Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shrimp and Grits Paired with 2009 Cuvaison Chardonnay

Shrimp and Grits with Cuvaison Chardonnay-1

If you are not a fan of grits, this may just make you a convert.  Besides, when was the last time you had grits paired with Chardonnay?

So this little marriage of Napa Valley and South Carolina has a story - based on a marriage.  Last weekend, Chef Sue and I traveled to Charleston South Carolina to attend the wedding of Captain Sean and NY Girl Angelica.  The wedding was a terrific event and the highlight of a phenomenal weekend. 

For food lovers, Charleston is a culinary amusement park and we took advantage of it – more to come in some future articles.  Part of the adventure was sampling a Southern staple; grits.  I have never been a fan of grits.  The last time I tasted grits, about 15 years ago, it ended in the same conclusion as always– why?  However, when it comes to food, I don’t give up and decided to give them another try thinking maybe there is some kind of magic with Charleston grits.  I’m glad I did - grits were voted back on the island.

Part II of the grits story:  As Chef Sue and I toured and tasted Charleston (reading restaurant menus like the front page of the Washington Post), we found many places featuring what we discovered is somewhat of a Charleston specialty; shrimp and grits.  With my new found affinity for grits, this dish intrigued me.  Our schedule and priorities did not put Chef Sue and I in good position to sample this dish, so I decided to take on the challenge upon our return.

The Food

I did a bit of research to find a shrimp and grits recipe that looked appealing.  I ended up a The Food Network where there were a number of recipes for shrimp and grits.  I started with a recipe from Bobby Flay.  I modified it a bit, but if you want to see the original recipe, follow this link.  My modifications included substituting 2 cups of half and half for 2 cups of water in the grits (my cholesterol has been a bit low lately), and adding 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the shrimp to get them dancing.

Shredded Cheese Scallions and Garlic

The dish has a couple of noteworthy components.  First, the texture.  Layers of texture make this dish very interesting.  The creamy cheese laden grits are a foundation that supports the firm texture of the shrimp, and like a sundae with sprinkles, the crispy bacon pieces top off this monument to texture composition.

Sautee Shrimp and Bacon

The flavors are dominated by the cheddar cheese, the wonderful sweetness of the shrimp and grits, the savory bacon, and the heat of the pepper flakes.  They all work together as a chorus of contrast.  Writing this, is making me hungry.  Unfortunately, there were no leftovers.  I would not change the recipe further and Chef Sue, Photo Buddy John and I thoroughly enjoyed the dish.

The Wine

From the Cuvaison winemaker’s notes:

“Aroma: Kiwi, clove spice, nectarine and lime zest with a hint of toasty oak. Palate: Lush, mouth filling flavors of peach, apricot and papaya backed by vanilla and allspice. Overall Impression: A super supple wine with a creamy, silky texture and vibrant, fresh fruit. Nicely balanced with a clean, satisfying finish.”

2009 Cuvaison Chardonnay

I do not disagree with the tasting notes, but have to admit I did not pick up the spice suggested by the wine maker.  Although aged in French Oak for eight months, the oak is subtle allowing the fruit and acidity to step forward.  Overall, this is a very well balanced wine that does not trample on your palate.  In other words, this is a food friendly Chardonnay that is a great value at $22.

The Pairing

I was very pleased with the pairing.  I am happy I did not disappoint myself.  The creamy mouth feel of this Chardonnay was a perfect compliment to the cheesy grits.  The light fruit and acidity of the Cuvaison nicely balanced the heat and savory bacon.  The subtle oak also played very nicely with the bacon.  And of course the true test of success – no leftovers (food or wine).  As a matter of fact, there was a footrace back to the kitchen for seconds.  Chef Sue recently broke her foot, so she was shorted a bit on round two.  I love her dearly, but we are talking about some ridiculously good food – survival of the fittest.

Shrimp and Grits with Cuvaison Chardonnay

Final Words

So there you have it – I am highly recommending a recipe for grits.  And this recommendation comes after nearly 50 years sans grits.  If you are not a fan of grits, this recipe and pairing could be the one that makes you a convert.

Also I would like to thank our guest photographer and good friend John Downey.  John is a remarkably talented photographer and I highly recommend you visit his blog; John Andrew Downey II Photography.



  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes


Bring the combination of water and half and half to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir frequently or when sipping the chef’s portion of wine.  Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese (all calorie free of course).

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon (yeah bacon!) in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In that beautifully rendered bacon fat, add shrimp and let them breast stroke over medium heat until starting to turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Sauté until shrimp are pink and ready to jump onto the grits

Plate the grits and top with shrimp mixture. Enjoy.

In vino veritas, buen provecho


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