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An unlabored day

Kysha Harris | 9/28/2011, 5:58 p.m.
An unlabored day

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An unlabored day

Welcome to fall! Welcome to the changing of leaves, Halloween, squash and the expectation of a bountiful and delicious food season. Before that happens and we get too far away from the summer, I want to take a moment to reflect on an awesome Labor Day of friends, food and fun right here in Harlem. A little expected, a lot unexpected, but delicious all around.

I arose in the morning. On my docket was a brunch invitation from my good friend Jason. On the menu was his first attempt at shrimp and grits (actually polenta-all he had). I hopped on the bike and rode over with an empty stomach and a great memory of the shrimp and grits at Sweet Sue's in Phoenicia, N.Y. I really need to get back there at some point.

When I arrived, our other friend Dee, with his dog Stewie in tow, was sitting at the counter in wait of the masterpiece. "Coffee?" "Thank you, yes, Jason!...Good coffee." Now I could focus my attention on gently assisting Jason with his creation. In short order, it's all about timing. What takes the longest to prepare and cook? Start with the polenta (yellow corn grits). Once you are about to drop the shrimp, add the cheese to the polenta.

To plate: first, a pool of warm cheesy polenta on the bottom, the spicy shrimp and a splash of the pan juice, all topped with crumbled bacon and chopped scallion. Redic'! So good. Next time he is adding a little Creole spice to the shrimp and a poached egg on top for that runny yolk. Sweet Sue, we are coming for you!

After another cup of "good coffee," I departed for home-or so I thought. A happenstance moment found me seeing another friend, Jai Jai (Harlem Vintage and Nectar Wine Bar owner), on her stoop. We caught up for a minute when she invited me in for a family barbecue. Of course, I wasn't hungry but sitting in the backyard and a good catch-up is always just what the doctor ordered.

Stepping outside, I find Jai Jai's husband, Tim, manning the grill filled with corn and burgers and...what's that...a smoker?! Tim nods his head slightly askew in proud affirmation. Then he opens the door to display his bounty-two plump mahogany chickens perched on beer cans AND a brisket. My stomach instantly said, "Don't worry about it, Kysha, I am moving the shrimp and grits into the storage closet right now!"

I found myself enjoying a plate of corn on the cob, a slice of that brisket, a chicken leg, greens and a baked potato. The drink was a blackberry margarita and delicious wines (of course). For dessert I was treated to a family favorite-poo-poo pie! Holla if you hear me, Ramsey clan! It's like a lemon chantilly cream pie that is easy and delicious. Their "mimi" (grandmother), who has lived in Harlem for over 65 years, was very proud.

I finally made it home, stuffed but happy. No more eating-until I got a call from Katrina. She was coming over for some hang time, so I broke out the big snack guns with my white truffle and black pepper popcorn. I gave her the lion's share and she was impressed. Salty, umami, crunchy, wickedly good eating! (Subscribe to my blog for the recipe.)

When I laid my head on my pillow that night, I was thankful for the day. Sometimes, life is good when you expect the unexpected.

Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!

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Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m.

Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.