April 05, 2010

April 5 THE MONDAY MENU: Shrimp & Grits

Having grown up in Oklahoma and Texas for the first decade of my life, it was not until my family moved to North Carolina when I was eleven years old that I discovered the sacred dish of the South known as grits.

When I ate my first grit I do not know. What I do recall are all the debates that I heard throughout my teenage years about the proper way to eat grits - thick versus runny, with butter only or with cheese, with gravy or without, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or all three? So sacred was this dish made of ground up corn that people got their feelings hurt if you insulted their preferred way of eating it.

And then there is Shrimp and grits.

Contrary to what some folks may think, shrimp paired with grits did not originate in Louisiana. Yes, the Cajun style of eating shrimp and grits is quite possibly the most popular, but historical records tell us that coastal fishermen in South Carolina were eating the dish for breakfast in the early 17th century during shrimping season (May- December).. Back then the common way to cook the shrimp was in some bacon grease and then pair with grits that were simply boiled in water until cooked.

In this century shrimp and grits are now served in a hundred different varieties. And, of course, there is plenty of room for debate is to which way is best. Today I offer to you the recipe for my preferred way to eat shrimp and grits. However, in the name of fairness I am also offering you some unique variations that I hope will please your pallet. Enjoy.

Conversation Starter:
What dishes are considered sacred in the culture in which you grew up? Why do you think people elevate foods to such a level?

Shrimp & Grits


2 pounds medium (26-30 count) shrimp peeled, cleaned, and deveined
1 clove minced garlic
1 small onion -finely diced
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher or Sea salt


2 Cups chicken stock or water
2 Cups Half and Half, cream, or whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Cup quick grits (Quaker works best)
1/2 teaspoon ground curry (not hot)
1 Cup Sharp Cheddar cheese



In a 3 quart sauce pan prepare grits by combining over medium high heat chicken stock, Half and Half, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, begin stirring with a whisk. While stirring, slowly add the grits. Continue stirring for about a minute to ensure that no lumps have formed. Reduce heat to medium low and cover, stirring occasionally. Allow grits to cook for approximately 5-7 minutes until thickened and all the water has been absorbed. When fully cooked, grits should be smooth and creamy. Add Cheddar cheese and curry and mix well.

Tip: If grits stick to the bottom of the pan but are not scorched (they will smell slightly burnt), simply remove pan from the heat and stir. Cover with lid and let grits sit off of the heat source for three minutes. After three minutes, stir grits again scraping the bottom of the pan. Stuck grits will come right off. Be sure to mash any lumps.


In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt and allow them to get soft and translucent. Add garlic and sautee' for three more minutes. Add shrimp, red pepper and salt and cook over medium heat until all the shrimp have turned pinkish throughout.

To serve: Top one cup of grits with desired amount of shrimp.


As I said before, this dish literally has hundreds of variations. I offer you three.

1. Replace curry and cheddar cheese with Smoked Gouda. Serve with shrimp according to the recipe above.

2 Make a reduction sauce out of 2 cups diced tomatoes, 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 small diced onion,1 clove minced garlic , 1 teaspoon ground red pepper, and 1/4 cup dry white wine. Mix and reduce by half stirring occasionally. Add shrimp and two pinches of salt, cook and serve over curry grits.

3. Sautee' over medium heat 1/4 cup diced onion and 1/4 cup bell pepper in three tablespoons butter until onions are translucent. Add three tablespoons flour and mix well. Cook for an additional six minutes stirring often. Slowly add 1/2 cup chicken broth in small increments stirring constantly. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups half and half or whole milk in small amounts. Allow mixture to come to a low boil, stirring constantly. Once mixture has begun to boil, reduce heat and add shrimp. Cook for 2- 3 minutes. Serve shrimp over grits finished with Smoked Gouda cheese.

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