A few years ago, I worked as a server at a ‘country-food’ restaurant, and all the breakfast meals came with grits. When I wasn’t trying to master a fake country accent, or showing customers how to win the little peg game that tormented them during their meals, I was throwing away massive amounts of uneaten grits. This was a minor tragedy, because I’m guessing most people didn’t even taste the grits before pushing them aside.
That said, some grits are most definitely better than others. Some are “instant” (that means they’re partially pre-cooked), and can be cooked extremely quickly. These grits can be useful, because they’re fast, but they don’t have the flavor and texture of stone ground grits. Just like with instant oats versus steel cut oats, when it comes to texture and flavor, instant grits lose to stone ground grits every time. One of my favorite ways to use stone ground grits in a meal is this Cheesy Shrimp and Grits.
Making Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and Grits is one of those wonderful dishes that works for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. For the best flavor, use stone ground grits.* Even though they take a little longer to cook than instant grits (about 25 minutes), that’s okay here, because it gives you time to cook the shrimp, shred the cheese, and dice or slice your jalapenos. I use about 1/2 a cup of shredded sharp white cheddar cheese, just enough to make the grits creamier and full of the delicious sharp cheese flavor. If you really, really, really love cheese, and want your grits to be full of cheesy, delicious goodness– feel free to stir in more cheese than the recipe calls for.
I like to simmer the shrimp for this dish in beer. I just use whatever beer the husband has stashed in what used to be a vegetable crisper drawer. Try to make sure you don’t accidentally cook with a semi-expensive micro-brewery specialty beer your special some-one has been saving for months. Try really hard not to do that. If you accidentally use their favorite beer, give them extra cheese and shrimp, and it’ll all be okay. If you don’t have any beer on hand, substitute vegetable broth. Serve the Cheesy Shrimp and Grits while it’s all still hot, and then go back for seconds.
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*Note: If you’re having trouble finding stone ground grits, I like the kind at Trader Joe’s. You can also buy stone ground grits online.
A Note on Responsibly Sourced Shrimp: Normally, when I post ‘notes’ about seafood safety, it’s about the safety of either the fish (choosing sustainable seafood), or about the safety of the eater (avoiding high levels of mercury and taking extra precautions with raw fish). With shrimp, however, there’s another consideration– the farmers and peelers. Imported shrimp (specifically, shrimp from Thailand) has been tied to forced slave labor, and has infiltrated huge amounts of the shrimp available inside the United States. To avoid buying shrimp tied to slave labor, look for shrimp that has NOT been imported, or that clearly labels its origin.
Want more seafood? Try these:
Cheesy Shrimp and Grits
- 1 cup stone ground grits (not instant- I prefer Trader Joe's white stone ground)
- 1 TB butter
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1-2 jalapenos, diced or sliced
- salt + pepper to taste
- 2 TB garlic, minced
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 lb shrimp (small or medium), peeled + deveined
- 1/2 cup beer (or sub vegetable broth)
- Optional Toppings: Hot Sauce
Cook grits according to package directions.
(Package directions may vary- In general: Bring 3 cups of water to a boil with 1 TB butter and a dash of salt, add grits, then lower heat to low and cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir often. Add milk, and cook another 10 minutes.)
Meanwhile, sauté garlic in olive oil on medium heat until garlic begins to brown. Add shrimp, and cook 1-2 minutes. Add beer. Simmer about 2 minutes, until shrimp is cooked through and beer begins to evaporate. Remove from heat.
Once grits have cooked, stir in cheese, jalapenos, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve grits in a bowl, and top with shrimp mixture and optional hot sauce.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com