Shrimp and Grits Recipe: an iconic Southern dish
Shrimp and Grits…one of those iconic southern meals that make can make any Northerner embrace “ya’ll”. It’s truly more of a southeastern meal…the proximity to the ocean for those shrimp after all. It has been speculated that the dish originated with the Gullah Geechee, West African slave descendants who settled on the southeastern coast of the United States…between southern North Carolina and northern Florida.
This dish with humble beginnings has been elevated to fine dining, even appearing a 1985 Craig Claiborne column in The New York Times after Claiborne tasted the dish prepared by Bill Neal in his Chapel Hill Crook’s Corner restaurant. Needless to say, you can now find Shrimp and Grits on the menus of fine dining establishments throughout the United States.
I’d guess that 50% of local restaurants here in Wilmington, NC have some variation of Shrimp and Grits on their menu. Some recipes use sausage instead of ham, some include mushrooms while others don’t, some gravies are thick while others are thinner. But the basic recipe remains the same; creamy, cheesy grits topped with shrimp and a savory ‘gravy’ of sorts.
Several months back, I had the opportunity to travel a wee bit up the coast to visit The Bistro at Topsail, whose Shrimp and Grits recipe garner rave reviews from all corners. The waterfront Bistro in the beach town of Topsail, NC is Chef Bud Taylor’s ‘ode to Southern cuisine and family.’ The menu at The Bistro changes daily, which allows Bud to take advantage of the best local meat, seafood and seasonal produce, much of which he grows on his local 10-acre farm. Not only is the menu worth the drive, but the restaurant was also recently named one of the 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America by Open Table. The list was compiled by Open Table based on over 10,000,000 reviews of verified diners.
Photo by Unique Media
So, all this to say…boy do I have a treat for you today!
Chef Bud graciously shared his Shrimp and Grits recipe with me so that I can share it with you. And this family loves this recipe so much, I prepared it twice in one week recently.
Bistro Shrimp and Grits
- 1 cup Stone Ground Yellow Grits Don't use quick grits. Chef Bud recommends Adluh Mills, Anson Mills or other quality brand
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 3 cups Cold Water
- 6 TBS Butter
- 1 cup Grated Asiago or Parmesan
- Salt and Pepper to Taste Bear in mind that the country ham and possibly your seafood stock are quite salty...I didn't use any salt in my grits, on the shrimp or in the sauce
Shrimp and Sauce
- 1 pound Local Shrimp
- 1 large Green Tomato or equivalent...I used several small green tomatoes
- 1 TBS Minced Shallot may substitute red onion
- 1/4 tsp Minced Garlic
- 4-6 ounces Country Ham, cut into small strips or diced
- 1/2 cup Dry White Wine
- 2 cups Shrimp Stock or seafood stock
- 8 TBS Unsalted Butter cut into cubes
- 1 tsp each diced fresh thyme, basil and parsley
- 2 TBS thinly sliced scallion
- fresh chives optional
In stock pot, bring water, milk and butter to a boil
Slowly whisk in the grits and return to a boil for 1-2 minutes
Reduce heat to a high simmer and cook 30-45 minutes or until grits are tender
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese.
Season with salt and pepper to taste
While grits are cooking peel and clean shrimp
Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside
(Sauce can be made in advance and kept warm)
In a hot saute pan, place 2 T butter, shallot, garlic and country ham and cook until lightly brown.
De-glaze the pan with white wine
Add green tomatoes to pan and cook approximately 1 minute
Add shrimp stock and 2T butter and let reduce by 1/4
Add scallions and fresh herbs
Remove from the heat
Finish sauce by stirring several cubes of cold butter into the sauce until it thickens slightly
Season to taste with salt and pepper
IN A SEPARATE PAN:
Heat pan and add 2 T butter and the shrimp
Cook just until the shrimp turn pink on the bottom and then turn the shrimp. Remove the pan from the heat. The shrimp will finish cooking with the residual heat from the pan.
Toss the cooked shrimp into the sauce
Divide the grits between 4 bowls
Spoon sauce and shrimp mixture equally into bowl on top of the grits. Do not stir up.
Garnish with fresh chives (optional)
A couple quick Shrimp and Grits notes from my kitchen:
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- This is a very easy dish to prepare, especially since you can prepare some of it ahead of time.
- Country ham is a salt-cured ham and is quite different from the city ham you normally purchase. Its unique flavor is a critical component in this dish, but do be mindful that it does bring a good bit of salt so you may not need to add salt anywhere else in the recipe. The salt used to preserve the ham makes refrigeration unnecessary
- This is a great time of year to gather some of those green tomatoes from your vines to use in this recipe.
- I did not have shrimp stock, though I have started to save the shells so that I can make some it for my next batch of Shrimp and Grits. I bought a good quality Seafood stock which worked perfectly, but also added some sodium. All the more reason to not add any additional salt.
- A good Chardonnay pairs wonderfully with Shrimp and Grits…in case you wondered.
Well my friends, I do hope that ya’ll find a little bit of shrimp, some grits and country ham and treat yourself to this delicious meal. You will thank me (and Chef Bud) for the recipe…you are welcome.
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