I am fortunate enough to be from the greatest place in the world – Panama City, the world’s most beautiful beaches. It is true, the sand is white and perfect and the gulf is perfectly turquoise. Growing up in Panama City was magic – it seems everyone keeps a laid back attitude, because it is impossible to be stressed with that kind of beauty in your back yard. I am still so lucky because my parents still live there, and they have a pool – so anytime I feel land locked in Birmingham, I have a free place to stay and enjoy my beautiful hometown.
Sometimes, though, I like to stay at a good friend’s beach house – and every year for 10 or more years now, I have gone there with Susie and Lisa, usually in late April. This house, which I could refer to as heaven on earth, gives me goosebumps. It has an awesome smell, a long hardwood hallway that sounds so good when you walk down to your bedroom, with your suitcase, knowing you have wonderful days ahead of you. There is a big screened porch, with big rocking chairs where major problems are solved after hours spent with Alice White. And the kitchen is just fabulous – I love to cook there, always seafood. I mean, when you cross the Florida state line, don’t you immediately think – I need shrimp!
The first time I attempted Shrimp and Grits, as a newlywed, it was really good! Tom loved it so much that the next time I made it and served it to dinner guests, I measured carefully and wrote my new creation down. On a whim, I sent the recipe to Southern Living magazine – and they published it!! In March of 1997, I was in line to checkout at the grocery store, and on the cover of Southern Living was a picture of my shrimp! I flipped through the magazine, found the recipe, and my name under it – they had adjusted it to feed a large crowd for a wedding but it was my creation. I think they sent me a free subscription for a year, a copy of the Annual Recipes edition and a check for around $25.
Since then, that very easy Shrimp and Grits recipe is my super easy go-to dinner at the beach. Here is why it is so easy – you can combine all the ingredients, except for the shrimp, in a large Ziploc bag or Tupperware and throw it in your cooler to take with you – that way you don’t need to buy all these ingredients when you get to the beach house. When you are ready to serve, dump it all in a baking dish with your cleaned and peeled fresh gulf shrimp and dinner is almost on the table – you can feed 2 or 20! Make the cheese grits on the stove and throw a big crusty loaf of french bread in the oven for the last couple of minutes the shrimp are baking – you will want to dip the bread in that yummy buttery sauce!
So here is my recipe for Shrimp and Grits – try it – it is super easy, fool proof and was good enough for Southern Living!
1/2 stick butter – or a little more if you want more dipping sauce for bread
1 Tablespoon Old Bay
1 Tablespoon of any good Cajun Seasoning
1 Small bunch sliced green onions
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon hot sauce
1 1/2 – 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
the juice of a whole lemon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb peeled, cleaned, deveined shrimp
If you are preparing this at home, put everything in a baking dish, bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes until shrimp are nice and pink – stir halfway through baking.
Make quick grits according to the directions on the package – when they are ready, add some butter, some half and half , some garlic powder and tons of cheese – sharp cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan – whatever you have on hand – this is a great use for small pieces of leftover cheese – but no blue cheese or feta. Make sure you add plenty of grated sharp cheddar though – add as much butter and half and half as your conscience allows – make sure they have enough salt, and are a little bit garlicky. Keep tasting these grits, when they are super creamy and super yummy, you know you got it right. If you really want to impress your company, cook some crispy bacon to garnish each plate.
One pound of shrimp will feed about 3 or 4 people, so adjust according to how many people you are feeding .
I hope everybody gets a chance to go to the beach to recharge your batteries. The best days are spent soaking up the sun and swimming in the gulf – knowing that a cold glass of chardonnay, a shower and lotion on pink sunkissed cheeks is waiting at the end of the day.