This is a story of a little restaurant in Ashville that arguably saved my life by serving me the best Spicy Shrimp with Goat Cheese Grits! Now we make it often at home and love this recipe because it’s fast, easy and delicious. The goat cheese added to the grits not only lends a fabulous, creamy texture, but also amazing flavor.Jump to Recipe
Post updated on 5/30/2021 with additional details and a new recipe card!
Last October I took a road trip with my family starting in Nashville, Tennessee. From there we took the winding highway through the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains to Asheville, North Carolina and then headed south down the coast to Charleston, South Carolina. Finally we ended our travels in Hilton Head. I was only a few weeks in to my lifelong journey of gluten free eating, and this was our first trip of any significance. I was nervous, to say the least, and hoping that I could survive the week on apples, string cheese and gluten-free power bars, if need be.
Obviously, dining out as a celiac is a bit of a struggle, especially in the early days. The wait staff and chef often need to be consulted on specific ingredients, and many still need to educated as to what gluten is…and what items contain gluten. I once told someone that gluten was found in wheat. She nodded understandingly and said, Well at least you can still eat white bread. Sigh.
As a newly diagnosed celiac, I felt exposed every time I needed to explain my situation. I have an autoimmune disease. If I eat anything containing gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye and oats) I will become very sick. Can you please ask the chef for me? Can you double check that ingredient? Can you ask everyone to wash their hands? Can you make sure the grill is cleaned? Back and forth the waitress goes into and out of the kitchen. Sometimes the chef comes out to confer with me, but mostly it’s a game of what about this…can he do that…with the waitress. It’s exhausting for me, and I’m sure for the people who work in restaurants.
Some chefs are tiring of the trend of “gluten-free.” While I understand the frustration of having to clarify, make substitutions, and actually interact with patrons who have questions about their food, especially when the kitchen is busy, the fact is that gluten-free is not going away. More people are being diagnosed with celiac disease (a serious autoimmune disease) than ever before, and many more are finding themselves intolerant to gluten as well. Barring a vaccine (which they are working on and hopeful it will be ready to release in 2017), more and more people will continue to ask for gluten-free menu items in the future. So chefs had better be prepared.
On our vacation, we ate at many wonderful restaurants, most notably Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston South Carolina, Bon Apetite’s Best New Restaurant of 2011. But it was Tupelo Honey Cafe, a little southern style restaurant in downtown Asheville, North Carolina that stole my heart. It’s a very small space, long and narrow, with warm colors throughout. It’s homey, but with subtle elegance. And it’s loud–there’s always a crowd there. When I asked our waitress, a tall, thin, pretty woman with long, blonde dreadlocks wrapped on top of her head into thick knot, what would be suitable for me to eat, she said, We have a separate gluten free menu. Let me get it for you. This was the first restaurant I had ever been to that had such a thing.
We ordered a hot pimento cheese dip that came with slices of toasted, gluten free bread as an appetizer. I felt so relieved that I didn’t have to explain my situation, and so very happy that the food was actually good that I literally burst into tears. I apologized to our waitress, who squeezed my shoulder and revealed that she was a celiac too so she completely understood. She suggested a few more restaurants to eat at, and some brands of gluten free bread to try. Apparently Asheville is one of the most gluten-free friendly spots in the country.
For my main course I ordered their famous shrimp served atop a bed of creamy goat cheese grits. This was my first experience with southern grits and I was blown away. They were rich and creamy–the perfect foil for the Cajun-spiced shrimp that was nestled in the middle. Though it wasn’t the fanciest meal we ate on along the way, it was by far the best tasting. So much of our impressions about the taste of food have to do with how we feel when we are eating it. During that meal, that perfect meal where the kids were well-behaved, the wine was delicious, and the food was spectacular, I felt safe and happy. I felt nurtured and nourished. I felt fortified and confident that things were going to be alright. Thank you for that, Tupelo Honey Cafe.
If you can’t make the trip to their restaurants (there are two) in Asheville, you can at least prepare their signature dish at home. I do with some frequency now. Though I haven’t convinced my California born-and-bred kids that grits are delish, my husband and I can polish them off with no problem. Mmmm….I get hungry just thinking about it.
LOVE SOUTHERN FOOD? CHECK OUT THESE OTHER RECIPES:
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Spicy Shrimp & Goat Cheese Grits – Inspired by Tupelo Honey Café
For the Shrimp
For the Creole Spice
- Prepare the creole spice and set aside. You will have some leftover and it’s good for seasoning almost anything really.
- Make the grits. Heat the water and salt in a medium sauce pan until boiling. Add the grits, reduce heat and simmer until grits are tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter, cream and goat cheese. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the basil and remove from heat. Cover to keep warm.
- Make the shrimp. Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes or until the shrimp begin to just turn opaque. Add the garlic, roasted red peppers and creole spice and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the wine and butter and simmer for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Spoon the grits into four bowls. Top evenly with the shrimp and the sauce in the pan. Garnish with additional basil if desired.