Gretchen Shoemaker, chef-owner of Georgia’s at the Anaheim Packing District, shows off her soul-food seafood grits.

You can taste the love in Gretchen Shoemaker’s dishes. One example is the homey-delicious grits concoction that she serves at her eatery, Georgia’s, in the Anaheim Packing District. When Shoemaker showed me how to prepare grits in my home kitchen, she augmented the steamy bowl of ground corn with shrimp sautéed with red onions and bell peppers, plus a couple of fingerfuls of grated cheese. Oh, and some secret Creole seasoning mix.

It’s a traditional dish in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. But she didn’t grow up in the South. She grew up outside Philadelphia, where the cooking favored potatoes as a side dish, not grits. Generations of the women in her family worked as cooks, jobs she equates to those depicted in the book and movie “The Help.” They were her mentors. She recalls that her grandmother, Lucinda Shippen, knew how to bake bread in a wood oven.

The inspiration for her Southern-style cooking was her Virginia-born late husband, George Shoemaker. They met in seventh grade, an event that she describes was like getting hit with a thunderbolt. Eventually, she learned how to prepare his favorite dishes, all of which had Southern roots, such as chicken and waffles, and jambalaya. It’s the style of Southern fare that she serves at Georgia’s.

Although grits are a traditional soul-food breakfast dish, her version makes a welcome lunch or dinner entree.

The Tag: Her eatery’s name, Georgia’s, combines her husband’s name plus a letter from each of their three daughter’s names.

Midnight Dancing: When The Temptations came on the radio, she and her husband would dance, sometimes in the middle of the night.

Brunch Love: She serves her seafood grits, as well as grits with cheese, on weekends from nine to 11.

Drink of choice: Arnold Palmers. She doesn’t drink alcohol.

Her motto: If I won’t eat it and like it, I won’t serve it.

Georgia’s Seafood Grits

Yield: 1 serving, with leftover grits for additional 2 servings as needed
3 cups water plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (5-minute) grits
2 tablespoons butter, divided use
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil or vegetable oil
5 raw medium-size shrimp
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 green bell pepper, diced
1/8 red onion, diced
Creole seasoning to taste
About 3 tablespoons grated cheese, a combination of cheddar and Jack

Cook’s notes: You can buy a Creole seasoning mix or make your own, Shoemaker’s formula is a secret. For Emeril’s Essence Seasoning, combine 2 1/2 tablespoons ground paprika, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon ( or a little less) cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon dried oregano and 1 tablespoon dried thyme.

  1. Bring water and salt to boil in large saucepan on high heat. Gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Return to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook 4 to 5 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon butter after about 3 minutes and another tablespoon after about 3 1/2 minutes. Grits should be thickened but still a little soupy. Stir in pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add shrimp in single layer. Add bell peppers and onion. Cook until shrimp are cooked through and bell peppers are tender-crisp. Season to taste with Creole seasoning.
  3. Pour about 1/3 of grits into a bowl and stir in cheese (quantity will differ depending on size of bowl). Spoon shrimp-bell pepper mixture onto center of grits (don’t stir it into grits, just let it rest on top). Garnish with parsley and serve.

Georgia’s, 440 S. Anaheim Blvd, Unit 209A, Anaheim (Uber Eats food delivery)

Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”

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