I don’t make a lot of southern food, and have not had much experience with grits. However, I have heard a lot about shrimp and grits. The people who talk about it talk as if they are describing the best meal they ever had. Finally, after an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a try. I figured that you can’t go wrong with cheesy grits, topped with shrimp in a creamy sauce. I did also take some liberties here and there and added some spicy Cajun seasoning to the mix and with one bite realized what all of the hub-bub was about.
Living in the great northwest, I found it a little difficult to find stone ground grits. In my grocery store on the very top shelf in the back they had three boxes of instant grits and 2 boxes of quick grits. I had heard bad things about instant so I went with the quick variety. I know many people will scoff at that idea, in fact when I got to the check stand the checker said to me “I LOVE grits, but I have NEVER bought quick grits.” I explained that it was the only option other than instant and she offered a tip to add less liquid then the box and cook them a little longer then suggested. I used her advice and they turned out creamy and delicious.
I also use shrimp broth in this dish and chose to make my own. I have included that recipe for you but if you don’t want to make your own you can substitute canned clam juice, although it can be a bit salty and not as flavorful.
To make the shrimp broth, place shrimp shells in saucepan. Pour water over, add salt and peppercorns. Bring to a bowl, reduce heat and let simmer about 20 minutes.
Using a colander, strain the broth over a bowl. Discard shells.
To make the grits, bring chicken broth and water to a boil over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add butter, let melt.
Slowly whisk in the grits, stir for about 1-2 minutes to ensure that they don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the temperature to low, cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cheddar. Cover and cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cheese melts and the grits are creamy. Leave covered on low heat until ready to serve.
Next make the shrimp by combining the shrimp, Cajun seasoning, cayenne and granulated garlic in a bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to use.
In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until browned. Place on a paper towel lined plate, set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of pan drippings.
To the same skillet add onions and garlic. Cook 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add shrimp. Cook until pink.
Once shrimp are pink, add flour and cook one minute. (Note: It is important to cook the flour for a minute so that you don't have a pasty flavor to your sauce). Add the shrimp broth and cook until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Add half and half and cook until the sauce reduces by 1/3, about 5 minutes, it should be creamy and will coat the back of a spoon. At the last minute add in reserved bacon bits. Pour shrimp and sauce over grits and serve immediately.
I had always shied away from grits, but I am glad that I finally gave them a try. Now that I have a whole box of them I think I'll try some more experimenting. I'll let you know how that goes. Enjoy!