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Supping Down South - Classic Shrimp & Grits

My father was a Green Beret in the 82nd Airborne in North Carolina, so I lived down south for a number of years. While I paid little attention then to the cuisine of the south, I often connect to it these days. I’ve been in South Carolina recently and it brought a lot of that back for me. So expect a few Southern recipes in the coming weeks, if you don’t mind.

A number of years ago, shrimp and grits became ubiquitous across the country, not just the south. But there aren’t many who make it well. It can be doubly hard for restaurants because the grits can be creamy one minute (they HAVE to be creamy!) and a brick the next. And many restaurants forget the “business,” the sauce that coats the top of the dish. Super important.

There are a million recipes out there for shrimp and grits, some simple, some more complicated, but I’d love for you to try this one - it’s my favorite - easy and delicious.


INGREDIENTS

2 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided

2 cups whole milk

4 tablespoons butter divided

3/4 cup stone-ground grits

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded

4 strips bacon (or 2-3 thick-cut slices)

1 lb. jumbo shrimp peeled and deveined

kosher salt to taste

black pepper to taste

2-3 thinly sliced green onions for garnish

Pepper flakes or hot sauce (optional)


METHOD

Bring 2 cups of the chicken broth, the milk (2 cups), 3 tablespoons of the butter, and a pinch of salt to a gentle boil in a medium sized pot.

Add the grits and whisk together. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until grits are soft and creamy, whisking every few minutes.

Cover and set aside off heat - they will finish softening up while they sit.

Chop the bacon into tiny pieces and cook on medium until it starts to get crispy.

If there’s more than 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, remove a bit.

Pat the shrimp dry. Season with salt and pepper and cook in the bacon grease until only just cooked- about 2 minutes per side.

Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and 1/2 cup of chicken broth to the shrimp and stir until melted and broth is heated.

Stir the cheese to the grits and cover until melted.

Mix the cheesy grits and spoon them in a bowl. Place the shrimp and bacon over the grits, spooning the sauce over everything so it sits on the top (see photo above). The grits  have already started to set so this liquid will stay on the top, which is perfect for serving. Sprinkle with scallions and serve immediately.


A few notes:

- Please don’t use instant grits. They’ll never let me back down here.

- Don’t skip the scallions - they add a wonderful counterpart to the bacon and sauce. I added more to my own plate actually.

- I buy jumbo frozen wild shrimp in the bag - if you buy “fresh” at the market, it’s really just previously frozen, but they charge more. And by the way, after they thaw the shrimp and if it doesn’t sell, they cook it and put it in a lovely shrimp ring, and when that doesn’t sell, they freeze the lovely shrimp ring. Bottom Line? Don’t buy shrimp rings.

- I’m not a huge fan of sharp cheddar cheese. But in this case, it lends so much to the grits. Smoked Gouda or even a nutty Parmesan would also be good.

- My QC testers would say this needs heat. And while I agree, too much would ruin this dish. Put a few pepper flakes in the sauce while it’s cooking, or use some sriracha  on your plate.

Carolina barbecue soon...



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