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A Taste of the South - Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits

Vicki Shivers - Thursday, May 28, 2015

 There’s a certain amount of truth to the saying that for any true Southerner “a day without grits is a day without sunshine.” For the true grits purist, real Old South flavor and texture are only found in old fashioned stone ground grits cooked ever so slowly - no quick grits in the bag for them!

 

The first published recipe for shrimp and grits was called Hominy and shrimp and is found in “200 Years of Charleston Cooking.” According to Natalie Dupree, whom Pat Conroy calls the “Queen of the Southern kitchen,” the man to whom it was credited said he had been making it all his life and at the time he was 70. The book was published in 1934. Nevertheless, during shrimp season in Charleston, it was not unusual for shrimp with hominy to be eaten for breakfast 7 days a week in many families.

 

While this dish had somewhat humble beginnings, it was Craig Claiborne, with his 1985 article in the New York Times, who launched it into the signature dish of sophisticated Southern cuisine that is is today. The shrimp and grits that fired Claiborne’s imagination came from Crook’s Corner restaurant in North Carolina. This recipe featured a spicy sauté of shrimp over cheese grits loaded up with bacon, mushrooms and scallions. Since that time every Southern chef has felt obligated to come up with a new spin on this classic favorite.


Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits Recipe

 

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise and deveined

Juice of 1 lemon

Dash of hot sauce

Kosher salt to taste

1 1/2 cups stone ground grits

6 slices thick bacon, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 cup chicken stock

1-2 tablespoons butter

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

 

Combine the shrimp with the lemon juice and a splash of two of hot pepper sauce and set aside.

FOR THE GRITS: in a large heavy saucepan, bring 6 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt to a boil. Whisk in the grits a few handfuls at a time. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook over low heat for about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally at first and more frequently toward the end.

 

FOR THE GRAVY: while the grits are simmering, fry the bacon in a medium skillet until brown. Stir in the onion, green pepper and garlic and continue cooking until the onion and pepper are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions, sprinkle the flour over the mixture, and continue sautéing for 5 minutes longer. Stir in the stock and remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat while you finish the grits.

 

When the grits are thick and creamy, stir in as much of the butter as you wish, followed by the cheese. Add a splash of hot pepper sauce and more salt. Cover the grits while you finish the gravy. Return the gravy to medium heat and stir in the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, mounding the grits in large shallow bowls or on plates and covering them with shrimp and gravy.