smothered shrimp and crabmeat pan gravy

Joni Mitchell once sang, “Some get the gravy, some get the gristle.” If gravy represents the good things in life, it doesn’t get much more luxe than this. I can hardly imagine a gravy richer than one made with shrimp, crabmeat, and pan drippings.

Makes 10 to 12 servings



3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons rubbed sage
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
½ cup dry sherry
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups clam juice, fish stock, or chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper
3 pounds peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp, butterflied with tails intact
1½ pounds jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
2 recipes Stone-Ground Grits (page 51), hot


1. In a large heavy-bottomed stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

2. In a separate frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and stir briskly. Cook, stirring continuously, until the roux begins to brown, being careful not to burn it, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Transfer the roux to the pot with the vegetables. Stir in the sage, thyme, sherry, Worcestershire, nutmeg, cayenne, and clam juice. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture begins to simmer lightly and everything gets agitated. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until creamy and thick, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Fold in the crabmeat and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Plate the grits in a casserole or deep-dish platter, then ladle the shrimp and crabmeat gravy on top. Serve immediately.

Excerpted MEALS, MUSIC, AND MUSES: Recipes From My African American Kitchen by Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Copyright © 2020 by Alexander Smalls. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Beatriz da Costa.