in Charleston

Shrimp and grits

On our recent trip to Dewees Island, we enjoyed the proximity to fresh seafood. On a recent trip to Whole Foods, not so much.

Looking for a way to dispose of some of our bounty of farm share tomatoes, we had been talking about taking a shot at recreating a dish we liked at Slightly North of Broad (SNOB) in Charleston called “Maverick Shrimp & Grits.” It added tomatoes, sausage, onions, garlic and country ham to the classic Low Country dish. Steve finally visited a meat market in Crestwood (a run-down old railroad depot near Gourmandistan’s Kentucky home) for some locally-cured country ham. Unwrapping the shrimp we bought at Whole Foods, we were reminded we are nowhere near any shore where really good shrimp might be found. Using much less shrimp than called for in a recipe found in an online depository for the lamentably departed Gourmet Magazine, we added some okra we’d come upon at a farmers’ market and a bit more sausage to compensate for the mediocre shrimp, making our dish more like Sausage and Grits.


While it ended up as a sort of sausagy, slightly shrimpy salute to burgoo, at least our yellow grits were from Charleston. When we return to the shore, this dish may reappear in Gourmandistan. And quite possibly will have more shrimp.

Shrimp and grits


(adapted from SNOB’s recipe in Gourmet Magazine)

  • 2 servings grits, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 fresh andouille sausage (about 4 oz.), meat removed from casing
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1/4 c. julienned country ham
  • 5 or 6 okra pods, sliced into thin circles
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion (preferably a young one)
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Generous pinch of Creole spice blend (such as this one)
  • 1/4 cup peeled, seeded and diced fresh tomato
  • Splash of water
  • Scallions for garnish

While grits are cooking, fry sausage meat in a small skillet, breaking up with a spatula. Remove from heat while meat is still somewhat pink. Drain excess fat and set aside.

Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté ham in butter until it just barely begins to brown. Add okra and onion, tossing with a spatula. After a minute or two, add garlic and sausage. When okra is nearly cooked (and perhaps a little browned), add remaining tablespoon of butter. Then add shrimp and sauté, tossing, for a couple of minutes. Add spice blend, then stir in tomato and water. Sauté, scraping the bottom of the skillet, until shrimp are cooked through.

Serve over grits (to which some butter and a splash of cream are added at the end of cooking time, if desired). Garnish with chopped scallions.


    • Thanks, Deepa! Grits are basically the same thing as polenta. And I bet you won’t have any trouble finding better shrimp than we can find here, far from a coast where we are…

    • Thanks, Rosemary. There were few things I hated more as a child than okra. And, in summer, it seemed my grandmother would put it in everything. Now I really like it. Especially if small. (Which, having grown it, I know how difficult that is. It seems it can grow from tiny to enormous in the time it takes you to walk from the garden to the house.)

  1. A beautiful post in every way. There’s just so much to love about this dish and your photos are fantastic, as always. And I commiserate with you on the loss of Gourmet and the sad state of “fresh” shrimp when away from a coast. It’s a drawback of traveling. You don’t realize what you’re missing until you “discover” truly fresh seafood. I’m going through a similar withdrawal, buying Italian ingredients here, after having enjoyed the real thing “over there.” I see only one solution for us, Michelle. We must go back, you for shrimp and me for anything I can find. 🙂

    • You are too kind, John! And, yes: travel, travel, travel. As often as one can possibly afford! And, speaking of which, I was thinking about you because (although we’re not going to Europe this Fall … 😦 😦 😦 …), we are taking a short trip up to Lake Michigan next month. I’ve never been to Michigan outside of Detroit, and am looking forward to it. Where is that you are always going?

      • I go to the Lake Huron side of the state, about 100 miles north of Detroit. Figures, eh? You’ll like the Lake Michigan side, though. We often vacationed there as a boy. The beaches are beautiful and there are some wonderful little communities to see. Traverse City is a gem. The fruit stands will be in full swing, though you’ll be too late for fresh tart cherries. Some places, however, will sell them pitted and frozen. A blogging friend was just in Grand Rapids last year and wrote 3 restaurant reviews for her blog. If you’re in the area, you may find her reviews of interest. Here’s the link: http://kitcheninspirations.wordpress.com/?s=grand+rapids.
        The bottom line: you’re going to have a wonderful time. Buon viaggio!

  2. I grew up reading Gourmet, a formative part of my formative cooking education. I’m sure y’all are hip to Anson Mills grits, yes? Pretty darn great, I order them by mail. You could probably find some good frozen Baja shrimp down your way…

    • So sad that Gourmet is gone! My mother always got it, then gave me a subscription along with The New Yorker and The New Republic (which was actually pretty good in those days) when I went to college and for a long time thereafter. I thought what Reichl did with Gourmet was wonderful and was so sorry to see it go. Magazines are so dead now, but I do think that the new incarnation of Bon Appétit is currently quite good after many years of meh. You’re right: we should order Anson Mills products. All the good restaurants here use them. Usually we buy grits from a sorta local place near Lexington, which has the benefit of being local, but is not organic.

      • We had parallel childhoods, I think. 🙂 You’re right about the new Bon Appetit, I actually bought a copy at the newsstand the other week (for $5!!!) and really enjoyed it. And of course, Saveur remains the current gold standard for me, at least.

  3. This looks delicious. What a beautiful photo of the okra (love!). We are actually planning a trip to Charleston in a few weeks. I haven’t been there since I was about 8. Cant wait.

    • Thanks, Amanda! I think that, as a young person, there was nothing I hated more than okra which my grandmother put in everything in the summer. But now I like it! Charleston is such a wonderful town. And so many great places to eat. Our last visit, in May, the favorite meals were at The Glass Onion, a little northwest of downtown in West Ashley. Completely unpretentious and delicious locavore food. Have a wonderful trip!

    • It can be really slimy if overcooked. And then there’s the disconcerting snotty stuff that comes out when you cut it. (Sorry. It’s true.) But if you have small pods and cook it at a pretty high temperature, it can be good. Oh, and of course, it’s good battered and fried. But, then, what isn’t? 😉

    • The original is really pretty bland. It’s really just grits, with shrimp and a bit of butter and maybe some sort of allium. Which is why it’s so utterly dependent upon fresh, fresh, fresh shrimp. (I’ve even heard people bitch about the addition of Parmesan cheese as “not authentic.”) I’m not a purist on this. Sausage and ham are fine with me. 😉

  4. Grits have always been always a favorite of mine and served with sausage (and even topped with lackluster shrimp) I bet they were divine. I’m sure the addition of locally cured country ham (yum!) didn’t hurt either. When in doubt, add more pork!

  5. Ha! Your opening made me chuckle–nice rythmic twist. Nevertheless your dish looks fantastic. I’d easily scarf a plate down, especially with a couple of good craft beers sweating alongside. Scrolling through the comments, I saw your exchange with John. My family used to go to Traverse City when I was a kid (I was born in Petoskey) and I still have fond, blurry memories of it. Lake Michigan is gorgeous. While I love the ocean, there’s something magical about standing at the edge of freshwater lake so large it has its own weather systems. In my memory the water is staggeringly bright. I hope we read about your trip. By the way, one of the delights of our trip was stopping at a shrimp-in-a-basket place, back in the days when all shrimp were wild. Hope there’s still one to be found. Ken

    • Thanks, Ken! We’re actually going to the Leelanau Peninsula, just north of Traverse City. It’s so funny how our trips start vaguely in our minds and then develop. We were wanting to go somewhere beach-ish, different than the Carolina coast where we usually go, but not a terribly far drive away. MI popped in our heads. We asked a bunch of friends who’ve either lived in or traveled to the Great Lakes region, but didn’t come up with any really concrete recommendations (or at least not things that wouldn’t take days and days to drive to). So, I fumbled around trying to find ideas on the Internet and just became overwhelmed with all the possibilities. Then, I remembered (researcher that I am being a lawyer and all) that I’d read that Mario Batali has a place in MI. Not that I’m any big groupie of his particularly. But, I thought, well, wherever that is can’t be that bad, especially regarding good things to cook and eat. So, that’s where we ended up focusing on. It’s small consolation for not going to Europe for the first time in (jeez let me age myself) well over 15 years. But we’re looking forward to it!

  6. though, you can have more fun with not exactly recipes! When i go to NZ in October i will be eating seafood, I agree that the frozen supermarket variety is nothing like meeting the fishing boats as they come in.. have a glorious evening.. c

  7. Shrimp and grits: YES. 🙂 What type (mill/brand) of grits do you use from Charleston? I have a friend from NO, LA, who often brings me back gorgeous yellow or white grits from her home state. The real deal; love the flavor and texture. The okah in this recipe is classically Southern, and the creole spices, shrimp, onion, garlic and tomatoes are basically holy :-). Of course, the color and snap from the scallion garnish is not to be missed. Gourmet Magazine may have retired, but the real deal (you guys!) lives on. Keep on cookin’! Cheers! Shanna

    • Hey, Shanna! We usually buy grits from a local-ish place in Midway, KY, Weisenberger Mill. Though their website says they have yellow grits, I usually only see the white ones in stores. These yellow ones we just picked up at a grocery store in Charleston and I’m not sure what the brand is as I tossed the bag they came in.

  8. Right on, Michelle. Your experience will get added to the day I teach my students Low Country cooking.

    It is truly sad that Gourmet is defunct. It had some of the most amazing food writing in the world. I often encourage my students to get their hands on anything once written in it and READ!

  9. Charleston is a wonderful town with great restaurants. The dish you created might not be shrimp and grits but sounds absolutely delicious. I’m one of the people who like okra and as you say, they need to be small or they are woody.

  10. There’s such a wonderful easiness to this dish, which makes me think it would be pretty awesome for brunch. I love polenta (as we call it here.) Believe it or not, I’ve never tried it with seafood. Got to remedy that soon after seeing your snaps!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: