Welcome to Harlem.

Before tonight I had never eaten grits. But now that I'm living on the cusp of Harlem, I've been feeling as though I ought to add more soul food cooking to my repertoire. There is a hot new restaurant in the area that was opened by resident Top Chef Master, Marcus Samuelsson, called Red Rooster Harlem. Though I haven't eaten there yet, I've read several rave reviews of the place and it is on my list of venues to try (if I can secure a reservation...) Coincidentally, Tasting Table featured Chef Samuelsson in one of their daily Chefs' Recipe e-mails last week, sharing his take on a Southern classic: Red Grits and Shrimp. It was an invitation to make my debut in down-home cooking -- by paying homage to a recipe from one of the neighborhood's finest.

So I grabbed some grits 'n shrimp, rolled up my sleeves and mustered up a big dose of soul.
The dish was fantastic -- it tasted so fresh and the trio of the chile powder, paprika and tomatoes added a crimson depth and unique flavor to the meal. The grits were thick and creamy, but much lighter than I expected. Paired with shrimp, it's the perfect balance between filling comfort food and a light seafood meal. I can't wait to try the signature version at Red Rooster so I can see if mine lived up to the master's.


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 cup stone-ground grits
1 bay leaf
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
½ cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, warm 1/4 cup of the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, half the garlic, ½ teaspoon of the chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon of the paprika and cook until the onions soften, about 5 minutes. Add the grits and bay leaf and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the crushed tomatoes, corn, ¼ cup of the white wine and 3 cups of water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the grits, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed and the grits are creamy, about 25 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice with 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of chile powder, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and the shrimp. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature.

3. In a medium skillet, cook the shrimp and remaining garlic over high heat, stirring, until just pink, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine, the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the cherry tomatoes and the cilantro and parsley and cook for 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Divide the grits among 4 shallow bowls. Top with the shrimp, tomatoes and sauce and serve immediately.

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