Tuesday, February 05, 2008

True Grits and Tall Tales

Cookbooks have powerful personalities. Some are coy and beguiling, ornamented with dozens of glossy photographs; others are exotic foreigners with stilted language skills, each complex recipe packed with unfamiliar ingredients and italicized terms. Many are sensible, no-nonsense paperbacks - unillustrated, reliable friends who rarely invite guests for dinner. Others are pretentious, conceited volumes, putting on airs with trussed-up recipes anybody with a keen eye would recognize as regular, homespun fare. Some cookbooks are even obsessive collectors, geeky experts with fixations on lemons or bacon or olive oil, and all of their unlikely uses.

True Grits is a funny old lady, and in the beginning, I wasn't sure we were going to get along. You see, at first, I took her for a regular southern belle – well-bound, handsome fonts, the occasional full-color photo of a pound cake or a tea service. He cover purports her content to be “Tall Tales and Recipes from the New South,” and if the pictures are ill-lit and not particularly appealing, well, at least it’s a large, solid book, pleasant to hold, whose inside cover is engraved with the Atlanta skyline. Just don’t anticipate much more than a respectable peach cobbler recipe and some gussied-up instructions for fried chicken.

Oh! I spoke too soon!

True Grits may dress like a prim square, but on the inside, she’s worldly, sensual, dangerous. Sometimes she puts on her dancing shoes and takes you out for Seared Duck Breast with Port and Grapefruit; other times, she lets down her hair in a casual cascade of Fettuccine with Scallops. There’s Espresso and Black Bean Chili, Crawfish Lasagna, Salmon with Basil Champagne Cream…and if the occasional cornbread or Georgia peach salsa recipe makes its way in, it’s with corporeal, sexy nostalgia and a wink.

But flighty, she isn’t. This dame is reliable. From Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes to Bourbon Pound Cake to Lemon Ginger Shrimp, her alluring promises inevitably lead to blissful repast. This seductive recipe is packed with unusual ingredients like coffee and cinnamon, and turned a pound of shimp into a pound of pure pleasure. Oh, True Grits, how could I have judged you so? You’ll always be the prize of my cookbook shelf!

Lemon Ginger Shrimp
(adapted from True Grits by the Junior League of Atlanta)


1/4 cup butter
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated fine
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
1/2 cup brewed dark roast coffee
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined
2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter in wok or large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the shallots, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes, or until the shallots are translucent and tender, stirring constantly.
Add garlic, lemon zest, coffee, and lemon juice; bring to a simmer. Add shrimp and sauté until just barely cooked, 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. Remove shrimp to a platter with a slotted spoon; continue cooking liquid until reduced to 2 -3 tablespoons.
Return shrimp to the pan. Add brown sugar (and peas, if using) and toss to coat. Cook until sugar melts to glaze the shrimp, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately over white rice.

I bet you're dying for the actual "Heavenly Grits" recipe...

Buy True Grits: Tall Tales and Recipes from the New South, presented by the Junior League of Atlanta, on Amazon (the used copies are a good deal!).


philwino said...


This sounds fabulous! Just what the boy and the dad would like!

family said...

I love the descriptive personalities you give to the different cookbooks. It’s so true, yet I never thought of them in that way before. I only thought of them as some I liked and some I didn’t…now I know why.

I also want some of that shrimp!


Lex said...

That shrimp looks delicious! I'll have to try this recipe out on Nick!

glutenfreeforgood said...

Wow, brewed dark roast coffee, fresh ginger, and shrimp? Interesting recipe, which I will definitely try. Sounds very good. I just found your blog. Nice -- I've been cruising around your recipe files and have thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you want a recipe for gluten-free key lime bars, I have a great one.
Thanks! I'll definitely be back.