This recipe is provided by multi James Beard Award nominee and Food Network’s Extreme Chef Anthony Lamas and James Beard Award nominee food and travel writer Gwen Pratesi from their newest cookbook SOUTHERN HEAT. Learn more about Chef Anthony Lamas on his Chef’s Roll profile.
It would be hard to have a restaurant in Kentucky and not pay homage in some way to one of the South’s most quintessential dishes, Shrimp and Grits. I start with local Weisenberger grits (see Resources on p. 277) that have been seasoned with grated Manchego cheese and roasted poblano peppers and top it with my take on Red-Eye Gravy, which is made with Kentucky bourbon.
This signature dish was the one I prepared on Beat Bobby Flay that aired on Food Network. One of the judges said my poblano pepper garnish made the dish too hot, so, I didn’t win. But look for the rematch. I’m coming for you, Bobby! While poblanos aren’t typically hot, many peppers can be unpredictable (for more on this, see p. 12).
Very popular in the South, red-eye gravy is made by cooking slices of country ham in water to release the flavors from the fat and then adding a few other ingredients, like coffee, butter, or even beef broth. It’s the drippings from this incredibly flavorful country ham that give the gravy its unique flavor and mouth-feel.
I use local Kentucky freshwater prawns or shrimp from Georgia or the Gulf Coast for this dish. The shrimp are marinated to give them great flavor and then sautéed quickly, so they’re not overcooked. Alternatively, you can grill them for a perfect sear and char, as shown in the photo on p. 158. While the shrimp may appear to be the star of the show, it’s the different layers of flavor when taken together in one bite that will have your taste buds tingling. →
SERVES 4 TO 5
FOR THE SHRIMP
1 pound extra-large (16/20) Georgia or
Gulf Coast shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon ground achiote
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Chipotle in Adobo
Purée (p. 114)
FOR THE BOURBON RED-EYE GRAVY
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
11⁄2 ounces country ham with
some fat, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice
1⁄4 onion, cut into 1⁄4-inch dice
1⁄4 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1⁄4 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup Woodford Reserve (or your
favorite Kentucky bourbon)
1⁄4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt (this will depend on the saltiness of your country ham)
Juice and peeled zest of 1 lemon
1⁄4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch slurry (p. 118),
Roasted Poblano and Manchego Weisenberger Grits (p. 160), for serving
Chopped fresh curly parsley, micro celery or micro greens, for garnish
MAKE THE SHRIMP
Put the shrimp in a medium nonreactive bowl. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano, achiote, salt, and chipotle purée. Stir well to combine then pour over the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally to
distribute the marinade.
MAKE THE BOURBON RED-EYE GRAVY
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the diced country ham. Cook until it renders some fat and just begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme and sweat the onion and garlic until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the coffee to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Take the pan off the heat, pour in the bourbon, and light it to burn off the alcohol. Return the pan to the heat and then add the peppercorns, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, and heavy cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until slightly reduced, just a few minutes. Thicken with a
little of the cornstarch slurry (1⁄2 teaspoon to start); whisking to combine well. The sauce should be the consistency of buttermilk.
Reduce the heat to low and add the remaining 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. Remove the pan from the heat once the butter is fully incorporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Keep the sauce warm over a double boiler until ready to serve.
COOK THE SHRIMP
Remove the shrimp from the marinade (discard the marinade). Add a little olive oil to a
large skillet and heat over medium until the oil is hot but not smoking. Add the shrimp in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, and cook just until they turn pink,
2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove immediately and keep the shrimp warm until
ready to plate.
Strain the gravy through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois. In individual shallow serving bowls, evenly divide the Roasted Poblano and Manchego Weisenberger Grits. Top
with some of the strained Bourbon Red-Eye Gravy, followed by 4 or 5 cooked shrimp. Garnish each bowl with the chopped parsley, celery leaves, or micro celery.
CHEF’S TIP › Shrimp and grits can be a challenge to pair with wine or spirits since there’s a lot of different flavors and heat going on. However, I like to support our regional artisans, and the wines of Virginia are some of the finest in the world. Try a Viognier from Barboursville Vineyards, where our friend Luca Paschina is producing some of the best wines around.