Grits, the Southern accompaniment to bacon, sausage and eggs on the breakfast table, will again take its place Sept. 20-22 as the essential component of festival food and cooking competition in the annual Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival.
The Friday through Sunday event will again pit some of Georgia’s accomplished chefs in a contest for the title of plating Georgia’s best shrimp and grits. The competitors are required to use five Georgia-grown items. They have their choice of all but one ingredient: All must use shrimp netted wild from Georgia waters. Formerly, they used a traditional grist for meals, Georgia-grown stone ground grits, but this year the chefs may also use Quaker Quick Grits.
“Quaker is thrilled to be part of this unique celebration of Southern Quisine, and we look forward to being inspired by all of the chef’s creations,’’ Quaker Senior Vice President Robert Rietbroek said in a prepared statement.
Regardless of whether the chefs simmer Georgia stone ground grits or the quicker cooking variety from Chicago-based Quaker Oats, it takes lot of them.
The Logan Turnpike Mill, a former sponsor of the event, said it gave each competitor about 50 pounds of grits and also sold hundreds of pounds of their bagged grits each year.
Typically, the festival draws more than 45,000 visitors who experience the entertainment, arts and other experiences that go along with the food.
Among this year’s competitors are some past winners. The 2018 champion, Eagle Creek Brewing Co., of Statesboro will be back as will the 2016 winner, East Egg Cafe of Atlanta. Others returning are Sweet Potato Cafe from Stone Mountain, Honey Cafe of Millen and the Jekyll Island Club Resort. The Blue Bicycle from Dawsonville, Spring Creek Park Resort from Donalsonville and The Lodge at Sea Island from across St. Simons Sound are coming as new contenders.
Festival organizers try to add something new to its menu of activities and this year it’s the “Go for the Grits” road race along a tree-lined 5 kilometer course through the Historic Landmark District on Sunday. Both runners and walkers are welcome and will have the roads to themselves for the 8 a.m. race.
The Shrimp & Grits Festival can also boast one of the best arts festivals in the area as more than 100 regional artists and artisans showcase their work. Also, guests can sample many of the state’s handmade food products along the Georgia Grown Alley.
There will also be some live background music for diners as musicians perform on three stages.
For a complete line-up of festival hours and events go to the website www.jekyllisland.com/shrimpgrits.
Shrimp and Grits recipe
Eagle Creek Brewing Co. of Statesboro (previous contest winner)
Makes 4-6 servings.
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of stone-ground grits
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons of butter
1 1/4 cups of shredded parmesan cheese
1 pound shrimp, deveined
6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons chili pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest of 1 lime
Chopped scallions for garnish
Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add salt, pepper and grits. Stir until grits have absorbed stock and have thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup parmesan cheese.
Cook off bacon strips and drain thoroughly but reserve 1 teaspoon of grease. Chop bacon and set aside. Add remaining butter to 1 teaspoon bacon grease and melt. Add heavy cream and chili powder, combine well. Bring mixture to a boil. Add shrimp and lime zest, cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn shrimp over, cook 1 more minute or until they are pink. Remove from heat and place shrimp on top of bowl of grits. Pour sauce over it.
Garnish with chopped bacon, scallions and parmesan cheese.