Shrimp and Grits are one of my all-time favorite meals. For breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, if they are on a menu, I’m ordering them! I’ve eaten them all over the country in every variation imaginable: from Los Angeles to New York, New Orleans to Charleston (arguably home of the best Shrimp and Grits) with bacon, with tasso ham, with chorizo, with thick sauces, with thin sauces with red-eye gravy and even with polenta! The variations are as endless as a chef’s imagination. But through a highly stringent and scientific research process (i.e. eating a whole lot of Shrimp and Grits), I’ve determined my favorite components and have distilled them into what I believe may be a recipe for the very best Shrimp and Grits.
The Best Shrimp and Grits
For the Grits:
1 cup grits* (For more on grits see Chef Carrie’s Artisanal Grits are True Southern Food)
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chicken stock (homemade if you’ve got it. Try Chef Roger’s Classic Chicken Stock)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheese, grated (cheddar, gruyere, gouda and even cream cheese are great options)
2 Tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring water, chicken stock, milk and salt to a boil in a small pot. Pour in grits while stirring to prevent clumping.
- Turn heat down to low and let simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes.
- Stir frequently to prevent grits from sticking to the bottom. Add more water if the mixture becomes too thick and paste-like.
- Grits are done when they have a smooth, oozy consistency and do not taste raw.
- Stir in cheese, butter and salt and pepper to taste. Try not to eat all the grits before your shrimp are done!
*Here’s a little aside on grits:
Grits are made from coarsely ground corn. I like Bob’s Redmill because they are easy to find and have a lovely texture. If you can find them, Anson Mills Grits are the restaurant darlings of the grits world. Made from heirloom grains, they come in a coarse and medium grind and in white, yellow or blue. They are delicious but take 1-1.5 hrs to cook! Whatever you do, do not buy instant grits - the texture is not ideal and may ruin grits for you forever.
For the Shrimp:
1 pound tail-on fresh or frozen (defrosted) shrimp
1 bell red pepper, seeded and diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced (I used jalapeno in order to cut down on the amount of bell pepper because my husband can’t eat them. It made for a delicious addition and gave a nice bit of heat.)
2 celery stalks, diced
4 pieces prosciutto, diced (you can also use 2 slices of bacon bacon but I didn’t have any defrosted)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
4 Tablespoons butter
½ cup Pomodoraccio* tomatoes, diced
½ cup dry white wine (I actually used some dry Rose from my fridge and it was delicious.)
2 cups chicken stock (or shrimp stock if you’ve got it)
Salt and pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, jalapenos, celery and prosciutto. Saute until translucent and starting to brown.
- Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over veggies and stir for two minutes to toast flour. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Deglaze with ½ cup of wine. Add two cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Add shrimp and cook until pink and firm then remove shrimp and set aside.
- Add chopped Pomodoraccio tomatoes. Stir and let simmer on medium-high until reduced by ½. Sauce should be thick enough coat the back of a spoon which means that it will coat your shrimp beautifully.
- While sauce is reducing, remove tails from shrimp. (Tails are essential for a good “shrimpy” flavor but I hate having to deal with them while eating.)
- When sauce is done, return shrimp to pan and toss to reheat.
- To serve, top grits with a big spoonful of shrimp and sauce.
*Pomodoraccio tomatoes are an intensely flavored semi-dried tomato packed in oil, italian spices and garlic. I think they are an essential item to have in any pantry because they instantly and effortlessly elevate anything you’re cooking. I chose to use them in place of crushed tomatoes in a nod to the Italian influence that can be found, along with French, Spanish and Native American, in Creole cooking.
Mardis Gras may be over but you can still let the good times roll with The Chopping Block's Southern-inspired classes including:
- Southern Comfort Tuesday, March 13th at Lincoln Square
- Southern Comfort Tuesday, February 27 at The Merchandise Mart
- Southern Comfort Saturday, March 10th at The Merchandise Mart
- The Big Easy Friday, March 30th at The Merchandise Mart