Shrimp and grits has been a South Carolina specialty for generations. From succulent shrimp sourced from coastal tidal creeks to fresh corn harvested from farms across the state, this perfect Lowcountry marriage of ingredients has grown beyond its status of traditional sea-to-table fare into one of South Carolina's most iconic dishes.
Shrimp and Grits with Chef Frank Lee
Over the years, shrimp and grits has gained widespread popularity across the country. A major contributor to that growth is the continual creativity and culinary excellence being cooked up in some of South Carolina's most storied restaurant kitchens.
Chef Frank Lee, a South Carolina culinary legend, has been one of the most significant forces behind this movement, helping shrimp and grits' popularity soar nationwide.
He also had a notable influence on the culinary scene in South Carolina, especially in Charleston. Dozens of the chefs he has worked with and mentored over the years have gone on to successfully helm their own kitchens, from Charleston to Columbia (where Lee got his start) to Greenville as well as places in-between and beyond.
Chef Lee's culinary concepts continue to be reflected in the menu at the acclaimed restaurant he co-founded in 1993, Slightly North of Broad, or "SNOB," as locals refer to it. Slightly North of Broad is part of Hall Management Group, which represents some of Charleston's finest restaurants dedicated to sharing unique culinary experiences and Southern culture.
Chef Lee has always placed an emphasis on local ingredients - from fresh produce to meat and seafood. This aesthetic, paired with the French techniques he learned while traveling and dining throughout Europe, resulted in Slightly North of Broad's famous shrimp and grits dish - the most popular item on an all-around mouthwatering menu.
Shrimp and Grits Recipe
Recipe courtesy of Chef Frank Lee
For the Grits
3½ cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup stone-ground South Carolina grits
¼ cup cream
For the Shrimp Stock
Tools needed: 2-gallon pot, fine chinois
Yield: 4 cups
4 cups shrimp shells (reserved from fresh shrimp)
½ cup olive oil
1 cup onion, medium diced
1 cup carrot, medium diced
½ cup celery, medium diced
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 cup fresh tomato, medium diced
2 tablespoons garlic
4½ cups water
4 ounces country ham, julienned
4 ounces kielbasa sausage
2 tablespoons butter
20 shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for stock)
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Cajun spice
1 cup fresh tomato, peeled, seeded and medium diced
1 cup green onion
2-3 ounces shrimp stock
MAKE THE GRITS
Bring water, salt and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil.
Stir in grits. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally until grits are thick and creamy.
After about 40 minutes, remove from heat and finish by stirring in cream and the remaining butter. Keep warm until ready to serve.
MAKE THE STOCK
Toast the shrimp shells in olive oil in the 2-gallon pot until pink and fragrant.
Add the onion, carrot, celery and fennel seed and cook without burning until the vegetables relax, giving up some of their rigidity.
Add the tomato and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the water, bring to a boil, skim and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine chinois.
If you can get local shrimp with the heads on, use them! The heads are where most of the flavor is.
ADD THE REMAINING INGREDIENTS
Brown the ham and sausage with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Add the shrimp, garlic and Cajun spice, and saute without burning the spice (2 minutes).
Add the tomatoes and green onion, continuing to saute until the tomato renders some juice.
Moisten with the shrimp stock and bring to a bubble (not a boil), and finish with butter.
Serve over the creamy grits.
For more delicious recipes by Chef Frank Lee, order a copy of his cookbook, "The S.N.O.B. Experience" from the Historic Charleston Foundation Store or online retailers.