Don't miss this during Houston Restaurant Weeks. (Photo courtesy Lucille's)
Ordering shrimp and grits can turn out be a mistake. Overdone shrimp, mushy, mealy grits, and an overall blandness: Who wants that? I’ve had my share of such travesties, too often, and bad grits are up there in my book with mediocre hamburgers, overdone steak, and poorly baked baguettes.
I judge the shrimp and grits I eat by a few yardsticks: the bowls I’ve eaten at Nana’s Seafood & Soul and Hominy Grill, two Charleston, South Carolina, mainstays, and the recipe I have developed over the years, based on my grandmother Ida’s rendition of the dish (she was born and lived in Savannah, and was a great cook). I use the shells and heads of the shrimp to make a stock, and prefer grits from Anson Mills.
It was my good fortune to order a bowl of shrimp and grits recently at Lucille’s, during a preview of the restaurant’s Houston Restaurant Weeks‘ menu. Four large and well-cooked shrimp (neither too firm nor too soft; there is a sweet spot at which the meat of the crustacean is exactly between translucence and chalky looking, and that’s when I love to eat mine), andouille sausage, a sherry tomato broth, and stone-ground grits. I like my broth/roux a bit thicker, but this version was delicate and bright, the sherry combining beautifully with the acid of the tomato. The grits were creamy and seasoned well — worthy of a Charleston table — and the sausage smoky and rich.
I tasted a spoonful of nothing but grits, as I always do when beginning this dish, and they pleased me. A bite containing all of the components was complex and comforting and satisfying. (I made shrimp and grits a few weeks ago, and paired it with a 2014 Vionta Albariño, in case you are looking for a wine to drink with yours.)
Want to read more about this iconic dish? Here’s a great start.