It’s summertime, and the living is easy in Canton. The kids are out of school, locally grown produce abounds at the Canton Farmers Market, First Fridays are hotter than ever, and the city has opened a new Snack Shack with concessions, including snow cones, for the crowds enjoying Etowah River Park.
There’s never a lack of things to do in the summer, especially this year, as Canton continues to become one of the most active, connected and vibrant cities in Georgia.
July brings us close to the finish of phase one of the restoration to the Jones Building. This phase includes restoring the original 1920s exterior, and the results will be an amazing improvement for downtown Canton. The new awning on East Main Street is being custom manufactured, so it won’t arrive until mid-July, but everything else should be wrapping up. We hope to conduct tours of the gutted interior in the near future, and we think everyone will be amazed with its potential.
Meanwhile, progress continues on the old Canton Grammar School and Mill office site, and Panera should be open, or very close, by the time you read this. The two historic buildings are looking amazing, and we look forward to the other restaurants and businesses that will be added to the development. More importantly, we will welcome 125 new public parking spaces, available for all downtown visitors, merchants and event attendees.
The Mill on the Etowah continues to announce more great news, improvements and tenants, and they are just beginning the project. As for the mayor and council, we already have begun to review the 2019 budget with our city manager and CFO, and, as always, there are a lot of things to consider. The most important matter is how to deliver the highest quality services and amenities to city residents at the lowest possible cost. It is a challenging, yet rewarding, process, and I look forward to continuing to work with these dedicated colleagues to move Canton forward.
Summer also brings higher temperatures and humidity, not my favorite thing about living in the South. Growing up without air conditioning, we learned how to keep the house cooler on those long dog days, especially in the kitchen. Grilling outside was preferred, to keep from heating up the house, and, of course, my parents avoided baking at all costs. Even with central HVAC, I still try to follow these rules in the summer by limiting most of my cooking to the stovetop.
The Canton Farmers Market is an excellent source for stovetop creations, and I recently made a delicious shrimp and grits dish, almost entirely from ingredients purchased there. The fresh shrimp, from Tom’s Fresh Seafood, came from Darien, Ga. My delicious Big Fat Grits were from Buckeye Creek Farm in Canton, one of my favorite places ever! My friends at Loud Mouth Farm grew the glorious oyster mushrooms. Garlic and serrano peppers were purveyed by my favorite “farmhers” at Whim-Wham Art Farm, and the first homegrown tomato and herbs came from our own garden at One Britt. Of course, you can get these basic ingredients at any grocery store, but knowing where your food comes from provides peace of mind and, for me, pure joy. Until next time, stay cool by eating and shopping local.
– Bill Grant, Canton city councilman and mayor pro tem
Shrimp with Gruyére Grits
• 4-5 cups chicken stock
• 1 pound large shrimp, shelled (save the shells for stock)
• 1 pint mushrooms, such as oyster, button, cremini or shiitake – stemmed and thinly sliced
(save stems for stock)
• 1 bay leaf
• 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
• 1/4 tsp. baking soda
• 1/4 tsp. cornstarch
• 1 cup of coarse stone ground yellow grits
• 1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 4 ounces pancetta or 3-4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
• Vegetable oil (as needed)
• 1 medium shallot, minced
• 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
• 1 serrano pepper, minced
• 1 ripe tomato, chopped small with juices
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley and chives mixed (plus more for garnish if desired)
Peel and clean shrimp, leaving the tails on (optional). Combine 4-5 cups chicken stock with reserved shrimp shells, mushroom stems and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Strain stock (pressing on shells and solids to extract flavor) and return stock to saucepan. Continue to simmer on low.
In a medium bowl, combine shrimp, 3/4 teaspoon salt, baking soda and cornstarch, and toss to coat. Refrigerate shrimp for 30 minutes to one hour. This will keep the shrimp moist and crisp when cooking.
Separate 3 cups of reserved stock into a separate saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk grits into stock and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring and scraping bottom frequently with a wooden spoon, until grits are soft and thickened, about one hour. Add more stock, half ladle at a time, if the grits get too dry. Stir in Gruyère cheese until fully melted, then season with salt and pepper. Keep grits warm and stir often.
Heat pancetta or bacon until sizzling over high heat in a large cast iron skillet. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring, until bacon has rendered its fat and becomes crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the skillet, and reserve the rest.
Return skillet to high heat until lightly smoking. Add shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until just slightly translucent in the center of each shrimp. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
Add 3 tablespoons of bacon fat to skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking mushrooms, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, 5-6 minutes. If skillet becomes too dry, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil at a time to keep it from sticking. Stir in shallot, garlic, serrano pepper and tomato, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.
Add remaining cup of stock to shallot mixture, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Add reserved shrimp and stir gently. Lower heat to medium-low, and whisk in butter until fully melted and emulsified with the gravy. Remove from heat, and whisk in lemon juice. Stir in herbs, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon grits into bowls, and top with shrimp, mushrooms and gravy. Garnish with reserved crispy bacon and additional herbs, and serve right away.