Shrimp and Grits


Brunch, Main Courses, Seafood, Southern / Sunday, November 8th, 2009

The first time I tried Shrimp and Grits, well nigh many years ago, I was at a party at a Mardi Gras warehouse in New Orleans. Just an hour or so from getting my drink on, donning an electric blue boa and barging into a roped-off Green Room, where I would stand face-to-face with Academy Award-Winning Director Oliver Stone.

I told him he was a “damn Hollywood type” who needed to come out and party with the people.

Since alcohol just puts me to sleep, I blame the shrimp and grits.

Nothing makes me swoon like shrimp and grits – shrimp cooked in a “gravy” flavored with bacon, onion, bell pepper and scallions and then spooned onto a mound of peppery cheese grits.

It’s like a party on a plate.

And, even though it’s a traditional Southern dish, it was exotic to a landlocked Tennessean like me. To find Southerners with enough shrimp to eat them for breakfast, you have to move along the coast, especially to South Carolina, where fishermen first started bringing surplus shrimp home to eat with their grits.

When Mom asked me about the trip, I neglected to mention the cocktails, the boa or bullying Oliver Stone. But I spread the gospel of those shrimp and grits. Now, we don’t have a family holiday meal without them.

I wish I could say the same about the boas.

Charleston Shrimp and Grits

Adapted from Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison’s “A Real American Breakfast”

This recipe calls for stone-ground grits, which can be an acquired taste. If you’re not a stone-ground fan, or even a fan of grits (yet), feel free to use quick-cooking grits and follow the cooking directions on the package.

Serves 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise, and deveined
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups stone-ground grits, not instant or quick-cooking
  • 6 thick slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (about 1/4 pound) grated medium to sharp Cheddar cheese
  1. Combine the shrimp with the lemon juice and a couple of generous splashes of hot pepper sauce. Set aside.
  2. For the Grits: In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of the salt to a boil. Whisk in the grits a few handfuls at a time. (They will bubble up initially.) Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook over low heat for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally at first and more frequently toward the end.
  3. For the Gravy: While the grits are simmering, fry the bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until brown but still limp. Stir in the onion, green pepper, and garlic and continue cooking until the onion and pepper are limp, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions, sprinkle the flour over the mixture, and continue sauteing for 5 minutes longer. Stir in the stock and remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat while you finish the grits.
  4. When the grits are thick and creamy, stir in as much of the butter as you wish, followed by the cheese. Add a splash of hot pepper sauce and additional salt if you like. Cover the grits while you finish the gravy.
  5. Return the gravy to medium heat and stir in the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, mounding the grits in large shallow bowls or on plates and covering them with shrimp and gravy.

14 thoughts on “Shrimp and Grits

  1. Yum…the shrimp and grits and meeting Oliver Stone. I'm sure he remembers you, too…LOL! Great looking recipe. I have never made grits (too much of a northern girl) so maybe now is the time.

  2. This looks delicious! I love shrimp and grits- it's one of my favorite dinners. If you are ever in Charleston, 82 Queen has some of the best shrimp and grits around.

  3. I love Shrimp and Grits and yours look awesome. The first time I had them was at my cousin's wedding in Charleston. I even bought Nathalie Dupree's Shrimp and Grits Cookbook last time I was in Savannah. Now that reminds me, I must get that cookbook out and make something from it…or I will have to purge it. I wouldn't want to do that now!

  4. It looks amazing but I gotta admit I'm scared. Yup, grits scare me. They just look blah but I guess topped with all that shrimpy gravy goodness they can't be.
    ~ingrid

  5. Thanks for the recipe! I make shrimp & grits often using Paula Deen's recipe. There is never enough "gravy". I see your recipe calls for a cup of chicken stock. I'll use your recipe in the future. Thanks again.

  6. Here via Macheesmo. We LOVE shrimp and grits from Puleo's Grille in Knoxville. I like your version too, because 1) Bill and Cheryl Jamison rock (love Smoke and Spice) and 2) we use the hearty stone ground grits. Can't wait to try yours!

  7. This is SOOOO good! I made them for the second time last night, my family loves it! (And they're all men.) I didn't have green pepper, so I used a can of diced green chiles, and it was fine. After the first time I made it, I found that 1 1/2 cup of the grits makes a LOT, so last night I used 1 c. of grits and 4 1/2 cups of water and it was plenty for four (did I mention they're all men?), with just a tiny bit left over. Thanks!

  8. Really appreciate this recipe – made this last night and loved doing it from start to finish. Also liked the absence of cream in the ingredients list. Thanks so much for sharing and making our night (and next day lunch).

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