Southern hospitality is a real thing. About 2 years ago I drove from Washington, DC to Atlanta to go house hunting. Mr. Hapanom had work responsibilities to attended to, so my my mom flew up from Florida to meet me. On our first outing to look at houses, I pulled into an empty bank parking lot to look at the map. I was scrolling through my navigation system to figure out our next destination, while my non-tech savvy mother had the giant paper map pulled out across the dashboard. I was engrossed in my GPS, when a man knocked on the window of my car, he obviously wanted to talk to me. Now I’m the type of person that thinks
that every stranger is out to get me, so when a man knocks on my window I immediately go into defense mode. I had my hand on the gear shifter ready to tear out of the parking lot just in case this guy tried anything funny. I cracked my window just enough to hear what he had to say and when I did, he warmly smiled and said, “do you guys need directions somewhere?”
I was shocked. In DC no one knocks on your window to be helpful. So with what I assume was a confused looking smile, I politely said, “Thanks, but I think we got it.”
He smiled warmly again and said, “Ok, well you ladies have a good day.”
The man turned around and got back into his car. I looked at my mom and remarked with great surprise, “Wow, he was nice.”
During our two years in Atlanta, Mr. Hapanom and I experienced countless acts of southern hospitality. That warm demeanor reflects in the food- it’s hearty, soulful, and it just leaves you feeling good inside. So the other day when I was craving southern food – shrimp n’ grits is what first came to mind… except this meal has an Asian twist to it – Salt & Pepper Shrimp and Grits.
This is a dish that makes a great meal anytime of day! Whether you want a big breakfast, a hearty dinner, or any meal in between; lightly crispy salt & pepper shrimp over cheesy grits, garnished with crispy bacon, scallions, and topped with a creamy poached egg is a dish that will keep you going!
- 8 cups water
- 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal (do not use instant grits)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound bacon
- 1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined*
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 eggs
- 4 scallions, sliced
- In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-high and slowly add the cornmeal (so it doesn't clump) and whisk constantly for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk frequently for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, turning it until it’s browned evenly. Turn off the heat, remove the bacon from the pan, and let it drain on paper towels. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside. (Do not drain the pan, you'll cook the shrimp in the bacon grease).
- Rinse and pat the shrimp dry. In a dish, combine the cornstarch, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Dredge the shrimp in the cornstarch mixture, shake off any extra. Heat the pan you cooked the bacon in, over medium-high heat and cook the shrimp 1 minute per side.
- To poach the eggs, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Reduce the temperature to low and crack the eggs into separate bowls. Carefully slide them each into the water, as close to the waters surface as possible. Set your timer for 3 minutes for perfectly runny yolks. While the eggs are cooking, divide the grits among 4 bowls. Add the shrimp, bacon, and scallions. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lift the eggs out of the water, transfer an egg to each prepared bowl of grits. Serve and enjoy!
**If you would like to read about Polenta vs. Cornmeal, click here.
***Recipe inspired by David Chang, Shrimp and Grits