What is it that You Love to Do?
“What is it that you love to do?” This question was asked of me recently by a good friend and I told him, “I love to create new things.” He then continued to tell me a story about a golden retriever and how when a golden retriever is living with a family it is a good dog. It is loyal and obedient and follows the rules. It is loving and special, but, when you see that same golden retriever in a field chasing butterflies or playing with other dogs, that is when it seems the most fully alive. “What a great visual!” I exclaimed.
This simple story reminded me of the three places I feel most alive – in the kitchen when I’m cooking, when I’m playing racquetball and when I’m dancing. So as I’m thinking about all of this and I’m reminded of an NPR article I was reading and it was talking about grits. Grits are one of those foods that I never liked until I had them cooked with cheese and garlic. But now they have become quite popular because chefs have taken something simple and plain – and often overlooked – and elevated it into something great.
When I was reading the NPR article, titled “Saving The Story Of Grits: A Dish Born of Poverty Now On Fine Dining Menus”, there was a quote that stuck out to me:
“Talking to people about grits started to open up all these conversations about bigger things,” says Murray. “I had just recently moved to the South, and it seemed like the people who were reviving grits as a food didn’t really match its origins. I was realizing that there was more to this than just following the dish through history.”
Now what did that phrase have to do with anything? For some reason this line sparked the idea that grits are often like students and teachers are often like chefs. In the NPR article as the author talks about the different cultures and backgrounds of different types of grits, I couldn’t help but think of how students come from different backgrounds. However, with the right teacher a student can be transformed into something spectacular.
The Best Thing I’ve Ever Eaten
I remember the first time I had shrimp and grits, I was on a trip to Savannah, Georgia with my best friend Joe. He and I wanted to eat at Paula Dean’s restaurant but it was booked for the night. (Insert angry and sad emojis here.) We did a quick Yelp search and found that The Pirate’s House was a historic building and the reviews on the food were fantastic. We quickly made our way to the Pirate House and it was one of the best diversions of my life. We started our meal with hot homemade biscuits and orange marmalade with a big plate of shrimp and grits. Creamy grits filled with cheese and green onions were layered with shrimp and a white wine cream sauce with red and green peppers and andouille sausage. As I took my first bite my eyes rolled back in my head with pleasure. So much complexity of of flavors and textures, it was a dream. To this day it is still one of the best plates of food I’ve ever eaten.
When I was growing up my only interaction with grits was the runny kind that they serve at Cracker Barrel. They have no real discernible flavor and the texture, at least for me, was/is unappetizing. So what made the difference? Was this the same grit that was used in making the fancy grits? I did my research, not only to learn more about grits, but also to learn how to recreate the dish that I was served at The Pirate House. The answer was yes, the grits were the same, you can just use Quaker Quick Grits, add a lot of butter, garlic, onions , heavy cream and cheese and you have something that is delicious.
Teachers, Grits, and Golden Retrievers
So how does all of this tie together with the golden retriever, teaching and grits? Well, when a teacher is doing what they love to do they are “in their element” they shine the way the golden retriever does in the field. When a teacher shines they have the ability to transform students, who start out complex – even when those complexities often appear very subtle. All students come from different backgrounds and sometimes varying cultures, but the best chefs, ahem, the best teachers, can cook up something that other people might otherwise overlook.
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And since we got you hungry with the Shrimp and Grits story, here is my own recipe that I perfected over time to taste as close to the Shrimp and Grits that I had at The Pirate House.
Delicious Shrimp and Grits Recipe
For the Grits:
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup instant grits
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 Cloves fresh Garlic Minced
- 1/2 cup green onions
To prepare the grits, combine the chicken stock, milk, heavy cream and garlic powder and minced garlic in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring the liquids to a boil and then stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grits are tender and have absorbed the liquid, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cheese and green onions and season the grits with salt and pepper. Reserve warm.
For the Shrimp:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound of bacon cooked and drained and diced
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 Cup White Wine (Pinot Grigio works great)
- 1 Cup Heavy Cream
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons of flour
- 2 teaspoons Tony Sachere’s seasoning
While the grits are cooking, in a separate pan cook the 1/2 pound of bacon, drain and set aside. Place a second large skillet over medium heat with the butter. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp, and juice of the lemon to the pan and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the zest of the lemon and season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan. Once the shrimp and onions mixture has been set aside, keep it someplace warm with the grits. Then dice up about 8 oz of andouille sausage and cook it in the pan. When the sausage has been cooked nicely deglaze the pan by stirring in the white wine. Sprinkle in the flour and stir quickly. I use a fork to make sure I get out the clumps. Add in the heavy cream keeping the pan on a medium to low heat. You can always turn up the heat if necessary. Add in the Tony’s Sachere’s seasoning to taste – you don’t need to use all of it, or you can always use more, just don’t over season it or you will be sad because this is such a great dish. As the sauce thickens add in the shrimp mixture and the bacon.
To serve, spoon the shrimp and pan sauce over the grits. Garnish with green onions and bacon if there is any left over.
Got a great recommendation for a restaurant that serves great shrimp and grits? Leave it in the comment section below!