One of the greatest Fourth of July celebrations we know of happens at Beau’s grandparents’ house on the edge of Lake Martin in Alabama. The water there is clear and deep and refreshing, the nighttime fireworks are spectacular, and the food is worth going for. (Last time I was there, I pitched in by squeezing a bag of lemons to make homemade lemonade.)
Our little family of five hasn’t made it to Lake Martin for several years now, as every new Blake baby represents another plane ticket from Montana to Alabama, and at this point we’re thinking we might just go ahead and buy a plane to save money long-term.
On one of our most recent visits to the lake house, Beau’s grandmother (“Ma” is what he calls her) served up shrimp and grits for breakfast. Shrimp and grits have gained recognition as a trendy Southern dish in recent years, but Beau says Ma has been making them for years, and we fondly recall that day several years ago, sitting in lounge chairs on the deck of the lake house, looking out over the water, watching early-morning water-skiers on the lake, licking our styrofoam plates clean of the savory shrimp sauce after we had gathered up every last grit we’d been served. Imagine my delight that day when Ma shared with me her secret for the sauce: cream of mushroom soup!
Back home in Montana, I try to recreate shrimp and grits for Beau every once in a while. Raised a drylander in a land-locked state, I’ve never much appreciated seafood of any kind, but when I married a bred-and-born Alabama boy, it became evident that I would at least have to make an effort to like shrimp. And while the frozen shrimp I obtain for use here at our home on the prairie don’t even compare to the shrimp you’ll taste in Alabama, fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, I am proud to say I have finally acquired a taste for shrimp. Especially when they’re simmering in this creamy sauce and spilled over a pile of cheesy grits.
Here’s the recipe I used this Fourth of July:
For the grits: Boil 4 c. water — whisk in 1 c. quick grits and 1/2 t. salt. Stir over low heat until thickened and creamy. Melt in 1/4 c. butter. Stir in 1 c. heavy cream. Stir in 1 c. grated cheese (sharp cheddar or colby jack). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, but cover to keep warm.
For the shrimp: Heat 2 T. olive oil in skillet. Add 1 medium white onion, small dice and 1 red bell pepper, small dice, and sauté until veggies are tender. Stir in 2 cloves garlic, minced. Add 1 (12-oz) can cream of shrimp soup and 1 (12-oz) can cream of mushroom soup (or 2 cans cream of mushroom). Thin sauce with a splash of water. Add 1 lb. medium shrimp. Cover and simmer until shrimp turn pink. Serve shrimp sauce over grits.
Have a happy 7th of July!
© Tami Blake