In honor of the upcoming James Beard awards ceremony, Kit Wohl's Cookbook Studio presents this recipe for a festival of Herbsaint’s Shrimp, Green Chili Grits and Tasso Cream.  The recipe is courtesy of Kit's book New Orleans Classic Celebrations (Pelican Publishing). Kit appears regularly in the Cookbook Studio kitchen on the Sunday edition of Eyewitness Morning News, Sundays at 6 a.m. 

Chef Donald Link is nominated as Outstanding Chef, the James Beard Foundation’s honor awarded to a working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals. They must have been working as a chef for the past five years. We’ll find out Monday, May 1, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. To watch live streaming of the event go to

The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. It is considered as the Oscars of the food world. New Orleans culinary scene has a dozen nominations in different categories.


Chef Donald Link drives the concept behind Herbsaint, a small bistro serving big flavors born of his Louisiana heritage. He is opinionated about some things — most things in fact, but especially the high flavor profiles he creates from his state’s bounty. He presides over his tiny Warehouse District restaurant, Herbsaint.

He is a James Beard Foundation honoree as Best Chef Southeast 2007 and has been previously nominated for the James Beard “Outstanding Chef” award, in addition to a slew of other local and national honors His restaurants have received and recognition for culinary excellence. Forbes magazine named Chef Link a Top Ten Chef to Watch and New Orleans Magazine called him Chef of the Year. He can be found in the Herbsaint kitchen, unless he is over at Cochon, Butcher, or Peche, the Link Restaurant Group’s other award-winning restaurants.

SERVES 8 small plates or 4 entrees

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced Tasso ham
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
4 tablespoons flour

3 cups cooked grits, prepared according the package directions*
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
*5-minute grits and regular grits are recommended over instant for quality.

Make the Shrimp and Gravy
1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion, celery, ham, thyme, cayenne, paprika, and garlic and cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft. Add the remaining butter and when it has melted, add the flour, stirring well to mix the flour in with the vegetables.

2. Add the shrimp stock gradually and cook until the sauce has reduced by half.
(Whenever making sauce that has some sort of roux, add liquids in stages so that the sauce doesn’t become too thin. It’s always easier to thin a sauce if needed than to thicken it.) Add the cream and reduce, stirring occasionally, until the texture is thick. Remove the gravy from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and hot sauce.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the shrimp, cook for about 2 minutes on each side, or until almost cooked through, and drain any excess oil from the pan. Pour the reserved gravy over the shrimp, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Make the Grit Cakes
1. Add the jalapeño and Parmigiano-Reggiano to the pot of prepared grits and mix thoroughly. Grease a 10- by 15-inch baking pan that is at least 1 inch deep, pour the grits into the pan, and chill, covered, for at least 1 hour to set.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the grits for about 20 minutes, or until they are hot and crisp on the bottom. Using a wet knife, cut the grits into 3-inch squares.

3. To serve, place a square of grits on each plate. Spoon about a tablespoon of gravy over them and top with the shrimp. Garnish with parsley or chives.