My favorite food, what I order every time I see it on a menu, the one that always wins, is shrimp and grits. Every time. My husband can spot it quicker than me when we are in a restaurant sometimes and quickly says “Oh I know what you’re going to order!”
Shrimp and grits to me is a perfect comfort food. Rich, luxurious, and creamy grits with robust saucy shrimp scattered over the top. It makes me drool.
Now, not every shrimp and grits recipe is made equal there are some that are better than others. In my book, there is no better place to obtain shrimp and grits than in the “low-country” of South Carolina. The tangy wine based sauce and creamy, generally cheese infused, finger licking good grits are the best ever.
While this has been my favorite food for years and years, ever since I tried my first plate on a visit to New Orleans, I have never made it at home. I always assumed it would be a long process and be incredibly complicated. The sauce is always so complex and flavorful and someone must have spent hours stirring a big pot of grits to make them that creamy. Right? WRONG! Let me tell you home I came to put my big girl panties on and decide to make low country shrimp and grits at home.
Shrimp and Grits Recipe
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time1 hr 30 min
Total Time2 hr 30 min
- • 5 3/4 cups low sodium chicken stock
- • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled (shells reserved)
- • 3/4 pound baby bella mushrooms (stems reserved)
- • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- • 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- • 1 cup stone ground organic grits
- • Freshly ground black pepper
- • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- • 2 small shallots, minced
- • 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- • 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lemon
- • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
- In a large saucepan, combine 5 3/4 cups stock with reserved shrimp shells and mushroom trimmings. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine shrimp, 3/4 teaspoon salt, baking soda, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
- Strain stock and return it to saucepan. Remove 3/4 cup of the stock and set aside to reserve for the shrimp.
- Whisk grits a little at a time into the stock, set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Lower heat to a bare simmer and cook, stirring and scraping bottom frequently, until grits are fully softened and cooked and have thickened into a smooth porridge, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper and keep grits warm.
- In a large skillet, heat bacon over medium heat, stirring, until bacon has rendered its fat and become crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. You should have about a 1/4 cup of bacon fat in the skillet. Remove all but 1 tablespoon fat and reserve.
- Put skillet to high heat and heat until very lightly smoking. Add shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned outside with only a faint trace of translucence remaining in the center of each shrimp. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
- Add reserved 3 tablespoons bacon fat to the skillet, lower to medium-high heat, and heat until shimmering. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms release their liquid, about 3 minutes; scrape any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Stir in shallots and garlic and cook until shallots and garlic are softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add remaining 3/4 cup stock and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Stir in shrimp. Lower heat to medium-low and whisk in butter until fully melted and emulsified with the sauce. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
- Spoon grits into bowls and top with shrimp, mushrooms, and their gravy. Top with reserved crispy bacon and green onions and serve right away.
When the Farmer’s Market has fresh stone ground grits what else are you supposed to do?
I had gone to my favorite farmer’s market here in Central Florida, the Mount Dora Village Market (Visit their website here if you’re in the area as they are quite fantastic and a wonderful outing on a Sunday) and the great fresh fish monger was there. They sell wonderful fresh off the dock seafood (how blessed we are to live in Florida) and on this Sunday at the front of the little parked boat where they keep the coolers full of fish was a large crate stacked with bags of organic stone ground, the real thing, most legitimate, grits. I mean these were beautiful! These were the kind of grits my grandma would of dreamt of in her little West Virginian farm girl dreams! So, of course, I had to buy them. And, of course, what better use of grits then making the best ever low country shrimp and grits!
Low and behold the same monger had beautifully plump and fresh Florida shrimp that they had deveined while leaving those lovely shells on (where all the flavor hides) and I also had to but a pound of those as well (something tells me that the vendor had this worked out as her master plan all along).
So we drove happily home with our artisanal goat’s chevre, fresh baked baguettes and seeded loaf bread, delicious fresh from the farm whole chicken, and these gorgeous fresh and wonderful shrimp and grits.
Have product in hand now how the heck do I make this? And what is the Low Country anyhow?
As stated previously, I have never made shrimp and grits and on top of that not specifically low country shrimp and grits so I dove into research on the journey home to Orlando from Mount Dora. Let’s start with the obvious question…what is low country cuisine anyhow?
If you have ever had an amazing gumbo from New Orleans you would be familiar with the feeling and flavor of low country cuisine. It’s essentially the Cajun/creole style cooking of South Carolina. The difference in location and access to different ingredients makes it slightly different but very similar.
The Low Country is the geographic region of the southwest corner of South Carolina. When people think Low Country they should be thinking of Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding counties. With the hundreds of little islands and access to some of the freshest and most abundant seafood in the south (outside of the gulf coast) low country cuisine is heavily seafood based with a mixture of southern spirit and soul.
Let’s get started…Or actually, how do you make grits?
The success or failure of shrimp and grits comes down to one thing…the grits! They have to be creamy and luxurious, the Italians have risotto, and we southern hearted girls have grits.
The grits I made actually have no cream, cheese, or butter in them because my husband has some issues with dairy and I wanted to avoid it. To get mine to that creamy consistency it took some loving whisking in the beginning and the slow addition of the grits into the lovely homemade shrimp stock I made. The grits will be the most labor intensive part of this whole process and they aren’t that hard but they do take about an hour to simmer down into a creamy and ribbon like consistency that will drape your plate in decadence (oh geez, I’m getting carried away with myself).
Just remember, don’t be intimidated, essentially this dish is all about showcasing amazing ingredients so as long as you procure the best shrimp and grits you can find it will turn out scrumptious. Meaning, do not buy the grits that have a white haired man on the label who is more famous for selling oats. Source some good grits. Go to whole foods. Go to a farmers market. If you don’t live in the south, order stone ground grits online. It will be worth it. I promise *smile*
You can do this I promise!!
The rest of the recipe goes quickly and comes together fast, so worth it and so simple. Both my husband and 4 year old son ate seconds and licked their plates…I might have had 3 plates….I’m not gonna lie. I realized an amazing thing, I don’t have to pay $17 at a restaurant for a plate of shrimp and grits anymore! I can make them at home and be as amazingly satisfied and that’s a win win for everybody, but especially budget conscious mommas like me.