C. Hope Clark’s newest series is set in one of my favorite places in all the world–Edisto Island, SC. We spent many happy holidays there as a family and Joe and I welcomed the new Year there for several years running. The place is magical. And if we are to believe Hope there is mystery lurking in every corner as well.
Never fear, Hope’s heroine solves all the mysteries and the miscreants are punished. Of course, what happens when a good mystery is solved? Celebration! And there is no better way to celebrate than with a meal of Edisto shrimp. Hope has shared heroine Callie’s fave recipe with us in this post–you may not be able to buy Edisto shrimp where you live, but do look for the freshest, wild caught domestic shrimp you can find.
Callie Jean Morgan’s Favorite Lowcountry Meal
By C. Hope Clark
Writing a mystery series set at a beach I am often enticed to visit the coast and as many seafood restaurants that my stomach can bear. In South Carolina, we do mainly shrimp and crab with a wide assortment of fish easily caught off our shore. While I could eat my weight in crab, one of my absolute favorite coastal recipes is shrimp and grits.
Non-Southerners often turn up their noses at grits, but just let them taste them in this concoction, and man-oh-man, their tongues will slap their faces silly wanting more. Every dignified South Carolina eatery has a shrimp and grits recipe on the menu, each with a spin or twist of its own, some almost too rich to finish.
In my newest release, Echoes of Edisto, (released August 5, 2016), with all that I throw at Callie Jean Morgan, she needs this sort of comfort food. Something to coat her belly, relying on the harvest caught in her beloved Edisto waters. Food from her home territory she loves so dang much.
Echoes is the third in the Edisto Island Mysteries, and the South Carolina coast is learning to love the stories. Information about the books greets every Edisto tourist in their rental, a local magazine keeps a feature ongoing about the series, and every single visitor’s center in South Carolina contains an Edisto Beach Tourist Guide which flaunts the Edisto Island Mysteries.
So let me introduce you to shrimp and grits, to entice you to visit . . . and pick up the books. This recipe is one I learned on Edisto Island, which I’ve adjusted a bit for my own taste so that you never fail to lick the bowl clean.
CALLIE’S SHRIMP AND GRITS
FOR SHRIMP ROUX:
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and whole
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt (by taste)
Black pepper (by taste and optional)
Cayenne pepper (by taste)
6 tablespoons bacon drippings (or half bacon droppings / half olive oil)
½ cup diced onion
½ cup diced pepper, sweet banana or bell
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth or chicken bouillon
2/3 cup grits (regular, not quick 5-minute grits)
2 cups water
½ cup cream (preferably the heavy stuff)
Peel the shrimp, careful with removing all shell and legs, and place meat in bowl. Drizzle with lemon juice. Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. (NOTE: the saltiness in the shrimp and roux is the reason you avoid the salt normally cooked into grits.) Let set so flavors mingle.
In a skillet, cook enough bacon to make 6 tablespoons of drippings, 6-10 slices depending on the fattiness of the bacon. Remove bacon. Sauté onion and banana and/or bell peppers in the grease, medium heat, until translucent. No more than 10 minutes.
Gradually sprinkle flour over vegetables, stirring in one tablespoon at a time to avoid lumpiness. Stir constantly. Stir all for 2-3 minutes until browned.
Add shrimp, liquid and all, to skillet. Add 1 ½ cup broth gradually, stirring constantly, letting liquid mix well with the browned flour. You’ll see the soft brown gravy start to happen. The shrimp should turn opaque and pink after 2-3 minutes. Add remainder of broth, if needed, to thin the gravy and avoid lumping.
Either start grits halfway through this process, or complete roux and set aside to remain warm, but do not fix grits in advance of the roux. You want the grits to be fresh, hot and creamy. Bring water to a boil then add grits. Lower to medium-high and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Once completed, add the cream and stir for another 2 minutes. Remove from burner.
Put grits in a bowl. Ladle roux in the center. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
Oh good gracious, a meal to die for . . . oh wait, I don’t want to give away the story!
- Hope Clark is the creator of The Edisto Island Mysteries as well as the Carolina Slade Mysteries. She is also an avid presenter, speaker, and teacher about writing and earning a living as a writer, in much demand at writers’ conferences and libraries. Her latest project, beside yet another Edisto book, is honoring a request to read her own Edisto stories for the Books for the Blind program. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com