From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.
I feel under qualified to be talking about grits. Coming from the Midwest, grits are not exactly an everyday food. In fact, an upbringing and solidified love for farina and creamed wheat cereals is what led me to believe I would love a bowl of grits equally, and so when the opportunity arose to order them on a road trip well into my teen years, I did just that.
I’ll leave it at this: Truck stop grits are not the type you fall in love with. Still, there was something to that bowl of white and creamy food with a big pat of butter melting on top. I was not to be thrown off course in my desire to adopt grits as my new “it” food. It had all the same promises as my breakfast favorites, but with expanded possibilities for my palate. At the top of the savory list: shrimp and grits.
Creamy, cheesy grits get topped with vibrant shrimp and crisp green onions. What’s not to love about this? The idea of adding butter and cheddar and plump shellfish to a bowl of warm comfort food seemed to me like a decision that was already made in the affirmative. So I set out to learn as much as I could about grits.
The first issue was obtaining them. Outside of the generic “quick-cooking grits” on the market shelf, there weren’t many options at first in the urban Midwestern area I lived in. I finally settled on making grits with white cornmeal to begin my experiments and then ordering online. Traditional grits are made from hominy, alkali-treated corn, and were stone ground in a rough, coarse texture. You’ll find both white corn and hominy when looking, so determine which you want to go for.
Once you have the grits in hand (or nearly grits), the rest of the preparation is satisfyingly simple, and the payoff is pure comfort food. It’s the kind of meal that leaves you satisfied at the end, the type of dish that begs to be made again and again.
Nearly Classic Shrimp and Grits
Recipe Type: main dish
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup stone ground white grits
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (I used Kerrygold Dubliner)
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails removed (if desired)
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly whisk in the grits. When all the grits have been added, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 25 minutes. Keep the butter and cheddar cheese ready off to the side.
- While the grits are cooking, in a large skillet cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces, leaving the grease in the pan and add in the garlic and the shrimp. Cook the shrimp over medium heat just until pink.
- Add in the scallions, parsley, and the lemon juice. Cook for 3 minutes to combine the flavors and then remove from the heat and stir in the bacon pieces.
- Stir in the butter and shredded cheese at the end of the cooking time for the grits. Immediately spoon into a bowl and top with shrimp and bacon to serve.