Shrimp and Grits

Even the name, “shrimp and grits,” suggests a classic Southern dish.

Despite a lifetime in Virginia, my introduction didn’t come until 2007, when Weems neighbor Terry Hubbard served it. The dish since has become one of my favorites. My rendition represents one of many ways to make it.

For those unfamiliar with grits, the name comes from the old English word “grytt,” which means coarse meal. Native to the United States and a staple in many Southern homes, grits are made from dried, ground corn.

Grits can be thick or runny, creamy or plain, savory or sweet; it all depends on one’s preference. I like creamy, cheese grits.

I first tried them years ago, while driving to Florida with my younger sister Laura. We stopped in Jacksonville for the night. and the next morning she ordered grits with her breakfast. 

“Really, you’re ordering grits?” I asked.

Because our parents came from Connecticut, never did grits, hominy or polenta make their way to our table. Laura had moved to Richmond, and that’s where she got introduced to grits.

I asked to taste them in Jacksonville. Laura added butter, salt and pepper to the side dish, served plain. To my surprise, they tasted good.

But, decades passed before I served them. Now, I always have grits in my pantry.


Ingredients: Serves 4

Shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces smoked ham or bacon, diced
½ onion diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup white wine
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
20 large shrimp (15/20 count)
¾ heavy cream
¼ parsley, chopped
¼ cup spring onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons sweet cream butter, sliced in pats
Fresh parsley

Creamy Grits
4-6 servings
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup stone ground grits
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons sweet cream butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Shrimp

Directions

FOR THE SHRIMP

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add the ham, stirring constantly and once it starts to render, add the onions and cook for a minute to bring out the sweetness. Then add the garlic and cook for only one minute. Don’t let the garlic brown. Add the white wine and cook down for a few minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme and Creole seasoning. Add the shrimp and cook until pink. Stir in the heavy cream, bring to a boil and cook for a minute. Reduce the heat and add the parsley, spring onion and finish it with butter and blend completely.

FOR THE GRITS

Using a 3-quart heavy saucepan, combine the chicken broth, cream and butter over a medium-low heat and bring to a low boil. Gradually whisk in the grits and stir until smooth. Cover and reduce heat to low, stirring frequently until the broth is absorbed and grits thicken, soft and creamy — about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese. Cover and keep warm.

I like to serve these in a soup plate or pasta plate. Ladle some grits onto the plate and then serve the shrimp over the grits. Garnish with fresh parsley.