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Recipe by Camron Woods, chef, Amaya

I love the creativity of being a chef. I remember once when I was starting out, a sous chef in the kitchen made everyone a snack to eat and he made honey mustard to go with it. He made it. In my mind, you didn’t do that — you bought it. I was like, Wow, you can make anything. I loved being in that action in the kitchen. And everyone loves food, right?

I started out as a dishwasher at the Woodlands Resort in Summerville, South Carolina. It was a pretty high-end resort, which was weird in that it was in-the-middle-of-nowhere. I stayed there for eight years and eventually became sous chef. A lot of people told me I had talent. I guess after enough people tell you that, you start to believe it.

I went to the Four Seasons in Atlanta and that’s where I met my wife. She’s the pastry chef at Amaya now, so we work together. We make sure we don’t work too close, but it’s great. At home, we’ll do mini-creations and chat it up over a glass of wine. We have almost always worked together. If someone isn’t in the industry, they don’t understand why we work the crazy hours that we do. She gets it. Occasionally we cook at home, but we dine out more often than not. Sometimes on lazy mornings we’ll revisit our Southern roots and make grits and biscuits. Everything starts a little earlier out here in San Diego. But we love it. Every day, we look at where we work and live and it’s like, wow. We never want to leave.

INGREDIENTS

For the Shrimp

2 garlic cloves

½ cup olive oil

1 pound large (16–20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined

1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped basil

For the Grits

  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup organic stone-ground white grits
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sauce

  • ¼ pound diced Tasso ham (can substitute with cured chorizo — see note)
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • ¼ cup diced red peppers
  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper

HOW TO DO IT

To prepare the shrimp: Puree the garlic with the olive oil in a blender until smooth. Pour over the shrimp in a mixing bowl or storage container. Add the herbs and mix well. Let marinate overnight in refrigerator or for at least 6 hours.

To make the grits: In a 2-quart pot, bring the chicken stock and milk to a boil. Whisk in the grits and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Stir with wooden spoon every minute or two to prevent sticking. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off and let stand covered for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. Just before serving, stir in the butter and heavy cream, and continue to stir until the consistency becomes smooth and creamy. If grits seem too thick, add additional chicken stock.

Season liberally with kosher salt and white pepper.

To make the sauce: In a 3-quart pot, add all ingredients and simmer over low heat until liquid has reduced by one third. Season with salt to taste.

To Serve

Season shrimp with salt and white pepper. Sauté on high heat in marinade for about 1 minute. Add additional olive oil if needed. Shrimp will be about half cooked. Cover with the Tasso ham sauce and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes to fully cook the shrimp. Spoon grits into serving bowls and ladle shrimp and sauce over. Serve immediately.

NOTE

Tasso ham can be purchased at Siesel’s Old Fashioned Meats:

4131 Ashton Street (between Chicago Street and Morena Boulevard) San Diego, CA 92110 619-275-1234

iowameatfarms.com/

Arrowhead Mills makes organic white grits. They can be found at Whole Foods Market.

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