My college roommate loved grits. She always ate them when they were offered in the dreaded cafeteria, but I would never touch them because they were white and watery. Erin swore they were delicious, and I let her enjoy them all by herself.
But, she was from Florida and I was from Texas where grits never really caught on like the rest of the south. But then again, Texas isn’t really the south, it’s Texas.
So when David first wanted to make grits, I told him he was on his own. Honestly, I had never tasted grits, but, based on what I knew about them, I knew I did not like them and wanted nothing to do with grits.
Years ago, David made grits for breakfast one Sunday morning and my eyes lit up when he brought his plate to the table. He used a bright yellow, coarse ground corn meal that he cooked in a combination of water and milk, which resulted in a thick, but not too thick mixture. Clearly, these grits looked nothing like the grits prepared in a college cafeteria. And, when I tasted them, my world was forever changed.
Grits are a good thing. All that creamy, deliciousness topped with a pat of butter, a sprinkle of coarse salt and a grind of fresh pepper. Oh my gosh, all the years I had been missing this. Obviously, grits and I had a lot of catching up to do. One thing we’ve always talked about but never made is shrimp and grits. Until now.
Please know that I’m not advocating you make this every week, as this certainly is not a low-fat meal (bacon, bacon grease and cheese). But a girl’s gotta live, right?
On the bright side, you can whip this together in under 40 minutes. And I think it would be a great dish to serve company. It’s fast, hearty and oh-so-tasty.
Promise, promise, promise me you won’t leave out the bacon or try and be healthy and use turkey bacon instead. It just won’t be the same. And trust me when I tell you that it’s the combo of the cheesy grits and bacon that seals the deal.
Shrimp and Grits
For the cheese grits:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 large yellow onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2 cups milk
- 3 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup coarse ground corn meal or grits also called polenta
- 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
For the shrimp:
- 8 ounces applewood smoked bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 20 large shrimp peeled and deveined
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 cup whole peeled tomatoes or crushed tomatoes in its juice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/4 cup chopped scallions the white and green parts
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat until the pan is piping hot. Add the chopped bacon and cook, stirring, until golden brown and delicious.
With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and place on a plate or in a bowl lined with paper towels to catch any excess grease. Remove all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Set pan aside.
To make the grits, melt the butter and olive oil together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, until they wilt a bit and become translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
Increase the heat to high, add the milk and water and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, slowly whisk in the grits a little bit at a time and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth and thick and falls easily off the wooden spoon, about 15-20 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until completely melted, 2-3 minutes. (Add the cheese when you put the shrimp back in the saucepan with the cooked tomatoes, then everything will be ready at the same time.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the grits are cooking, prepare the shrimp. Using the same pan you cooked the bacon in, heat the bacon grease over high heat--or remove the bacon dripping and grease and use olive oil. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and toss in the pan until they curl up and turn pink and are lightly browned, about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes per side.
Remove shrimp from the pan and place on a plate. Pour the tomatoes in the pan, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands. Let cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tablespoon butter and stir to combine. This should thicken the sauce nicely. Add the shrimp back into skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring, so the shrimp are completely coated in the sauce.
To serve, spoon a generous serving of cheese grits into a bowl and place five shrimp and the sauce on top. Garnish with crispy bacon and chopped scallions.