Shrimp and Grits is a gift to us all from the low country region of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. While the dish has been elevated to upscale dining across the country, originally it was a simple preparation by fishermen for breakfast or lunch on their shrimp boats. Fresh shrimp were cooked in bacon fat and served over grits for a hearty, humble meal.
Grits are very similar to other corn-based porridges, like polenta. They are either white or yellow in color, depending upon the corn used…but white corn grits are the norm here in the South.
I feel pretty certain that there is nothing that says “Southern” quite like grits. I’ve been trying to convert people to grit lovers for a long, long time; I’ve shipped grits all over the world for folks to try. As a matter of fact, I tried to ship them twice to a friend in Australia, only to have customs seize them both times. Most recently, I shipped some to another friend in Canada, where she was (happily for me) able to receive them.
As to making this dish, while you can certainly us quick-cook or instant grits, it will not be the same as using coarse-stone-ground grits. One of the criticisms of grits I’ve heard frequently from people who didn’t grow up eatin’ them is that they are gluey or sticky. This has a lot to do with the cooking of them, in my opinion.
First, it’s important to me to not cook them solely in water. Secondly, and this is why stone-ground grits are important, the long cook method allows the grits to absorb the flavors of both stock and cream, which I use in the liquid. This also gives them a very creamy consistency.
I’ve noticed in the schmancy restaurants lately that the grits they use have too fine of a grit, which to my taste, makes them seem like runny mashed potatoes. Grits are gritty…and it’s the texture of the grit that makes them so appealing to me.
Anyway, this is one of my versions of Shrimp and Grits. I have another that is served with Tasso Gravy, which is wonderful (and I smoke my own Tasso) but is more of a spicy Cajun version of the dish.
Like I said, you can use quick-cook or instant grits to make this dish, just be sure, when you follow the cooking instructions, to use the same portions of stock, water and cream to get a similar flavor. Hope you’ll give this low-country dish a try; it’s perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
- FOR THE GRITS:
- 2 cups stone ground grits
- 1½ cups chicken stock
- 1½ cups water
- 2½ cups heavy cream (you could use half and half) *reserve half a cup for later use
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
- FOR THE SHRIMP:
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 8 slices thick cut, smoked bacon, diced and crisped, fat reserved
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon herbes de Provence***
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- Fresh parsley, for garnish
- In a large saucepan, add the stock, water, two cups of the cream (*reserving ½ cup for later), butter, salt, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning.
- Bring to a boil.
- Uncovered, reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent the grits from sticking.
- Continue cooking until the grits thicken and absorb the liquid (approximately 30 minutes if using stone-ground grits). If the grits get too thick, as in if the spoon stands up in them, add a little bit of cream and stir until they are the consistency of pudding.
- At this point, add the remaining cream and the cheeses and stir until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated.
- Cover and remove from heat.
- While the grits are cooking, crisp the diced bacon and remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix the garlic powder, herbes de Provence, pepper, salt and Cajun seasoning.
- Toss the shrimp in the seasoning until the shrimp is well coated.
- Add the seasoned shrimp to the still hot bacon fat and cook until the shrimp is done, approximately 3-4 minutes.**
- When the shrimp is done, spoon some of the grits in a bowl or on plate, spoon the shrimp over the grits, sprinkle on the crisped bacon and garnish with parsley.
- Serve hot.
*** I mix my own blend of herbes de Provence. It is as follows:
2 tablespoons rosemary leaves, crushed
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon ground sage
1 tablespoon ground savory
1 tablespoon ground oregano
1 tablespoon basil leaves
½ tablespoon marjoram leaves