I’ll eat grits just about any way you put them in front of me, but Shrimp & Grits is a true southern masterpiece. Grits are so important to southern culture that South Carolina declared grits its unofficial state food. In his cookbook, South Carolina native-son, Pat Conroy (undisputed wordsmithing champion of my world), says, “grits are a food that forgives almost any kind of messing around or tomfoolery by a cook.” Grits are kitchen magic.
I enjoy a good round of kitchen tomfoolery, so a few nights ago, when I got a hankerin’ for Shrimp & Grits, I decided to try my hand at a Charleston legend . . . Hominy Grill’s Shrimp & Grits. And I paired it with a 2011 Alexana Pinot Gris.
Food Notes: This was my first attempt making Hominy Grill’s version of Shrimp & Grits. The recipe was quick and easy — you can’t ask for more. For the hot sauce, I used Sriracha. I was a little nervous about all those different flavors swimming around together in the same bowl, but my nerves were for naught. The flavors work perfectly together . . . like eating a symphony. Yum!!
Wine Notes: 2011 Alexana Pinot Gris, from Dundee Hills, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. 13.7% ABV. $26. Aged in 75% stainless steel, 12.5% new French oak, and 12.5% neutral French oak. WOW! This wine knocked my socks off!! Seriously. I had socks on, tasted this wine, and then my socks were off! Beautiful pale straw color in the glass. Aromas are wet stone and green apple. OMG, the mouthfeel on this wine. Flavors are an explosion of peach and apricot, laced with mineral acidity. The lingering finish is vanilla cream. Damn, this is good! I immediately went to Alexana’s website to see if I could get more . . . SOLD OUT. Dang it!
Pairing Notes: This pairing gave me fits! How many different flavors can you put in the same bowl? The sweet corn flavor of the grits. The sharpness of the white cheddar cheese. The clean brininess of the shrimp. The fattiness of the bacon. The earthiness of the mushrooms. And then pucker up, here comes the lemon juice. It’s a petri dish of flavors. Like I said . . . pairing fits!!
So I reached out to fellow-blogger and Sommelier, Stefano, for pairing suggestions. (If you haven’t checked out Stefano’s blog, Clicks and Corks, you should go there. It’s a visual smorgasbord). I had originally considered Pinot Noir, but Stefano graciously steered me toward three Italian whites (Fiano, Verdicchio, and Pigato) that I can only imagine are superb. I only recognized one of the names on his list (hanging my head in shame), so I resolved to buy (and drink!) more Italian whites. Effective immediately.
Anyway . . . I was fresh out of Italian whites in my wine fridge (a situation I have since rectified), so I went out on a wine pairing limb and chose the Alexana Pinot Gris. I am obsessed with Oregon Pinot Gris lately, so even if the pairing didn’t work, I knew I could and would enjoy the the wine on its own.
The verdict: It worked! It really worked!! It worked with everything in the bowl. It was beautiful with the hint of spiciness from the Sriracha hot sauce. Beautiful with the shrimp, the bacon, and the mushrooms! All without overwhelming the subtle sweetness of the grits. But I suspect the key to the whole pairing was the lemon juice. Without the lemon juice to bind all those rogue flavors together, I think the Pinot Gris may have come off a bit hot. This recipe and pairing are definitely going into permanent cooking rotation! The only thing I will do differently next time is try the Shrimp & Grits with one of those Italian whites . . . the tomfoolery continues!