Kiss My Grits at Province in Chicago
My Serious Eats colleague Nick Kindelsperger recently posted an excellent recipe for shrimp and grits. And though I love to cook, I've been busier than Rachael Ray at a cookware convention these days. Though, with my appetite whetted for the southern classic, I did what every red blooded American male does when he can't do it for free: I paid for it.
Not just any sandy, goopy mass topped with rubbery frozen shrimp would do. I turned to a guy I could trust for my fix: Chicago chef Randy Zweiban of Province. Zwieban lards Anson Mills organic grits with creamy Manchego and tops them with plump farm raised, perfectly cooked shrimp. The Anson Mills grits are both soft and creamy with a touch of toothsome grain. For those used to denture-soft, creamy glops, the range of texture yielded by the Anson Mill's grits make is so interesting to the palate, you don't really even need butter, milk, or any adulterant. That being said, I'll take cheese on anything, and I appreciate Zweiban's overture.
What's cool about this dish is that it's not really a high end interpretation of the classic. It's basically the classic with a different type of cheese, honoring Zweiban's Pan-Latin cooking style.
Though I gave Zweiban a little guff when I interviewed him last year for offering burgers and chicken along with his inspired creations, he'd responded that he wanted to use comfort foods as a gateway to his more creative, but less familiar dishes. It's a smart move, and it's paid off.
Dishes like shrimp and grits have attracted one of the most diverse clientele to a higher end dining rooms I've seen in a while. You've got CTA employees and traditional blue collar Chicagoans bumping up against City Hall politicians and scenesters at Province. Now that's a sight that's as tasty as the grits.