I went to Charleston a few years ago with my cousin Toni, to write a piece about the restaurants down there. At almost every restaurant we visited, it seemed, Toni ordered the Shrimp and Grits and declared them the best Shrimp and Grits she'd ever had. And we did have some really great versions. Rather than gloppy and too rich and downright soul-annihilating, like a lot of Yankee takes on the dish I've had, these were comforting with distinctive personalities from restaurant to restaurant.I decided to try to capture those flavors in a risotto. And my soul is still intact. —EmilyNunn
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: ENunn is a writer living in Charleston and working on her book, The Comfort Food Diaries.
WHAT: All of the porky, shrimp-y, hot sauced goodness of the South -- in risotto form.
HOW: Marinate your shrimp, then cook them in a tomato-wine mixture. Take the shrimp out, and add stock, then cook your risotto with that tomato-wine-stock. Add your shrimp and bacon at the end. Toast yourself.
WHY WE LOVE IT: When drbabs tested this recipe, she called it "restaurant quality" -- and we have to agree. ENunn's dish has an intensity and balance that's hard to match at home; we were blown away by the amount of flavor in every single component. Don't let the amount of prep scare you away -- this is 100% worth it. —The Editors
large shrimp, about 3/4 pound, peeled and deveined
Place shrimp in a bowl with lemon juice, a few strips of lemon peel, thyme, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium skillet, cook bacon over medium low heat to render fat; remove with a slotted spoon once bacon has cooked to golden but not crisped and drain on paper towel lined plate.
Add remaining olive oil to bacon fat in pan; cook garlic and parsley together until very fragrant. Add tomatoes to pan and cook 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. Add shrimp (with its marinade) and cook one minute per side. Add wine, bring to a simmer, removing shrimp after 1 minute. Set aside in a covered bowl. Add fish stock to remaining liquid and keep at a low simmer.
In a dutch oven, heat butter and saute onion until golden over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, and cook until golden. Stir in rice and cook until translucent.
Over a period of 20 minutes, add stock mixture 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring until all the liquid is absorbed with each addition. When all but a half a cup or so of liquid remains to be added and the rice is al dente stir in bacon and shrimp, and a few dashes of tabasco. Finish the dish with the warm half and half and a squeeze of lemon. Put the lid on the dutch oven and let the risotto rest for 5 minutes before serving topped with scallions and more Tabasco at table if desired.