JERRYSTACKHOUSE'S essential skills--hand-eye coordination, timing, an ability toperform under pressure; we're talking cooking skills here--were honed at Surf& Turf, the soul food joint in Kinston, N.C., where his mother, Minnie,worked long hours as a cook to support her 11 children. When Jerry, theyoungest, turned 15, he began working at the restaurant as a dishwasher but wassoon promoted to hush-puppy fryer. "Hush puppies are an art form," saysStackhouse of the cornmeal dumplings. "You have to make sure not toovercook them, make sure the dough is just right. I was able to watcheverything that went on in that kitchen from the prep station to the grill andthen apply it at home."
Today Stackhouse,31, is the Bobby Flay of the NBA. When his team is not on the road, he doesalmost all the cooking for his family--his wife, Ramirra, and their kidsAlexis, 6, and Antonio, 4. Ramirra, Stackhouse says, "makes a great friedchicken, but she doesn't have an innate love for [cooking] like I do." The6'6" 218-pounder has enrolled both kids in a once-a-week cooking class inDallas. Last summer he got behind his charcoal grill and had the team over fora barbecue at which he served beef ribs that he marinated overnight in maltliquor ("for tenderness"). And back in 2002 Stack prepared a friedshrimp dish on the Food Network's NBA Café hosted by Flay, who has calledStackhouse one of the best cooks in the league. "I can hold my own with myshrimp," says Stackhouse, who likes to shop for his ingredients himself,"but I have to admit what I am--a professional athlete with a penchant forcooking."
And for eating.Stackhouse, who consumes he-man-sized portions, shared a recipe with SI PLAYERSfor one of his signature dishes: It calls for three pounds of shrimp and, hesays, serves four. "Deep-fried shrimp used to be my favorite," he says."But I'm trying to be healthy now."
STACK'S CAROLINA SHRIMP AND GRITS
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Ingredients: Two quarts water; one cup grits; twosticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter; 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese; onecup 2% milk; salt; fresh ground pepper; two tomatoes, chopped; four clovesgarlic, minced; 11/2 cups chicken broth; six scallions, finely chopped; twoonions, cut first in half then in julienne strips; two green peppers; onetablespoon of Mrs. Dash; three pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined.
1. Bring the water to boil in a large saucepan
2. Add grits and 1/2 cup of butter.
3. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir untilthickened.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the milk and theParmesan cheese.
5. Season with the salt and pepper, set aside "buttry to keep warm." (Put a lid on it.)
6. Melt two tablespoons of the remaining butter in alarge skillet over medium-high heat.
7. Add onions and green peppers, stirringoccasionally. Allow the pieces to get well caramelized. ("You want them tobrown a little bit as this helps with flavor and color.")
8. Add shrimp, tomatoes and garlic, stirring for oneminute.
9. Stir in the chicken broth and cook until shrimp areopaque throughout and the stock has reduced slightly, about two minutes.
10. Stir the remaining butter into the mixture andcook until melted.
11. Stir in the scallions and taste "to see if youneed more salt, pepper and Dash seasoning."
12. Spoon grits into bowls. Top with skilletingredients and serve immediately.
Serves: 4 Stackhouses
CHRIS WILKINS/EPA (STACKHOUSE ACTION); THE STOCK MARKET (GARLIC);
Photographs by Steven Freeman