Shrimp and Grits. One of the quintessential low country dishes great for breakfast, brunch, or in my home, the perfect after work snack. Low country cooking is unpretentious, yet flavorful. It is representative of true American flavors! Low country refers to the coastal regions of South Carolina and Georgia, but you may find similar flavor profiles in coastal Alabama, Mississippi, and south eastern Louisiana.
Every Sunday after church, my grandmother and I would eat shrimp and grits, eggs, and toast. EVERY. SINGLE. SUNDAY! Her shrimp gravy was hearty, earthy, and tasted of complex flavors, although she would never admit to it. She’d always say, “Girl, this is easy. I just threw a few things together.” At 85, she had finally found instant grits, but of course she elevated them with lots of heavy cream and pure butter.
This is my interpretation of my grandmother’s shrimp and grits. Give it a try for this year’s Valentine’s Brunch for your sweetie! He or she will be sure to taste the love and the soul. Enjoy!
For the Grits:
1 cup yellow stone ground grits (not instant)
1/2 cup grated cheese your choice (I recommend sharp cheddar, white or yellow)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 tablespoons salted butter
kosher salt to taste
2 cups water
2 shrimp stock (see recipe below)
For Shrimp Gravy:
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 lbs medium shrimp peeled and de-veined (reserve heads, shells, and tails for your stock)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, inside discarded, finely chopped
1 cup shrimp stock
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Optional- 1/2 cup diced green onions/scallions and 1 tablespoon dried parsley
For Shrimp Stock:
2 pounds of “discarded” shrimp heads, tails, and shells
2 stalks celery coarsely chopped
1 onion with peel quartered
2 whole cloves garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup parsley, dried or fresh
6 cups water
To make stock, bring 6 cups of water to boil with shrimp tails, heads, and shells, onions, celery, whole garlic cloves, parsley, and salt. Boil on high for 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 1 hour uncovered, preferably simmer for 2 hours. Allow stock to cool. Pour through mesh strainer into bowl; usable stock is now in bowl.
In a large pot/saucepan, bring 4 cups of shrimp stock (or 2 cups of water and 2 cups of shrimp stock) to boil. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook by whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy. This will take 15-25 minutes. Once tender, whisk in both cheeses as well as butter and salt; cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until crisp. Using a slotted spoon transfer bacon to a paper towel to drain. Set aside.
Add onion and bell pepper to butter/bacon fat mixture. Cook over medium heat until onions are translucent and soft. Add garlic and tomatoes. Stir. Reduce heat and cook on low for another 5-10 minutes.
Whisk shrimp stock into sauteed vegetables slowly. Simmer for 5 minutes on medium-low. Reduce temperature again and add heavy cream whisking quickly (Omit the cream for dairy free dish). Raise heat to medium-high and cook for 3 minutes. At this point gravy should reduce by about half.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink (2-3 minutes). Season gravy with cayenne pepper and salt; taste and add more if needed.
Return to grits. If too thick, whisk in remaining shrimp stock by the half cup full over low heat. Completely incorporate shrimp stock before adding more shrimp stock.
Grits may be divided between 4 bowls or spooned into large serving dish. Top each individual bowl or large serving bowl with shrimp gravy. Garnish bowls with bacon, green onions/scallions, and dried parsley.