06 June 2009

Frank Stitt’s Southern Table

In the 1980’s after delivering his manuscript for The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy sat on a plane next to the a guy from Alabama. The guy was a chef, though he had never run his own restaurant, but that was going to change. He was headed home to Alabama to open a restaurant in Birmingham. Conroy was skeptical. Frank Stitt changed his mind and along the way, he fundamentally changed the viewed of Southern cuisine. Birmingham is now a major foodie destination in the South.

Photo: Southern Living

His first restaurant, Highland Bar and Grill consistently finds itself on lists of top restaurants in America. Stitt melds local, indigenous ingredients with his classically trained cooking style to produce food that is at once familiar and dizzily unique. While you may find Kobe Beef Carpaccio is on the menu or Courteney Cox sitting at the really great table in the front, Stitt still knows how to make a mean pimento cheese. His book, Frank Stitt's Southern Table: Recipes and Gracious Traditions from Highlands Bar and Grill is one of my favorites.

Here is a great party favorite that is familiar and fun. Pickle Shrimp is always popular. Stitt notes that boiling shrimp makes it tough so he advises bringing the liquid to a boil then reducing to a simmer. Add the shrimp and as soon as the water starts to simmer again, remove it from the heat. Then drain.

Pickled Shrimp

3 pounds boiled small to medium shrimp, peeled
2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 lemons, thinly sliced
14 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 dried hot chile peppers
1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss thoroughly. Pack everything into a large glass jar, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to come together.

All the Veal & Sweetbreads and Kobe Beef Carpaccio in the world can't hold a candle to opening the refrigerator and finding a big jar of pickled shrimp sitting there waiting. I love summer!

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