Two years ago (maybe it was three…) I went to a writing conference in Atlanta and hung out with two of my Southern friends, Anna and Karen. Each morning at breakfast, they had a little side dish that I thought was Cream of Wheat (insert childhood nightmare here…).
No, they had grits, and they urged me to try some.
I was immediately addicted. Grits aren’t something I even knew existed growing up, and I recall hearing about them later on in life, but never in the positive. I’m just thankful Anna and Karen set me straight!
When I got home, I immediately started experimenting with making grits. First off, forget Quick Grits. In my humble opinion, they are made by the same devil that came up with Cream of Wheat. But the Old Fashioned Grits — now we were getting somewhere.
My first tries were so-so, and I continued to research. I ended up with a liking for the classic 1:4 ratio of grits to water which I like to divide evenly with whole milk (for this recipe, 1c grits, 2c each of milk/water). Salt is important, and so is butter, but the most important piece of advice I found was to whisk your little heart out (see how you start talking when you make grits?).
Anyway, whisk, whisk, whisk until they are thick and fluffy, because this allows the grains to separate and hydrate more evenly, making for fluffier grits. It also avoids clumps. Let them set for a few minutes, and they are perfect for whatever you want to put on them.
In this case, it was Cajun Shrimp, using this recipe from Immaculate Bites. You know how you look at a recipe and you just know it’s going to be good? Yeah.
You can make this meal in around 30 minutes, grits included (Start them first. If you are good at multi-tasking while cooking, then whisk them on and off while you are making the rest. If not, do the grits and let them set while you do the rest).
I used Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp, which are the best shrimp I have ever had, at home or out. They do come with some environmental cautions, which you can read about here.
The best thing about recipes like this is that you can make it super-spicy or not, change up your herbs or how you make the sauce. If you are really against grits you can use noodles or rice.
I more or less followed the recipe (which is more or less how I follow any recipe).
Here’s what I did:
I only used two slices of bacon, because that’s what I had handy. I let them cook until the grease was smoking a bit, then added unsalted butter and the shrimp that I had rinsed, dried, and spiced with McCormick Cajun Seasoning and Smoked Paprika.
I took the shrimp out after about 2 minutes on each side, and added in the veggies along with some Thyme from my windowsill instead of Parsley (which I never have around because I rarely use it).
After the vegetables had cooked down enough to leave a nice fond (a fancy word meaning the stuff that browns on the pan), I used some Chardonnay to deglaze the pan and after that, added some chicken broth, then let it cook down a bit and added the shrimp back in along with the crumbled bacon (instead of putting the bacon in the grits).
(Note: I use terms like “some” and “a bit more” because I really don’t measure these most things in dishes like these, I go by eye or what looks right to me.)
I also used my 1930’s Griswold Cast Iron pan #8, part of the Griswold set I have collected and use daily. Most of mine were found at flea markets and sales — for $20 or less. They cook great and will last forever. If you see any grab them, even if they are rusty — these all looked like they came out of The Munster’s house when I got them, but it’s easy to make them look like new again.
Finally, I crumbled the bacon and mixed it in with the shrimp and veggies (instead of into the grits), and put it right on top of the grits, in which I did not use the bay leaf nor cheese, since we are lactose intolerant. I personally don’t think it needs the cheese.
It was a wonderful supper, and looked great in the bowls (William-Sonoma, Pomegranate design) bought with a gift certificate from my niece, Jessica. They were quickly cleaned.
Mike is not a huge fan of grits, but he loves them fixed like this — the sauce was perfect. It was, as Mary often says on the Great British Baking Show, scrummy!
If you haven’t made grits, I heartily encourage you to try them. They are amazing with just some butter, black pepper and maple syrup for breakfast (or lunch, or a TV snack).
I recently bought some Stone Ground Charleston GritsStone Ground Charleston Grits that I discovered on a Kitchn blog, I and I’m eager to try them out as I experiment with some other dishes using grits. I’ll keep you posted. If you try this recipe, share how you did it, and perhaps a photo or two in comments. 🙂