Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Something Warm

OK.  It's January 31 and social media is a meltdown of hate-talk.  The weather lately has been cold/gray/dreary, but today the sun came out early and stayed all day, the kind of day in North Alabama where it feels good to open up the sunroof and catch a nice breeze in the 70s. Time to start rearranging the closet, putting the lined boots and boot-grazing wool coats back into storage.  Time to start looking at clothes lighter in weight and lighter in color.  People sat out at the sidewalk tables downtown at Yumm's and Odette's today: a serving of sun on their faces and breeze in their hair as a side dish with their lunch. For some folks, seed catalogs and garden plans are their happy place about now.  For me, I daydream about going to the Gulf on the first warm weekend.

Growing up, we always knew there was one warm weekend in late February or early March when it was possible to go to the beach and pretend it was already spring. Such a trip had to be spontaneous, spur of the moment. Throw a few things in a bag, grab some cash, fill up the car, go. Worry about the details when you get there.

Stop at the Durbin Farms exit and hope they are open this early. Buy whatever they have that is fresh, and be sure to buy some McEwen & Sons freshly ground yellow grits.  Further down I 65, look for Conecuh sausage, those smokey-flavored thin sausages in casings. Closer to the coast, find another produce stand, and then on the Coast, go to your favorite seafood market.  What you are looking for are fresh local shrimp and fresh local crabmeat.  If they have crabmeat, buy twice as much as you think you will need.

At some point during the weekend, you will want to eat this. 

Or maybe not.  Maybe you will do all of this in reverse order.  You will drive to the coast at night and arrive to see the moon on the water.  You will not stay at someone's house after all and will walk the beach, sleep in the sun, and eat at your favorite haunts. On your way out of town, you fill your cooler with ice one last time and stop to buy seafood.

Either way, this is what you will make to sustain you through the rest of the winter.

Shrimp and Crab on Grits
First of all, cook the grits according to the package directions.  If you bought the McEwen & Sons yellow grits, this will take about 25 minutes. About 10 minutes before the grits are done, gather the other ingredients.


• 8 oz Conecuh sausage in casings
• 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
• 1/2 medium green bell pepper, chopped
• cayenne, to taste
• 2 tbsp flour
• 1 3/4 cup(s) chicken broth, a splash of white wine
 • 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 1/2 lb jumbo lump crabmeat
• 1 tsp old bay seasoning

 In an iron skillet, brown the sausage that has been cut into slices on the diagonal.  Cook until brown.  Remove sausage but save the drippings.

Add a bit of olive oil to the iron skillet and saute the onions and peppers until wilted.

Using a wire whisk, whisk the flour into the pan.
Whisk in half of the Old Bay, the chicken broth, and maybe a good splash of white wine. Let this come to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Let it thicken a bit, maybe 3 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes covered.  Gently add the cooked Conecuh sausage, the crabmeat, and sprinkle on the rest of the Old Bay.  Grind some black pepper on top. Cover it back up and let it all get hot.

Serve in shallow bowls over the McEwen & Sons grits. 


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