Ann Kim will be the first to admit: It isn’t easy to reinvent a classic. “The thing about shrimp and grits is that every Southern restaurant has its version, but they’re often very similar,” says the Garden & Gun Club executive chef. When developing her own recipe for the Atlanta restaurant, the California native sought to reach beyond the staple components of andouille sausage, onions, bell peppers, and a tomato-based sauce.
“I came here from the Bay Area, where the cuisine has a huge Asian influence,” she says. “You see a lot of coconut milk curries there, and I always thought those flavors would go well with what’s already present in a traditional shrimp and grits.” Later, while flipping through G&G’s Southerner’s Cookbook, Kim’s was reminded of a Lowcountry favorite starring similar flavors: “I noticed that Steven Satterfield’s recipe for country captain had curry powder as an ingredient, and seeing it used in another Southern dish, I knew it would translate.” Kim also deepened the richness of the shrimp and grits with coconut milk, and “it gets some extra smokiness from the bacon,” she says. “Everything is tastier cooked in bacon fat, isn’t it?”
Fresh shrimp remains the centerpiece, of course, but any type will do. “You can keep the shrimp whole with the head and shell on, or peel and devein the whole thing,” Kim says. “The heads do have a lot of flavor, though, so if you’re not too squeamish, I would recommend trying them.” And once you have your base, the rest is up to you—”If you’re not a huge fan of grits, or want something a bit lighter, it’s also very good on top of rice.”