Shrimp & Grits is such an iconic Southern dish with so many ways to make it! It seems that it's one of those meals that is different based on the cook! This is my version influenced by several other cooks. It's perfect for breakfast, brunch, dinner ... any time of day, any day of the week.
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How to get Shrimp & Grits on the table in under an hour
The recipe card says that it will take 1 hour 45 minutes to make Shrimp & Grits. But that's misleading. It takes a bit of time to peel and devein the shrimp so I usually start with that task and put them back in the fridge. Then I prep the ingredients for the sauce while the water for the grits comes to a boil. It takes the grits 30-45 minutes to cook, but while they are cooking (and you are stirring occasionally), you can cook the sauce. So I usually get it on the table in under an hour.
Although everyone has their own ingredient list and method, I think most would agree that Shrimp & Grits needs more flavor (read: fat) than just shrimp. My personal choice is bacon although others would argue that chorizo is the choice to make. For me, there's no debate.
I cook the bacon first, then add the onion to cook in the bacon fat, then finally the garlic.
Then I pour in some white wine to deglaze the pan, then add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.
While some would choose diced tomatoes, I prefer pureed or crushed. Again, it's a preference.
What herbs to use
You can use whatever herbs you like best, but I love the combination of thyme, oregano, and parsley, along with some bay leaves. If you can get fresh herbs, I beg of you to do so.
Add the herbs at the end so the freshness remains.
Grits or polenta?
Essentially, they are both the same! Grits is southern and is often made from white corn that is ground a bit more finely than the yellow that polenta is made from. Personally, I prefer yellow grits to white and I like a bit more of a coarse grind so perhaps I should call this recipe Shrimp & Polenta? If you want more detailed info, you can read more about grits vs. polenta on theKitchn.
How to successfully make grits
The main thing is to keep it low and slow. Yes, bring the water to a rolling boil, but then turn the burner way down. I find it best to move my pot to the smallest burner on the stove after I've added the cornmeal.
Add the cornmeal slowly, stirring all the while. You should be able to see the grains of cornmeal sprinkling into the water. If you dump it all in at once and then try to stir, you'll have a clumpy mess. It's worth the time to sprinkle it in slowly. Stir it constantly in the beginning, then after you've established the right temperature on the burner, you can give yourself a little break and just stir it occasionally. And by that, I mean, only every couple of minutes rather than constantly!
Tips on buying and preparing shrimp
First of all, buy WILD shrimp rather than farmed. And fresh rather than frozen. If frozen is all you can get, then do it, by all means!
I like to buy it with the shells on because I can then use the shells to make seafood stock, but it's much easier, of course, to buy them already peeled and deveined. You'll probably pay a bit more because someone else has already done that work for you.
I like to leave the tails on because it looks so pretty that way. To peel them and leave the tail on, I hold the tail, then peel away the shell from one side of the legs around to the other. Sometimes this takes a couple of go's at it, but it works. Then use a small paring knife to score the convex side of the shrimp and remove the vein. The vein is actually a digestive tract and can be filled with partially digested food so you can understand why one would want to remove it. However, it is actually perfectly safe to eat and if it's white, I often just leave it alone.
When I'm ready to start preparing Shrimp & Grits, I prepare the shrimp first, then put the water on to boil for the grits, then start the sauce. In that way, I can usually get dinner on in less than an hour.
How to serve Shrimp & Grits
I like to use soup plates. These pottery bowls from Cat from Rabbit Hill Lifestyle in Normandy, France are just perfect. I put some grits in first, spoon some sauce on, then lay the shrimp on top and garnish with a bit of the same herbs that are in the sauce. Bon Appetit!
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Shrimp & Grits
- 24 large shrimp peeled and deveined and held in the fridge
FOR THE SAUCE
- 3-4 slices bacon chopped
- 1½-2 cups onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- ¼ cup white wine
- 28 ounces tomato puree
- salt and pepper to season
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes Add more to your own tastes.
- 4 bay leaves
- ⅓-½ cup fresh herbs Use a combination of parsley, oregano, and thyme. Save some for garnish!
FOR THE GRITS
- 7 cups water
- 1-1½ Tablespoons salt
- 1½ cups corn meal
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- I always prep the shrimp first, then start the water for the grits, then start the sauce while the water boils. See the notes below.
FOR THE SAUCE
- In a large Dutch oven, saute the bacon until it is crispy. If you have too much fat left in the pot, scoop some out, then add the onion. Saute until it is translucent, 8-10 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook for about a minute.
- Pour in the white wine and deglaze the pot, stirring to scrape any bits that are on the bottom. Add the tomato puree and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Add the bay leaves and simmer the tomato sauce for 15-20 minutes until it thickens. When it has thickened, remove from the heat and add the fresh herbs. Keep warm.
FOR THE GRITS
- Bring the water to boil in a large pot, then add the salt. Add the cornmeal slowly, stirring all the while. You should be able to see the grains of cornmeal sprinkling into the water. If you dump it all in at once and then try to stir, you'll have a clumpy mess. It's worth the time to sprinkle it in slowly.
- Put the pot on low heat. I usually use the smallest burner on my stove. Stir constantly in the beginning until you've determined the correct temperature or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. After it's going good, you can stir it only occasionally. And by that, I mean, only every couple of minutes rather than constantly!
FOR THE SHRIMP
- Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add some oil, then add enough shrimp to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cook the shrimp about 2 minutes on each side and remove to a platter.
- Spoon the grits into a bowl or soup plate, spoon some sauce on the top, then add the shrimp. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
So why are grits not used for shrimp and grits. Cornmeal is for cornbread. Confused
Great question, Pattie. Grits are historically made from hominy which is treated with lime to remove the hull which makes it more easily digestible. Hominy grits are certainly an acceptable (and preferable for some) option for this recipe. I chose coarse yellow cornmeal because it's very similar and I like the "polenta" style of it. It's more of a personal preference of mine than anything and harks to my childhood in Europe and consequent tastes. Please make hominy grits if you prefer them to the polenta style. It's your kitchen, after all! Bon Appetit!