Sunday, August 22, 2010

Retesting The Lows + Low Country Recipe

Last Friday, I wandered through a section of Manhattan I know extremely well – the corridor bounded on the south and north by 56th and 60th streets and on the west and east by 8th and Lexington Avenues. I’ve been walking on those streets for so long, I think I could navigate them blind, especially 56th and 58th Streets.

I was meeting an old friend for lunch at the impressive, increasingly Blade Runner-y looking Four Seasons Hotel and I had some errands to do.

At lunch, among many other subjects, D. and I discussed my recent urge to “retest the lows”.

Years of absorbing CNBC’s business chatter taught me the phrase. Although most “technical” stock market measuring tools confuse me in their mechanics and details (and make me think of Dr. Faustroll’s “law” of ‘pataphysics stating that “there are no laws, only exceptions that occur more frequently than others”), the tv blather has become part of my rhythm and part of me. Consequently, when thinking about several badly damaged relationships that unexpectedly fell apart during the past decade, I wondered whether it would be a good idea to revisit them, try to make contact with my former friends and “retest the lows”. After all, I place the highest value on friendship and was surprised to see each of these relationships crash and burn.

Out of the three cases in question, I’ve so far retested two of the three lows. I sent the first person an email. She phoned me back immediately, we spoke at length and it was a complete disaster that left me hideously depressed for a week. A couple of days ago I retested Low No. 2, again intiating contact by email. I received a very pleasant response and I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. (I’m an optimist by nature, albeit a depressive optimist.) As for Low No. 3 (which was actually Low No. 2 in sequence), I should say that I spend a great deal of time reading, rereading and thinking about Dante’s Inferno. I find it instructive and inspiring in a variety of ways (reading it, I'm frequently reminded of Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign slogan "In Your Heart You Know He's Right") and it helped me decide that there’s no way on earth I’m retaking that particular path. The dead certain futility of that effort marks it, at the very least, as a frequently occurring exception in the ‘pataphysical sense.

After all this lows retesting, I think it’s only right to offer two U.S. “Low Country” Shrimp and Grits recipes for initial testing and consideration. I’ve always wanted to try them (I like shrimp; I love grits) and I’ll report back in a couple of weeks. 

Shrimp and Grits 1

(From Bobby Flay, who credits Martha Nesbit for the recipe)

Prep Time:15 min
Cook Time:25 min
Serves:4 servings


  • 4 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced


Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately. 

Shrimp and Grits 2

(Source unfortunately misplaced; but there are an enormous number of versions of this traditional dish.)  

6 cups water

6 cups milk

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups white grits (not quick-cooking or instant)

16 oz. finely grated white cheddar cheese (optional)

1 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, combine the water, milk, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.  Stir in the grits.   Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (** The grits will stick to the bottom of the pan, so make sure not to scrape the bottom of the pan.  If the grits absorbed all the water, add some hot water to thin out the grits.)  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the cheese, if desired.

In a separate pot, add the shrimp to boiling water.  Cook for three minutes.  Add the shrimp to the grits and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Yield:  8 servings

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