Shrimp and Grits with Creamy Gravy
● By Lana Granfors
What's Cookin'October 2015
By Lana Granfors
Photo: Kara Stewart
A year ago this month, we traveled to South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, and along the way, sampled many indulgent dishes of the south. Charleston was our first stop, arriving late in the evening. At check in, we asked where to eat. She started with the Cracker Barrel, but we quickly asked, “Where would you eat dinner?” She recommended Nigel’s Soul Food. Directions, please!
Shrimp and grits were on the menu, and they were delicious! The folks in Nigel’s kitchen know what they are doing, producing perfectly seasoned dishes, with all the Southern Low Country flavor one could possibly hope for when visiting this area.
Wherever we went, one of us would order Shrimp and Grits. Every dish was just as good as the last. Recipes may have varied with milder or stronger flavors, but the gravy, always thick and rich and the grits, creamy and delicious.
At a popular restaurant in Charleston, I asked our server if the kitchen would share its recipe for Shrimp and Grits. Soon she emerged from the kitchen, paper in hand, on which she had written the ingredients the chef called off to her…a splash of this… a dash of that. On the reverse was the recipe for the biscuits that Ron had enjoyed. Love Southern hospitality!
I’ve played with the list and with the help of other great Southern recipes, I think this is pretty close to dishes we loved on our trip. It is pretty simple, but do have everything ready before you begin cooking the shrimp. They only take a few minutes to cook, and you won’t have time for chopping or juicing a lemon. Once everything is assembled, this recipe is a snap. This Southern comfort food will warm your soul.
1¼ lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
Juice of 1 lemon
Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
4 cups water
1 cup stone-ground white grits, not instant or quick-cooking
2 T butter
1 tsp. salt
½ cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
6 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1 T minced jalapeno pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup thinly sliced green onions, plus 2 T for garnish
2 T unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
STEP 1: Combine the shrimp with the lemon juice, a couple of generous dashes of hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Let sit while you begin the grits and gravy.
STEP 2: In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits a little at a time until all incorporated. Continue whisking for about 30 seconds to keep from clumping. Once the grits return to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to very low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until tender, thick and creamy. Remove from heat and stir; add the butter and salt, followed by the cheese. If desired, add a splash of hot pepper sauce and cover to keep warm.
STEP 3: While the grits simmer, get the gravy under way. Fry the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until brown, but still limp. Stir in the onion, green pepper, jalapeno, and garlic and continue cooking until onion, pepper and jalapeno are limp, about 5 minutes. Add the green onions, sprinkle the flour over the mixture, combine and cook for 5 minutes longer. Stir in the stock and allow to come to a slow boil, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat.
STEP 4: Just before serving, return the gravy to medium heat and stir in the shrimp. Let mixture cook just until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3-5 minutes. To serve, mound the grits in individual large shallow bowls or on plates and cover with a serving of the shrimp gravy. Garnish with green onions and dig in!
PREP TIME: 25 minutes
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 55 minutes