Anson's Grits with Shrimp and Braised Bacon Recipe

Anson's Grits with Shrimp and Braised Bacon Recipe
Staff Writer
Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown

Christopher Brown

Pretty in pink, wrought iron, and delicate French doors, Anson recalls the look and feel of New Orleans’s French Quarter, but she is 100 percent Lowcountry. The old gal’s been around or nearly twenty years, but in executive chef Kevin Johnson’s hands, her cuisine tastes as fresh as ever. He refuses to restrict his larder to cliché Lowcountry ingredients like she-crab and okra, while embracing a broad range of locally raised produce for inspiration. “If one of our farmers is growing it, it’s basically in the box. Braised radishes may not necessarily be considered Lowcountry, but if our farmers are growing it, we’ll use it. This has really allowed s to think on a different level for inspiration,” says Kevin.

To wit, the former vegetarian brings in a whole pig every week and breaks it down into chops and tenderloins, crafting liver terrines, pork belly, and more. Bacon is cured in-house and shrimp stock is prepared from local shrimp. Whole dried corn grown in South Carolina is delivered and ground in the restaurant’s very own stone gristmill, which separates the ground corn into grits, cornmeal, and polenta. These are used handily in dishes like cornmeal-dusted okra, cornmeal-fried okra, and, of course, Johnson’s memorable take on shrimp and grits, which marries the round mouthfeel of braised pork belly with sweet local shrimp. (Ask your butcher a few days in advance to cut and reserve the pork belly.)

Adapted from "The Charleston Chef's Table" by Holly Herrick.

Ingredients

For the braised bacon:

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cloves
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 pounds fresh pork belly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • ½ carrot, peeled
  • 1 stalk celery
  • Sodium-free chicken stock or water to cover
  • 2–3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1–2 bay leaves

For the grits:

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups stone-ground grits
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the shrimp stock:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 quart raw shrimp shells
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 4 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 parsley stems
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine

For the sauce and to finish:

  • 2 pounds vine-ripe tomatoes
  • 1 ½–2 pounds large (21–25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6–8 scallions, thinly sliced

Directions

For the braised bacon:

Up to 3 days ahead, prepare the spice rub and marinate the pork belly. Place the fennel seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, whole star anise, cloves, and whole allspice in a medium skillet preheated over medium-high heat. Toast, tossing, until the spices release their aromas and take on a light color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and grind in a spice grinder or small food processor. Transfer spices to a small bowl and combine with the salt and the brown sugar. Rub the mixture evenly into all sides of the pork belly. Place the belly in an ovenproof casserole dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees 4-5 hours before you plan to serve this dish. Heat the olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add just enough stock or water to cover the vegetables. Add the thyme and bay leaves.

Remove the pork belly from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap. Pour the vegetables, stock, and herbs over the belly to just cover it. Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 4-5 hours, or until the pork is easily pierced with a fork. Remove the pork from the liquid and cool. Cut the belly into 1-ounce cubes and set aside, discarding the cooking liquid.

For the grits:

About 2 hours before serving, prepare the grits. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the grits and whisk thoroughly to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 hour or until the grits are tender, stirring very frequently with a flat-tipped wooden spatula. You may need to add a little extra water if they seem too thick. Once the grits are tender and the water is absorbed, add the cream and butter and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep the grits warm over low heat or a water bath for up to 2 hours, adding more cream if needed.

For the shrimp stock:

Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp stock. In a medium pot, heat the vegetable oil over high heat. When very hot, add the shrimp shells. (Use the shells from the shrimp for the sauce or ask your fishmonger for some. Whenever you have shrimp shells, you can freeze them for future use in stocks like this one.) Sear the shrimp shells, stirring occasionally, until the shells turn bright pink. Reduce the heat to low, add the vegetables, spices, and herbs, and continue to cook, stirring, for 3-4 more minutes. Add the tomato paste, stirring to combine, and cook another 2 minutes. Add the wine, stir, and cook down to a glaze. Add water — just enough to cover the shells — bring up to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for 30 minutes. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois. Return the stock to the same pot. Turn the heat up to high and reduce the stock by half. Skim any fat or impurities that rise to the surface, strain once again, and set aside. (The stock stores very well frozen in an airtight container for several months.)

For the sauce and to finish:

To make the sauce and complete the dish, preheat the broiler. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Place the sheet under the broiler and broil until the tomato skins are slightly charred and pulling away from the fruit. Cool the tomatoes and remove and discard skin. Finely chop the tomatoes and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place 18 small bacon slabs fat side down in a single layer in a large ovenproof sauté pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until crisped, about 15 minutes. Remove the bacon and keep warm on a foil-covered plate. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Toss once or twice. When the shrimp are just turning opaque, after about 1½ minutes, add the tomatoes and toss. Add the shrimp stock, increase heat to high, and bring to a simmer. Add the butter and scallions, stirring to blend. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve.

To serve, spoon 1-1 ¼ cups of grits into six shallow bowls and scatter with bacon. Top each with the shrimp and tomato sauce. Serve immediately. This dish can also be served from a large platter.

Grits Shopping Tip

Southern food is a mixture of Native American, Creole, and European influences. Staples of this comfort food include corn (in all its forms), honey, chicken, pork, and seafood, all easily found at any neighborhood grocery store.

Grits Cooking Tip

Southern and comfort food is often rich and heavy, be sure to include lots of greens and vegetables with these dishes.