21 July 2013

What's A Grit?

You don't live south of the Mason-Dixon line without at least hearing about grits, a staple of Southern breakfast in the same manner that cream of wheat or oatmeal is in northern climes. There are probably as many ways to serve grits as Bubba Gump knows how to fix shrimp, and one of those ways is shrimp and grits.

Shrimp and grits are a favorite on the coast, not surprisingly, where the boats come in loaded with fresh seafood which is generally frozen and packaged for sale inland. The catch that would not survive the trip inland often found its way into various recipes on the seashore. I had not heard of shrimp and grits until I moved to North Carolina, even though I have been south of the Mason-Dixon almost exclusively since I was 18.

On our foray to the coast I happened to spot a restaurant that was so proud of its grits that they put them in their name, so I knew the time had come to sample shrimp and grits. Afterwards the only regret I had was not having them earlier.

Of course as soon as I got back home the first thing I did (well, the second, after walking my dog who was insanely glad to see me, as always) was look up recipes for shrimp and grits. It amused me to note that there seems to be as many recipes for shrimp and grits as there are shrimp in the sea. They go all the way from ostentatious to simple, this one seemed pretty simple but I finally pieced together my own recipe from bits of other ones. It's not quite what I had at the coast, but although different it was just as good.

And without further ado, here we go!

Shrimp and Grits

Prep time: 30 to 45 minutes

The cheesy grits, which are good all by themselves if you so desire:
1 cup grits. You can use quick grits, but like the man said, no self respecting Southerner would ever eat instant grits.
2 cups shrimp stock (see below). You can also use 2 cups of water with 1/2 tablespoon salt if you don't want to make the shrimp stock, but don't add any salt if using shrimp stock. It doesn't need it.
2 cups milk
4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, finely shredded
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded
4 drops Tabasco sauce (optional)

The shrimp:
1 pound unpeeled, medium-size shrimp, bonus points if you get them fresh from the boat
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 strips of bacon
6 ounces sliced mushrooms, about 3 cups
8-10 green onion bulbs, chopped fine
1 medium sweet red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shrimp stock (or chicken broth if you don't make shrimp stock)
Tops of green onions, thinly cut on diagonal for garnish

Peel and de-vein shrimp, saving the shells to make the shrimp stock if desired. Do this by boiling the shrimp shells in 4-5 cups lightly salted water for as long as it takes you to chop the vegetables (helpful hint, slice up the green onion tops for the garnish first, then chop the bulbs). Strain out the shells and retain the broth.

Bring 2 cups shrimp stock and the milk to a low boil and gradually stir in the grits. Cover and cook until thickened, stirring frequently. For quick grits this will take 5-10 minutes, for regular grits it can take 30 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and hot sauce. Stir well to fully mix in the melted cheese, then cover to retain heat and moisture and set aside.

Fry the bacon until crisp in a 10" cast iron skillet. Remove bacon from skillet, leaving the drippings in the skillet. Set the bacon aside on a paper towel to cool.

Combine the peeled shrimp, lemon juice, salt, and ground red pepper in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside while you cook the vegetables. Do not let the shrimp sit any longer than 20 minutes or the citrus will begin to cook the shrimp.

Add the mushrooms, onion and bell pepper to the bacon drippings and cook, tossing and stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, add the garlic and cook an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring well. Sprinkle flour over vegetables, mix well and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until flour begins to brown.

Add the shrimp mixture and 3/4 cup shrimp stock and cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp turns pink and the gravy is smooth (about 6 minutes). If the gravy is too thick add shrimp stock as necessary. Crumble the bacon and blend it in.

Dish the grits into individual bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with green onion tops. Serves 4-6.


Much of the above recipe was adapted from one I found at My Carolina Kitchen. Lots of good eats over there, go check them out.

1 comment:

RabidAlien said...

Grits: best served with butter, salt, cheese, and crumbled-up bacon.

Poured into a biscuit cutter and allowed to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, they make great hockey pucks (freeze for street hockey). Can be used as mortar in a pinch. Only food known to man that comes out the same consistency as it went in.