Many years ago, I had the good fortune to live in Charleston, South Carolina, and cooked professionally there. Charleston is one of the greatest food cities in the South, and in addition to all the deliciousness available to eat there, is also charming, welcoming, and a fantastic city to explore by bike or on foot. When we can all travel safely again, it’s high on my list of places to return to! While living there, I was introduced to what is now one of my most requested recipes: shrimp and grits. Lots of people who aren’t from the South don’t quite “get” grits and how delicious they can be, because they’ve only had instant grits made with water…which is a travesty! Real stone ground grits are complex in flavor and texture, and are fantastic both by themselves and with a topping. The cheese and whipping cream used in them doesn’t hurt either! Shrimp and grits definitely falls into the category of “comfort food” and in these strange and uncertain times, I think we could all use a little comforting….
This recipe will serve 6 hungry people and 10 normal eaters. Leftovers are delicious, too.
Bring 4 cups chicken stock to a boil. Add 2 cups STONE GROUND GRITS (never, ever, ever use instant grits- you might as well eat wallpaper paste). Whisk grits in until all the lumps are gone and lower the heat to a low simmer. Stir often. Start the steps below after about twenty minutes. The grits must cook for at least 40 minutes, but the longer the better.
Meanwhile, have the following ready:
- 1 diced large onion, preferably Vidalia
- 1 diced red pepper (or orange, or yellow- whatever floats your boat)
- 1 8-12 ounce stick of summer sausage or other hard sausage- diced. If I can find the kind rolled in herbs, I love to use that. If you can find ½ a pound of Tasso ham, even better! Red Apron butcher in Union Market sometimes has it, as does the cured meat man in Eastern Market.
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 2 lbs uncooked medium to large shrimp, peeled. If the veins gross you out, devein them. I’m lazy and unbothered by the veins.
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 6 strips of cooked bacon- crumbled (cooked quite crispy- you want the crunch to contrast with the creaminess of the grits)
- Chives or parsley, finely minced
- Your favorite BBQ sauce- I typically go for a Hickory Smoke flavor, but any will do
- Your favorite hot sauce- I like Texas Pete
- 2 cups shredded cheese- whatever you like or have on hand with the exception of soft or blue cheeses
- ½ to 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese- the green can of Kraft will not do here…
- 3 cups whipping cream
Continue to stir the grits often. As they thicken, add 2 cups of the whipping cream and stir some more. Remember, keep the heat low! If the grits get too thick, add more chicken stock. You want the grits to be viscous- not thin and drippy but a wooden spoon stuck in the middle should slowly fall over. It shouldn’t stay standing straight up, but shouldn’t fall immediately over either. Some people prefer thicker grits, some thinner. I like it when they pool on a plate, but you can still make a hole in the middle for the shrimp to go into. After thirty minutes of cooking, stir in the shredded cheese. Taste. Yum! Keep on low.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the diced sausage or ham for a few minutes. Add the onions and pepper. Stir, toss, cook. At this point, I’ll sometimes add a splash of white wine if I have some open. Or, I’ll open some wine, throw some in the grits, and drink the rest! Add a cup of chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the last cup of whipping cream. Bring to a simmer again. Add the shrimp. Stir gently over low heat until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
I like to warm my plates in a warming drawer or briefly in an oven on the very lowest setting it has. Use a ladle to dip grits onto the plate and make a hole in the center. Spoon a BIG spoonful of the shrimp into the hole. Spoon out some of that yummy sauce and ladle over the shrimp. Sprinkle the whole thing with some of the bacon. Sprinkle with a little bit of the minced herbs. Use a squeeze bottle or spoon to drizzle some BBQ sauce over- just a little- it should be an accent, not a big part of the taste. Use hot sauce if/as you like. Enjoy! Leftovers are delicious- the more the shrimp and sauce sits the better it gets. Reheating is best done on the stove rather than the microwave. The leftover grits will stiffen, so will definitely need to be thinned with more stock.