Pairing Challenge

Shrimp and Grits Pairing Challenge – The Vote

The first time we cooked shrimp and grits was disastrous.  Until we moved to the South 7 years ago, I had never eaten grits for breakfast let alone at dinner paired with shrimp.  The Southern staple was foreign to me outside of a humorous scene from My Cousin Vinny.  But after sampling shrimp and grits at a few different restaurants, I was hooked and had to try it at home.  How hard could it be, right?

Shrimp and Grits at the Gourmands - Check back next week for our recipe

Shrimp and Grits at the Gourmands – Check back next week for our recipe

Cooking the shrimp and gravy was easy.  The grits, on the other hand, never seemed to finish cooking. Maybe we used too much liquid or not enough heat, but they just wouldn’t cook to the right consistency.  My Cousin Vinny, our only reference for cooking grits, says it takes 20 minutes.  We were going on two hours and several cocktails.  With our egos bruised and the alcohol flowing, we decided it would be humorous to call my Italian family for help. 

First on this list, my mother:

Me – How do I know when my grits are cooked?

Mom – You’re cooking grits for dinner?

Me – Yeah.  We’re making shrimp and grits.  How do I know when the grits are done cooking?

Mom – (uncontrollable laughter) That sounds like a terrible idea.

She was obviously useless.  Next on the list was my Uncle Michael, a well-respected chef in our family:

Me – How do I know when my grits are cooked?

Uncle Michael – What are you making?

Me – Shrimp and grits.

Uncle Michael – Shrimp and grits?  Why the hell would you cook that?!?!

We never gave up on our shrimp and grits experience and finally developed a recipe that our Southern friends tell us is the best they have ever tried.  I look forward to sharing our recipe next week.  But first, a vote on April’s Beer Versus Wine Challenge – The Perfect Shrimp and Grits Pairing.  Below are the contestants.  Thanks to The Wandering Sheppard for suggesting such a challenging dish!

  • If It Falls on the Floor – The top choice was the Stella Artosis Cidre, with the Albarino a close second. I gotta tell ya, the Cidre was perfect with the S&G. Crisp with a hint of carbonation, it was the perfect foil for the slight heat of the S&G. I’m sure it’s the “hand-picked apples” that made the difference!  (Megs from If It Falls on the Floor also gets mad props for turning her suggestion process into a dinner party with friends pairing beers, wines, and cider.)
  • Armchair Sommelier– Shrimp & Grits is one of my favorites (I’m a pseudo-southerner here in VA). I wrote a blog post about this exact pairing . . . my fav is Pinot Gris.
  • Sahmmelier – I can’t have shrimp any longer due to a pregnancy induced shellfish allergy, however, if I were to make it, I would likely pair it with a blend to get some acid and a bit of rs. The Amalaya Torrontes/Riesling blend or Pine Ridge Chenin/Viognier come to mind.
  • This is Why I’m Drunk – For a beer pairing, I’d lean toward IPA, which goes well with seafood and if grits are being served as they often are here in NC, with butter. The relative bitterness of the hops should provide a decent match for richness of the grits and complement the shrimp.  That said, something like the new Stone Go-To IPA would work well for me. Because of the way that beer is made – mostly late addition hops – there will be some bitterness, but the strength of aroma and flavor will hold up against all the other sensations from the food. Among the other hops used, Mosaic, Citra and El Dorado can impart a mixture of fruit flavors, from blueberry to orange, peach or mango.  That may sound a bit too tropical for shrimp and grits, but the six other hope varieties will add some needed complexity.
  • Wander and Wine – Sometimes there’s nothing better than a creamy, rich bowl of comfort food like shrimp and grits. Mmm… I would pair this dish with one of two wines: Albarino or Gewurztraminer. Albarino because it has a nice acidity that would balance out the richness of the dish, yet have enough body to hold up. It is also a great pairing for most seafood. I also think Gewurztraminer would be a great choice, especially if the dish is slightly smokey or spicy, because it’s a wine with enough weight and intensity to match the food. It’s perceived sweetness balances out the spice instead of adding to it.

Don’t forget to vote by April 8!