One thing I love about travel is trying new cuisine. Whenever we visited upstate New York, I enjoyed a good Beef on Weck, a roast beef sandwich on the most delicious kummelweck roll topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds. And in my home state of Pennsylvania, pork roll sandwiches were a breakfast staple I miss now that I’m living in North Carolina.
But having adopted “Eastern Carolina” as my new home, I have tried to dive into the Southern food I have never been exposed to before. Some things I have tried are shrimp and grits, which I learned are best with flavorful cheese grits. Some friends introduced me to collard greens, which have a strong smell I wasn’t sure I’d like, but they were to die for! I sampled fried okra with some ranch dressing for dipping. And I have found Pimento cheese is great with crackers, on a grilled cheese sandwich or even on top of a fried chicken sandwich.
BBQ is a bit different Down South. I am accustomed to pulled pork with a sweet BBQ sauce made with brown sugar, but in this area, the BBQ is a chopped pork with a vinegar-based sauce. You can tell the Northerners from the Southerners by how much they either like or dislike the vinegar sauce.
I look forward to traveling to new places this year and sampling cuisine from other regions. For now, if anyone wants to bring out their inner Southerner, I offer this recipe for Cheesy Cajun Shrimp and Grits for y’all to try at home.
Cheesy Cajun Shrimp and Grits
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick-cooking grits
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter, cubed
4 bacon strips, chopped
1 pound uncooked shrimp (26–30 per pound), peeled and deveined
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
In a large saucepan, bring water and salt to a boil. Slowly stir in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until thickened, about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and butter until melted; keep warm.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. Cook and stir shrimp in bacon drippings until shrimp turn pink, three–four minutes. Add garlic; cook one minute longer. Stir in Cajun seasoning and parsley.
Divide grits among four serving bowls; top with shrimp mixture and bacon.
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