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Dinner Rush! Savannah Shrimp & Grits

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Deen family these days (and believe me when I tell you, they’re the loveliest people). Between working on Bobby’s hit show Not My Mama’s Meals, helping the brothers out with an awesome Thanksgiving special, and now just getting back home from taping the newest season of Paula’s Best Dishes, Savannah is starting to feel like a second home.

Obviously the South is known for its hospitality, scenery and delicious “low country” cookin’. That’s why, without fail, I seek out a plate of shrimp & grits every time I head down there. It’s such a comforting, delicious reminder of the fact that I’m in a place completely different from my home in New York’s Hudson Valley.

As Bobby, Jamie, and Paula have all been working to better their diets these days, I’ve picked up a few of their pointers about how to enjoy Southern food while not letting it feel like I’ve got a brick in my stomach after eating.  Keep these “Savannah Shrimp & Grits” light and satisfying by adding in lots of herbs — here I’m using tarragon — and some acid, like lemon juice. That’ll bolster flavor, keep down fat and make you feel like you’re sitting under the mossy trees of one of Savannah’s bucolic town squares.

Savannah Shrimp & Grits
Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  30 minutes

For the Grits:

2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup instant grits
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and ground black pepper

For the Shrimp:

2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper

To prepare the grits, combine the chicken stock, milk, and garlic powder in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Bring the liquids to a boil and then stir in the grits. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring frequently, until the grits are tender and have absorbed the liquid, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season the grits with salt and pepper.  Reserve warm.

While the grits are cooking, place a large skillet over medium heat with the butter. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp, tomatoes, and juice of the lemon to the pan and simmer until the shrimp are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the zest of the lemon and tarragon and season the shrimp with salt and pepper.

To serve, spoon the shrimp and pan sauce over the grits.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars like Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.

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