Chef Fabian Botta of Ruddy Duck Tavern in Morehead City won this year’s People’s Choice Award at the Annual Cooking with the Chefs Program at the N.C. Seafood Festival. He beat out Justin Lachine of Café Lachine in Nags Head. UNC-TV’s Mitch Lewis emceed the competition.

Other competitors were Hallock Cooper Howard of Amos Mosquito’s Restaurant & Bar in Atlantic Beach and Gerry Fong of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern.

John Aydlett from the Seafood Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Wilmington food blogger and freelance writer Liz Biro, and Bob Garner from UNC-TV judged the preliminary rounds. In the final round, audience members were selected to be judges. — E.L.


Pumpkin Grits

• 1 cup coarse yellow grits

• 2 cups water

• 2 cups milk

• 1/4 cup heavy cream

• 2 cups small diced pumpkin

• salt and pepper to taste

• 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar

Heat the water, milk and heavy cream in heavy-bottomed saucepan until just simmering.

Stir grits and pumpkin into simmering water, milk and heavy cream. Cook, stirring often, until the grits are tender to the bite and are the consistency of thick oatmeal and pumpkin pieces are tender.

As the grits thicken, stir them more often to keep from sticking or scorching.

Regular grits cook in 20 minutes. NOTE: Stone-ground grits in about one hour and need additional milk and water.

Season the pumpkin grits to taste. Cover, remove from heat and let rest.


• 1 1/2 pounds cleaned shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 3 garlic cloves, chopped

• 1 medium onion, diced small

• 1/2 pound butter

• 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced small

• 6 mushrooms, sliced thin

• 1 cup tomato gravy (any simple tomato gravy recipe will do)

• 2 green onions, thinly sliced

• 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

• salt to taste

• pepper to taste

Heat large skillet. Add butter, garlic, diced onions, mushrooms and jalapeños.

Cook on medium heat until onions are translucent. Add shrimp, salt and pepper.

Add half cup of tomato gravy and cook shrimp until pink. Be sure not to overcook. To serve, scoop a layer of cooked grits on the plate, sprinkle grated sharp cheddar cheese and add another layer of grits. With large spoon, place shrimp and gravy on top of grits and garnish the dish with braised pork, green onions and sweet potato chips.

For the cider-braised pork shoulder, follow or use your favorite recipe.

For the sweet potato chips, follow recipe or buy good quality, all-natural sweet potato chips.

This article was published in the Holiday 2012 issue of Coastwatch.

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