Paying Homage to the South: Crook’s Corner Shrimp & Grits

This week’s recipe comes from a very popular restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina called Crook’s Corner. Chapel Hill, which has long been considered one of the best college towns in the country (along with Ithaca, N.Y., of course), also boasts an impressive array of eateries and restaurants. I say this with a bit of spite, as my father relocated to Durham, N.C. a few years ago and my family considers ourselves ardent Duke Blue Devils fans. ‘The Triangle’ area, which consists of Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh has really developed a reputation for encompassing all the aspects of a “foodie” culture. I always enjoy visits with my dad because I know he’ll always have an inkling to try dynamic and relatively new food establishments, whether they be in Durham, Chapel Hill, or Raleigh. There is never any shortage of food options when I visit this area of the country. For that I am grateful, despite the fact that I usually depart the Raleigh-Durham airport with a feeling of wanting more.

Crook’s Corner has quickly become one of my family’s favorite restaurants (despite its proximity in enemy territory) in Chapel Hill and I’d say we go out to eat there at least one out of every two visits when I’m down there. Bill Smith, the chef that presides at Crook’s Corner, is known for  the New York Times Notable and Food & Wine Best of the Best cookbook. He has also been named a finalist for Best Chef Southeast twice and has crafted iconic southern dishes at Crook’s Corner for over 18 years. The menu encapsulates southern cuisine to a tee, as they churn out everything from oyster mushroom risotto to a braised pork shank. Their jalapeño-cheddar hushpuppies are another favorite of mine. Today, the focus is solely on their staple and most famous dish of all: Shrimp & Grits.

Crook’s Corner Shrimp & Grits
Yields 4 servings

2 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cup regular grits
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. white pepper
3 bacon slices
1 lb. medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
Lemon wedges

grits and shrimp

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Add Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients. Keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and salt; dredge in flour.

Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté or until shrimp are lightly brown. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.

Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon; serve with lemon wedges.

I never took too kindly to grits until one of my favorite foods was added to the mix: cheese. I suggest pairing a salad with plenty of greens and vegetables as a side to this, as the grits mixture is very rich and dense in flavor. The more shrimp the better if you can swing it, as the texture meshes quite well with the creamy grits. I always find that adding even more lemon juice than the recipe calls for to a dish enhances it tenfold and really brings out the flavors. Hope you all enjoy this one. Despite the native origin of this delectable dish — GO DUKE!

final shrimp and grits

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