I am not originally from the South, so sometimes I don’t understand people’s love for real Southern cooking.  I don’t like greens.  I wouldn’t eat pinto beans, butter beans or okra as a side dish.  Salty cornbread with cracklin (aka pig fat) seriously grosses me out.  I’m not averse to eating all types of Southern cuisine though.  I do love biscuits, fried chicken and catfish,  and BBQ.  I wasn’t always a fan of grits growing up, but the older I get, the more I came to love some oey-goey, cheesy grits.

Living in the South for a majority of my life means that sometimes I’ve heard of dishes that have sounded intriguing, but I never tried them for whatever reason.  Rewind to last year when I was on a media trip to South Carolina and we had a dish known as shrimp and grits for dinner.  At first I was a bit weirded out.  Grits are a breakfast food, why are we having them for dinner?  But I stopped myself from over thinking it.  I like shrimp.  I like grits.  There should be no reason I don’t like them together.  Well, like them I did.  They were delicious!

So, yesterday I was sitting at work and the ever present question “What are we having for dinner?” came to me.  I was stumped.  I asked T if he had any ideas, and he had nothing.  I twiddled my thumbs a bit, then it hit me.  I would make shrimp and grits.  And it would be amazing.  And let me tell you readers, it was!  I try not to brag, but I will toot my own horn when it comes to cooking (you should have tried the mushroom risotto I made Sunday night – ballin’!)

I began scouring Food Network for some recipes, and I found a couple that I liked.  But not one I wanted to follow completely.  I decided to use the recipe from the competitor on Throwdown with Bobby Flay: Shrimp and Grits.  He was a real down home Georgia boy, who looked like he knew how to make shrimp and grits.

I pretty much used his recipe as a guide.  I’m not one for measuring things when I cook, unless it’s a larger amount of liquid.  I like to season to my tastes and rarely follow recipes to the T.  I liked his basic recipe, but added in some bacon instead of ham and added onions to the garlic that would be used to saute the shrimp and for the sauce to top it all off.  I’m glad I did that because those shrimp and grits were better than any I’ve ever had in a restaurant (a lot of times I find the grits bland and there aren’t enough shrimp.)  T raved about the dish for the rest of the night, which made me happy.

So if any of you feel adventurous, here is the recipe including the tweaks I made:

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp:

  • 26-30 count shrimp (I used frozen ones, that I peeled completely)
  • 2 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning – it is the best ever and good on so many things!
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Grits:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes (or powdered bouillon)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup quick grits
  • 3/4 cup half and half (you can use heavy or regular whipping cream, but I was trying to save some calories)
  • 3 1/2 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar (I didn’t really measure, I just put in a ton of cheese because I love it – you can do more or less)

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter (use less if you use the bacon grease)
  • drippings from the bacon (you can skip this part and just use the butter)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup half and half (you can use heavy or regular whipping cream)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 8 slices of your favorite bacon (I used thick center cut)

Directions

First, peel and devein the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning, paprika, Italian seasoning and pepper, to taste (you don’t need extra salt because the Cajun seasoning has salt in it).  Sprinkle the spice mixture over the shrimp to coat well and set aside.

Next, make your grits. In a medium saucepan, bring water, chicken bouillon and 2 tablespoons butter to a boil. Slowly add the grits, whisking often with wire whisk for 5 minutes. Add cream, and cheese. Keep whisking for another 2 or 3 minutes until the grits become creamy. I added a few more splashes of cream so they’d be extra smooth.

Chop up your bacon into pieces, then fry in a skillet.  Once done, set the bacon aside to drain.  Add in the onions and garlic, and saute in the bacon grease for about a minute.  I also added in a little bit of butter to keep the onions  and garlic from burning.  Add in the shrimp and saute them until they are cooked through.   Make sure you don’t overcook them because they’ll get rubbery. Remove only the shrimp from the saute pan and set them aside in a bowl.

Make a roux from the shrimp drippings that contain the onions and garlic.  Add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spatula to make a roux.  Cook for 5-10 minutes until roux reaches a medium-tan color, then slowly add the chicken stock and cream. Whisk together and cook for 2 minutes, then whisk in Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.  I let it cook a few minutes more so the sauce would thicken up a bit.  Salt and pepper it to taste.

To serve, place a  grits into a bowl, top with a lot of shrimp, drizzle with the sauce, and top of with crisp bacon pieces.

It’s not very healthy, but it is damn good!  Next time I may only use a little of the bacon grease.

Shrimp and gritsThis is not the best picture ever, since it’s my leftovers in a Tupperware for lunch.  But I forgot to take a picture of it last night because I was so excited to try it!

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