Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foot in the Mouth

A few years ago, my sister called me one evening in a bit of a panic.  She was at a literary conference in Highlands, NC and had just come from dinner with friends and a few new acquaintances - among them the novelist Pat Conroy and his literary agent.  Not realizing that his agent was New York through-and-through, my sister had brightly offered what she considered a couple of humorous lines about people who aren't from "around here".  Even though the entire table laughed graciously, a good friend later pulled her aside with the "OMG-do-you-realize-what-you-just-said" speech.  What is a girl to do in this situation?  Trying to cheer her up, I sent her a message the next morning before breakfast.  "Sis, if you should happen to stick your foot in your mouth again before the conference disbands, just apologize by way of explaining that you're from North Carolina and all we ever really learned to do was make barbecue and make babies - the rest has been sort of hit and miss."  She loved it - and read it to the great amusement of the entire breakfast table (including Mr. Conroy) shortly thereafter.   
The following Christmas, I unwrapped my gift from her.  Beautifully framed, it was my written message to her, signed at the bottom with the following inscription:  "To Beth...Tell me about the babies part...Pat Conroy"
Among his many wonderful literary works is The Pat Conroy Cookbook, an outstanding love-song to Southern Cooking.  Below is his recipe for Shrimp and Grits, condensed by me for this blog.  I would encourage you to go buy the book and devour it from cover to cover.

Breakfast Shrimp and Grits
1 cup coarse white grits
2 thick slices of country bacon
1 small shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon strained fresh lemon juice
Coarse or kosher salt
2 to 3 drops Tabasco Sauce

Slow cook the grits according to package directions - about 60 minutes - and set aside.  Slice the bacon into matchsticks and cook until crisp.  Remove the bacon, keep the fat in the pan.  Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until soft.  Add butter.  When butter melts, add shrimp, cooking until just pink, about 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt and toss to coat.  Place a serving of grits into bowl.  Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon from pan and place a few shrimp on top of grits.  Add the crisp bacon and Tabasco to the remaining pan juices, swirling the skillet to blend into a sauce.  Pour over the shrimp and grits.

Enjoy, y'all.