Shrimp and Grits has become extremely popular in recent years. The dish has humble origins as a shrimper’s breakfast in coastal regions of the Southern United States. Now it can be found in recipe books and restaurants across the country, and is even starting to find its way overseas with countless variations. This easy to follow recipe guide will tell you exactly what you need to make the classic down home low country version of this dish that would still be good enough to serve in a trendy restaurant. For added color and nutrition this recipe includes fresh spinach and chopped tomato, but feel free to include your favorite greens or leave them out for the most traditional version of the dish. Whether you’re an experienced Southern cook or a novice chef altogether this recipe will get delicious shrimp and grits right to your table any night, day, or even morning of the week.
What You Need
- A good sharp knife.
- A cutting board.
- A skillet or saute pan, preferably cast iron for good heat retention and traditional southern flavoring.
- A 2.5-3 quart sauce pan or dutch oven, cast iron is again the preferred choice.
- 1 pound fresh shrimp.
- 1 cup milk, half and half, or heavy cream.
- 2 cups of water.
- 1.5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock for flavoring.
- A pinch of kosher salt.
- A pinch of fresh ground black pepper.
- 1 cup of traditional stone ground grits.
- 6 pieces of bacon or 3 pieces of country ham.
- 2 cloves of garlic.
- 1 teaspoon of paprika.
- A dash of cayenne pepper (optional).
- 1 teaspoon onion powder.
- 2 cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped.
- 1 small tomato, seeded and diced.
1. Peel and De-vein the shrimp. To do this simply remove legs and shells, and then cut along the spine with a sharp knife removing the little black ‘vein’ which is actually the digestive tract of the shrimp.
2. Heat up your stock in either a microwave safe dish or another sauce pan from the one you will use to cook the grits.
Cooking Shrimp and Grits
1. Combine water, stock, and milk or cream in the sauce pan over high heat, bring to a boil.
2. Add the butter and slowly stir in the grits, salt, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Cover and reduce to medium low heat, stirring occasionally so that none of the grits stick to the bottom of the pan. Let simmer for thirty minutes to an hour until all liquid is absorbed but consistency is still moist. If grits become too thick you can add a little bit of water or stock during the cooking process.
3. Heat up the skillet or saute pan on medium and fry the bacon or country ham until brown but not well done. Set aside on paper towels and then cut into pieces when cool.
4. Keep about half of the bacon or ham grease in the frying pan, and then add the garlic, onion powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook for a few minutes until the garlic starts to fall apart easily.
5. Add the shrimp and saute for just about 4 to 5 minutes, remove pan from heat the second they start to turn pink. While you never want to eat under cooked shrimp, they have a notoriously short window until they get overcooked. There will be some additional cooking of the shrimp when you put them over the hot grits.
6. Add the spinach and tomatoes last. They don’t need to be over any direct heat, the carry over in the pan and in the dish will wilt the spinach and lightly cook the tomatoes. Finally, add the chopped bacon or ham back into the skillet.
7. Ladle the grits onto a plate or bowl, and then top with spoon-fulls of the shrimp saute from the skillet and enjoy.
Once you master the basics of shrimp and grits, half the fun is coming up with your own unique variations.