Living in Southern California, there’s no shortage of great food. I enjoy my share of seafood tacos & carne asada fries (not to mention the bevy of award-winning chefs). Yet, there remains a void in my southern-rooted, food-loving soul—earmuffs San Diego, EARMUFFS!
Growing-up with meals like pork chops & black eyed peas, I have a deep affinity for southern classics. One of my favorites is undoubtedly shrimp & grits. It’s perfect, I promise. If you’ve never thought of a grit as anything other than coarse asphalt, then I assure you this is an edible victory (ground corn + broth + butter + cheeses = success)! If a meal could be a hug, well then this would be it. My Mom loved shrimp & grits, and so do I. Preparing it is pretty easy. The longest steps are the ever-cumbersome shelling & de-veining of the shrimp <insert glass of good wine here> and making the roux for the sauce. If you can find the fresh shrimp pre, de-veined & peeled, I say do it (but keep that glass of wine).
Let’s make this—we’re overdue for a little soul-warming aren’t we?
- 1 cup stone ground white grits (not instant)
- 2.5 cups water
- 1 cup chicken broth (divided in ½)
- 1.5 cups half & half (or cream)
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese (shredded)
- 1 lb (~20) raw shrimp (peeled & deveined)
- 4 green onions (whites chopped, reserve chopped greens for garnish)
- ¼ cup sweet white onion, chopped
- 4 garlic colves, (one sliced thinly, other 3 finely chopped)
- 2 cups sliced white button mushrooms
- 6 bacon slices (will cook in skillet & reserve drippings)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 can chicken broth (we will use ~1 cup in increments)
- 1 tbsp flour
- creole seasoning, to taste
- paprika, to taste
- sea salt, to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- Lay peeled shrimp out in a single layer, to season lightly with creole seasoning, sea salt & black pepper—repeat on other side, set aside.
- In large skillet, fry 6 strips of bacon until crisp, remove slices to drain & chop, reserve grease in pan.
- Preheat skillet with bacon drippings on medium & cook shrimp on first side for ~2 mins, then flip & cook on other side for ~2 mins (until pink/just cooked-through, but not overcooked—we will add shrimp back into sauce at the end to reheat).
- Set shrimp aside on plate & reserve pan drippings (DO NOT rinse pan—we make sauce with base).
- In a pot on medium-low combine: grits, water, ½ cup of the broth, half-&-half, butter, salt & pepper, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low & cover (simmering until most liquid is absorbed ~ 25-35 mins) stirring often while cooking.
- Once grits have absorbed liquid and are thickened, stir in cheeses and melt, then cover & move off direct heat (we will add more stock and heat slightly once sauce is done).
- On medium-low, reheat skillet with dripping & add 2 tbsp butter until melted.
- Sauté white onion, garlic, and the white portion of the 4 green onions, & season with pinch of sea salt & black pepper—stirring occasionally to cook though (~5mins).
- Add lemon juice, sliced mushrooms & 1 tbsp butter, stir & continue cooking for 2 mins, then add 3 tbsps of chicken broth & continue to cook on medium-low until mushrooms are tender/browning.
- Make roux on medium heat: sprinkle mushroom mix with 1 tbsp flour, stir & let cook ~2 mins until mix thickens, then slowly stir-in ½ cup chicken stock (a few tbsps at a time, stirring constantly), until sauce is semi-thick (stir in more broth as needed so mix is medium thickness and almost has a glossy sheen.
- Warm pot with cheese grits on low & add ¼ cup of broth to thin (they should be creamy but stir easily).
- Add back shrimp to sauce in skillet and season to taste with paprika & cayenne (I add just a dash of each, but you can add more heat as desired, test and add more salt to taste).
- Serve each plate with portion of grits, top with shrimp mix, garnish with s sprinkle of the chopped green onion, chopped bacon, and Tobasco (optional).
Shrimp & Grits are as old as the south itself, but the dish’s resurgence in the early 1980’s plotted it’s stay on the culinary-canvas of the region (and the nation), indefinitely. It’s satisfying, savory, forgiving, and welcoming of different flavors, whether it is creole with Andoullie sausage & peppers, or Charleston-style with a tomato-base. In Georgia, this is a very common brunch dish, adorned often with fried eggs, or mushrooms and veggies, over cheese grits. That’s the base I’m most familiar with, and have adapted my family’s recipe from. I hope you enjoy this special meal as much as I always will.