Start to Finish: 60 minutes
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
A classic low country dish, shrimp and grits is widely eaten throughout South Carolina for breakfast, lunch or supper. Use stone ground grits -- milled corn cooked to a porridgelike consistency -- for a heartier, more textured dish. Classic shrimp and grits uses only butter, garlic and a small amount of Tabasco and cheese to season the grits. An updated version uses tasso -- Cajun-seasoned smoked ham -- beer and three kinds of cheese to give the dish depth and richness. This recipe is adapted from ones by Bon Appetit and Saveur.
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1 1/4 cup white stone-ground grits
- 1/2 cup extra-aged white cheddar, grated
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 1/3 cup yellow onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup of tasso, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili flakes
- 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup pale ale
- 1/8 cup minced flat leaf parsley
- 1/8 cup minced green onions
- Ground black pepper
Heat a medium to large pot on medium high, and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and cook until translucent, around 5 to 7 minutes.
Pour 3 1/2 cups of water and the half-and-half into the pot, and bring it to a rolling boil on high heat. Lower the heat to medium, and slowly whisk in the grits and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Continue cooking the grits on very low heat, until they are very soft and creamy, around 30 to 40 minutes. Stir regularly to prevent the grits from sticking or burning.
Stir in the shredded cheese, and thin with water to the desired consistency, seasoning with salt to taste. Remove the grits from the heat, and cover with a lid.
Heat a separate pan on medium-high heat, and add the butter, tasso and garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the tasso is browned, around 5 to 7 minutes.
Toss the shrimp in a medium bowl with the lime juice, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Add the shrimp to the frying pan and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes.
Flip the shrimp to cook on the other side, and then add the red chili flakes, beer and chicken stock. Bring the liquids to a boil, and then lower the heat to medium, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Ladle the grits into four bowls, and then transfer the shrimp to the bowls, dividing so there are 5 shrimp per bowl. Bring the liquid in the frying pan back to a boil and reduce it by half, around 7 to 10 minutes.
Season the reduced sauce with salt and pepper, add the minced green onions, and spoon it over the shrimp and grits. Sprinkle the plates with minced parsley and serve immediately, with Tabasco sauce on the side.
Changing It Up
Use yellow stone ground grits -- or a mix of yellow and white grits -- for a sunnier looking dish.
Choose finely ground grits for a smoother textured dish, one closer in style to traditional grits, which has a very soft, fine consistency.
If you can’t find tasso, replace all or part of it with Louisiana andouille sausage, bacon or pancetta.
Cynthia Au has studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and currently works as a chef instructor specializing in food styling. She has worked as a writer and editor with a focus on food and food science since 2007 and regularly teaches both adults and young children about the joys of home cooking.