Monday, July 6, 2009

Low Country Shrimp and Grits

We were houseguests at a friend’s home on the outer banks of North Carolina several months ago and they served shrimp and grits for breakfast, elevating the morning meal to a higher level. So when we had houseguests recently, we prepared the same. The cheese grits topped with pink shrimp, browned bacon and mushrooms, garnished with shreds of green scallions make an elegant presentation. If serving for dinner, accompany with lima beans or sautéed cherry tomatoes.

If at all possible use fresh wild shrimp. They are vastly superior to the farm raised ones. In fact farm raised tiger shrimp have almost ruined my love of shrimp because of their inferior, bleach-like taste and mealy texture.

Low Country Shrimp and Grits with Mushrooms and Bacon
Adapted from Southern Cooking by Craig Claibourne

1 pound unpeeled, medium-size fresh wild shrimp
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
4 strips of bacon
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
6 ounces sliced mushrooms, about 3 cups
1 garlic clove, finely minced
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup finely chopped sweet red bell pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ cup shrimp stock or chicken broth
Green tops of scallions thinly cut on diagonal for garnish

Peel & de-vein shrimp, saving peels. Combine shrimp, lemon juice, salt, and ground red pepper in a small bowl; set aside for 10 minutes and no longer than 20 minutes or the citrus will begin to cook the shrimp. To make the shrimp stock (which is really better than chicken broth), boil the shrimp shells in lightly salted water for a few minutes and strain; discard shells and retain the broth.

Place the bacon in a 10” non-stick skillet and cook over medium heat until it browns. Remove bacon from skillet, leaving 3 tablespoons drippings in the skillet. Reserve skillet for later. Crumble bacon when cool and set aside.

In a separate 10” non-stick skillet, pour in canola oil and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms to the hot oil and cook, tossing and stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Salt and pepper to taste, add the garlic and cook briefly, stirring. Turn the off heat and set aside.

Cook the onion and sweet red bell pepper in bacon drippings in the reserved skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables; cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until flour begins to brown. Add shrimp & shrimp stock; cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turns pink and the gravy is smooth. Do not overcook the shrimp. If gravy is too thick, add water or broth as necessary. Add the mushrooms, crumbled bacon and stir to blend.

To serve, place cheese grits in individual bowls, top with shrimp mixture in the center and sprinkle thinly sliced green scallion tops around the edges of the bowl. Serves 4.

Cheese Grits
My Carolina Kitchen, Sam Hoffer

1 cup grits, not instant
1 & ½ cups water
1 & ½ cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, finely grated
Freshly ground nutmeg
4 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco

Bring the water and the milk to a boil, add salt and gradually stir in the grits. Cook according to package directions. When thickened, remove from heat, stir in cheese, a dash of nutmeg, and 4 drops of hot sauce.

Quick grits will take about 5 to 7 minutes on the stove top and old-fashioned grits will take about 30 minutes, so plan accordingly. I learned a little trick about grains such as grits when we lived in the tropics. If you have those pesky little mealy bugs, store the grits in an air-tight container with a bay leaf.

If you love grits as much as I do, you’ll enjoy The Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook. I think I counted seventeen grits recipes in it not including chocolate ice cream grits, making it worth the read alone just for the grits. Matt and his brother Ted combine grits with everything imaginable – goat cheese, Clemson blue cheese, summer herbs, slab bacon and cheddar, fry them into cakes, but my favorite recipe of theirs is lemon grits which I like to serve with broiled or sauteed fish.

The Lees prefer old-fashioned stone ground grits to quick or instant grits. They take about thirty minutes to prepare, but they are much creamier than quick or instant ones. If you can find them, I recommend them highly. I learned from the Lees to use half milk and half water for the cooking liquid, which makes richer grits.

Join me next time as I continue my series on Grits and the South.


  1. Oh my my my Sam, what I would do to wake up to this plate of goodness!

    I sold lots of grits and greens in my cafe...for some reason people find it a great comfort food! I will have to check that book out, Thanks!

  2. What a comforting plate of food that is!!! I love the idea of the grits, but have never had it before!!!

  3. Hi Sam, I just found your blog! I, too, am a Carolinian with a foodie/lifestyle blog and hope you stop by to chat. I've added an email subscription to your posts and started to follow you. It's nice to see a another blog that focuses on food AND one's lifestyle....hard to find! Also hard to find Carolina blogs! Keep it up and see you in the blogosphere. Roz (aka bella) PS...those grits look mouthwatering!

  4. This dish is heavenly! I can almost smell the bacon and the shrimp right now!

    I've eaten grits a few times but never made them. This would give me a very good reason to make them!

    I have got to show my husband this recipe.

  5. Shrimp & grits for breakfast, that's the royal treatment. I've never had grits before. Sounds yummy.

  6. Oh Sam, I hate to sounds pitiful, but I would love to be one of your house guests! Grits and shrimp, it looks beautiful and it's a heck of a way to start the day!

  7. I love Shrimp & Grits.... your recipe looks great. I always think of them as a dinner food, but I think I'll just have to treat myself for breakfast soon!

  8. This sounds amazing Sam, a great way to introduce grits into my life:D

  9. this looks awesome, I adore Scrimp and grits on of my favourite American dishes, wish I could have had some sob sob

  10. Hi Sam,
    The shrimp and grits looks delicious! Last time I had that was at my best friend's house several years ago. We took the shrimp that didn't make it into the low country boil for the party the night before and my friend whipped up a delicious breakfast.

  11. I would love to have this for breakfast! I would end up visiting your home quite often if you served me this! Looks fantastic.

  12. Thank you so much for this recipe. The Farmer and I ate shrimp and grits at every restaurant we visited on our visit to South Carolina and Charleston. It was an attempt to discern who served the best. Hard to tell. I never met a shrimp and a grit that I didn't love!

    - Suzanne

  13. This looks absolutely delicious. I have never tried this combo, but after seeing how lovely this is, I would certainly want to.

  14. What a wonderful way to start the day. This looks fantastic! I have to start using grits.

  15. I have loved sampling grits during trips through the South, but have never made it at home. I would be very happy to start the day with this dish, and I will check out the Lee Brothers to see what other kinds of grits I can make at home. My Tennessee-based brother is also a fan, so I'm going to send this recipe his way.

  16. I so love shrimp and grits, but my hubby won't touch grits. I prefer the whole-grain variety and occasionally I'll make it for myself but it's no fun eating it alone.

  17. I'll join you ;) Sounds absolutely amazing, Sam!

  18. What a wonderful breakfast! I love grits and can't believe I've never had them this way. Looks delicious.

  19. Nothing better than shrimp and grits!

  20. Mmmm . . . shrimp and grits is a favorite around here. I like the idea of having it for breakfast!

    I've made your corn cakes twice now, to much applause. Many thanks!

  21. Sam,
    This dish sounds heavenly. I would love to try this out. It sounds really good. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us.

  22. That would be a breakfast worth getting up early for. I must be a true transplanted Southerner, because I love grits!!

  23. One of my favorites! I will need to make your version soon. I'll be watching for your memoir.

  24. I love shrimp. What a colorful plate. My mouth is watering!

  25. I do not know a lot about grits. When I have had them I loved them, thanks for the info and all the fun to come. GREG

  26. We had a fantastic trip to OBX a couple years ago. This meal would be a fantastic reminder of that trip.

  27. Great recipe - though I think I'd rather have t for lunch; I am more of a coffee, yogurt, and muesli breakfast type person.

  28. I never liked shrimp & grits till I had some that Michael's mom made. Now I love them. And your recipe looks sooo good! I hope you had fun in obx!

  29. I grew up in the South and never had shrimp and grits until I moved to the Pacific Northwest, go figure. Of course, my family at the time was all about deep frying. Thanks for sharing this fine recipe, so I don't have to go without any longer.

  30. Ohhh, what a wonderful way to start off a day - Shrimp and Grits!! I'll delete the bacon, but loving those WILD, REAL Shrimp!!
    (same thing goes for catfish - NO to farmraised fish) I'll eat only the real stuff or nothing at all!


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