Do you hear choirs of angels singing when you look at a plate of shrimp and grits? Or is that just me?
Shrimp & Grits. One of the great, great things about the south.
Anytime I have the good fortune to be in Charleston, South Carolina, I practically eat my weight in shrimp and grits and She Crab Soup. Since trips to Charleston don’t happen nearly enough, I had to figure out how to feed my addiction at home.
What do I need to do to convince you to try grits? How about adding bacon? Will that do the trick?
Here’s what you need:
Shrimp, Bacon, Grits*, Onion, Red Bell Pepper, Garlic, Green Onions, Flour, Chicken Broth, Milk, White Wine, Water (not pictured), Butter, Heavy Cream, Thyme, Red Pepper Flakes, Salt & Pepper.
*Let’s talk grits! Grits are tiny little bits of stone ground corn. They are very similar to Italian Polenta but in my world grits are white and polenta is yellow. In the store you will find three varieties: regular grits, quick grits and instant grits. Either regular or quick are fine. I think instant are gloppy and weird so I don’t buy them. Since they are most often served for breakfast, you’ll likely find grits near the oatmeal in the grocery store.
Everything is better with bacon! Cut 6 slices of bacon into small pieces.
Remember that you knife and cutting board now have raw meat cooties so you need to wash them before you use them for other chopping.
Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over medium low heat.
It is important to cook the bacon slowly over low heat because we are trying to render as much of the fat out of the bacon as possible. If the heat is too high, the bacon will get hard and crispy before the fat has a chance to cook out.
While the bacon cooks, cut up a medium onion.
Chop up a red bell pepper by cutting it into strips and then into small pieces. You want about 1 cup each of chopped onion and peppers.
Chop up 3 cloves of garlic into tiny pieces.
Check in on the bacon. It should be browning nicely and also giving off some good grease in the pan.
Remove the cooked bacon from the pan leaving all the good bacon grease behind. Drain the bacon on a paper towel and set aside. (Try not to eat all the bacon as you cook the rest of the dish.)
Using the lovely bacon grease and all it’s flavor, saute the onions, peppers and garlic in the bacon pan.
Use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any little browned bits of bacony goodness from the bottom of the pan.
Cook the onions and peppers over medium heat about 5 minutes until they are very tender but not browned.
Add 1/4 cup of flour to the vegetables to make a roux for our shrimp sauce. In the south they call this the Gravy.
Stir and cook the flour for a few minutes until it has all been absorbed into the vegetables.
Add 1/2 cup of white wine and 1 can (14 ounce) of low-sodium chicken broth to the pan. Stir to incorporate all of the flour into the sauce.
At this point, the Gravy or Sauce can sort of hang out while we make the grits. Keep it cooking on low heat and stir occasionally just to be sure it doesn’t stick.
For the grits, bring 2 cups of milk and 3 cups of water to a boil in a large, deep pot. It is important that you use a deep pot because the grits will bubble and splatter as they cook. Hot bubbling grits on skin is not exactly pleasant.
Sometimes I cook grits in just plain water but I find that the addition of a little milk helps make them a bit creamier.
When the liquid comes to a boil, SLOWLY pour in 1 1/2 cups grits as you whisk.
If you just dump them in all at once, you’ll have a lumpy mess.
Whisk the grits over medium heat. As they begin to thicken, you will need to switch to stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.
The grits will thicken as they absorb the liquid. Season the grits generously with salt and pepper. Cook at a low bubble for about 5 to 10 minutes until thick.
Don’t worry if your grits suddenly become EXTREMELY thick. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting to hold them while we cook the shrimp. We will loosen them up just before serving.
For the shrimp, bring the pan of sauce back up to a simmer over medium heat. Season with salt, pepper, a pinch of dried thyme and a pinch (or more) of red pepper flakes.
Add 1 1/2 pounds of large, peeled and deveined shrimp.
Cook the shrimp in the sauce for 3-5 minutes until they turn pink and the edges just start to curl.
Stir 1-2 Tablespoons of heavy cream into the shrimp sauce the make the gravy creamy and delicious.
To make the grits smooth again, stir in 2 Tablespoons of butter and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. (Sometimes I also add a handful of grated cheddar cheese to the grits.)
Serve by spooning the grits into the bottom of a bowl. Top with the shrimp and gravy and garnish with the reserved bacon and a few green onions. Offer some hot sauce for those who like things on the spicy side.
I swear I hear choirs of angels.
Shrimp and Grits. It will set you free.
Here’s the recipe: