Excuse me for a minute while I’m sick to my boss.
Not long ago, my editor mentioned in passing that her favorite thing was shrimp and grits. Suddenly, and for mysterious, inexplicable reasons, I was struck by a burning desire to write about shrimp and grits.
Fortunately, as with everyone who has ever had it, I love shrimp and grits. I still remember the first time I tried it: It was in a bistro in the Richmond, Virginia neighborhood, probably 30 years ago. Although I lived only a few hours from South Carolina, where the dish originated and became widely popular, I hadn’t heard of it at the time.
I was immediately impressed. Creamy juicy grits topped with perfectly seasoned and perfectly spiced shrimp? It looked amazing. And it was. It was one of those dishes you know you’ll be ordering for the rest of your life.
I don’t remember trying to cook it before. But for the sake of my editor (more uptake!) I decided to make the best, richest, richest shrimp and grits I could get my hands on.
Then I gave up on that idea. I had initially planned to use heavy whipping cream in granules, but no one needs that many calories in their life. I thought half and half would be fine.
It was more than good, it was amazing. Honestly, heavy cream would have just coated the lily and then dunked it with cream.
The process of making shrimp and grits consists of two parts. The first part is the granules. The second part, as I have already deduced, is the shrimp.
Typically, the kernels are made just by pouring homini (processed cornmeal) into boiling water and cooking it until the corn has absorbed the liquid and is soft and bland.
But the softness and flavor is not good enough for the shrimp and grits I wanted to make. I wanted my girlfriends to be attractive and sexy. I wanted them so well that it would be an insult to call them grits.
I started with stone-ground grits, which are meant to grind whole grain flour to all kinds of flour. It includes the outside of the kernel, the part that gets stuck in your teeth when you eat popcorn. This process gives the kernels more texture, but this is less important than the fact that it also gives them a richer taste of corn.
Most importantly, I did not boil it in water. Good cooks know that grains always taste better when cooked in a flavorful broth, so I used chicken broth for half of the cooking liquid. The other half was half and half.
This is the part that can be heavy cream, but let’s not be silly. Half and half made the grits rich and creamy enough, especially once you stirred in some sharp cheddar.
The grits were great on their own, but they’re only half a plate. I wanted the other half, half the shrimp, to be as good as grits.
Of course, I started with bacon.
I made two slices of thick diced bacon and used bacon fat to cook chopped onions, celery, and green peppers. Yes, this is a mix of New Orleans, not South Carolina ingredients, but they know how to cook New Orleans shrimp, too.
Next, I tossed some shrimp into my own mixture of celery salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, and black pepper, and sautéed them with bacon-scented vegetables.
I sprinkled them all with 2 tablespoons of flour, and stirred them to make a quick roux. All it needed was more chicken broth to make a ridiculously thick and delicious sauce.
But don’t just take my word for it. I gave some to my shrimp and grits loving editor. She tasted it and said with a big smile on her face, “It’s perfect.”
Shrimp and grits
Yield: 4 servings
2 12 cups plus 34 cups divided chicken broth
2 1/2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1 cup grits, preferably stone-ground
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 slices thick bacon, cut into cubes
1/3 cup green pepper cut into small cubes
1/3 cup onion cut into small cubes
1/2 cup celery, small cubes
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1. In a large saucepan over high heat, mix 2 1/2 Chicken broth cups, half and half. Add butter, salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Stir in the gravel and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes until tender, stirring frequently. Scrape the bottom of the pot when stirring to prevent the pebbles from sticking. Grit is done when bubbles become large, such as volcanic magma or hot mud pools, or when they have the consistency of wet mashed potatoes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until completely combined. Cover it to keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon pieces with a spoon and reserve, leaving the bacon grease in the pan. Add the green peppers, onions, and celery to the skillet and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
3. Combine the celery salt, paprika, cayenne and the rest 1/8 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl, and sprinkle over shrimp. Toss until evenly coated. Add the shrimp and vegetable oil to the pan and fry until the shrimp are almost pink and rolled up. Sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the rest 3/4 A cup of chicken broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid thickens.
4. To serve, spoon the shrimp and sauce over the grits, and top with the crispy bacon.
Per serving: 774 calories; 42 g fat 24 g saturated fat 290 g cholesterol 44 g protein 55 g carbohydrate 11 g sugar 3 g fiber 1,355 mg sodium; 433 mg calcium