Shrimp and grits has long been a staple meal in the American south, marrying West Africa cooking methods with ingredients introduced by the American Indians. From the port town of Charleston it spread down the coast and rimmed the Gulf of Mexico. And if you’re not familiar with grits, you’re missing out.
This recipe turns the traditional meal on its head, opting for a tempura-like ginger shrimp, based on Michael Symon’s fried calamari recipe, coupled with a little heat in the form of cayenne pepper. The final result is a dish that is at once familiar but definitely leans towards the exotic.
- 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 medium ginger lobes
- Equal parts all purpose flour and panko bread crumbs (1.5 cups, total)
- 1 egg
- 16 oz. high-quality ginger ale
- Canola or peanut oil
- 1 cup grits (traditional stone ground, if you can find them. Here, I used quick grits. Instant grits are totally unacceptable)
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Srirache (sp) sauce (in a pinch, a good buffalo sauce will do nicely)
- Maple sugar
- Additional ginger ale
Peel and devein the shrimp, and peel and slice the ginger. (When peeling ginger, it's best to use a spoon, scraping the peel from the flesh. It works very well and enables you to get into the roots' nooks and crannies.) Place the shrimp in a non-reactive container, pour in enough ginger ale to cover the shrimp and add the sliced ginger. Let this sit for at least six hours.
Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you have everything set for frying the shrimp. Beat the egg and leave in a bowl large enough to fit most of the shrimp. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and panko and add a dash of salt. Pour about two inches of oil into the bottom of a sturdy pot.
Remove the shrimp from the ginger ale and pat dry.
Make the grits as per the directions on the package, though shy away from butter and cream for this recipe. For quick grits, whisk 1 cup (dry) grits into 3 cups of rapidly boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for five to seven minutes, then mix in the cayenne pepper.
Note: To add a little sweetness to your grits, you might want to try adding a touch of maple syrup. Or, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could use the ginger ale instead of a water portion—one-third cup, for example. I haven’t tried either of these variations yet, so you’re on your own. If you do try them, however, I’d love to hear about the results.
As the grist finish cooking, heat the oil you poured earlier to 350F. Toss the shrimp in the egg mixture to coat them, then dredge in the flour and panko mixture. When the grits have finished cooking, remove them from the heat. Then, begin frying the shrimp. Work in batches and drain on paper towels or a wire cooling rack. They fry up very quickly--about a minute per batch, so you’ll want to stay on top of things. To plate, spoon a dollop of grits onto the center of a plate, place several shrimp on top of the grits and hit the whole thing with a couple squirts of the srirache. The mixture of sweetness from the ginger ale and spice from the hot sauce is wonderful, complex, and just the thing for a breezy spring evening on the patio.