Shrimp and grits is to the south, what pizza is to the northeast. If you're a southern chef, and don't make a good shrimp and grits. I'm not interested in anything else you have on the menu. It's a staple in every home kitchen from Virginia to Alabama, and everywhere in between.
My wife is a born and raised southerner, so when I make any low country dishes, I have to bring my "A" game. Especially for the opulent shrimp and grits! This was also one of my Pop's favorite things to make, so a little nostalgia for a guy who loved to cook, and a southern staple to bring a smile to my South Carolinian wife's face. Check and Check!
- 2-2.5 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1-pound large shrimp, shelled (shells reserved)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup grits, preferably stone-ground
- 1 cup grated Gruyère, gouda, sharp cheddar, or a combination of all 3.
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon diced or sliced into lardons
- Olive oil as needed
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons, or more, unsalted butter, cubed
- The juice and zest from 1 lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon Zonk Foods New Orleans Cajun Seasoning for some spice (optional)
- Chopped fresh parsley, and or chives to garnish
- In a large saucepan, combine 2.5 cups stock with reserved shrimp shells. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain and return 2 cups of stock to saucepan (reserving ½ cup), and add milk.
- Meanwhile, combine shrimp, salt, New Orleans Cajun Seasoning if using, and cornstarch in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. There should be a thin coating of cornstarch on the shrimp, add another ¼ teaspoon if needed.
- Whisk grits into stock and milk mixture, set over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently ensuring the grits don’t produce a film on the bottom of the pan. Lower heat to a bare simmer and cook, stirring and the bottom frequently with a wooden spoon, until grits are fully softened and cooked and are thickened. About 20-30 minutes, then cover and remove from heat to finish softening. Stir in cheese(s) until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Press a piece of plastic cling wrap against the top of the grits to prevent a film from forming.
- In a large skillet, heat bacon over high heat until sizzling. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring, until bacon has rendered its fat and become crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet, and reserve.
- Return skillet to medium-high heat and heat until very lightly smoking. Add shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned outside with only a faint trace of translucence remaining in the center of each shrimp. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
- If pan is dry, add more butter or bacon fat, and some olive oil. Stir in shallot and garlic, and cook until both are softened, about 2 minutes.
- Add remaining 1/2 cup stock and scrape up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Stir in shrimp. Lower heat to medium-low and whisk in remaining butter until fully melted and emulsified with the sauce. Remove from heat and whisk in lemon juice.
- Spoon grits into bowls and top with shrimp and sauce. Finish with reserved crispy bacon, lemon zest, and fresh herbs. Serve immediately