Shrimp & Grits

This is one our favorites for dinner, anytime of the year.  My mom has lived in South Carolina’s Lowcountry (the geographic and cultural region along South Carolina’s coast) for many years and we visit often.  It’s beautiful, usually warm, calming and we loved it so much, we were married there. The other draw is the amazing food.  The freshest seafood, soups and stews, oysters, great BBQ and, shrimp and grits.  I first had shrimp and grits years ago at one of our favorite restaurants, Dockside, a small seafood restaurant in Port Royal, SC. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire many years ago and did not return.  It was literally on the side of the dock where you could sit and watch the shrimp boats come in while you sipped your drink and waited for your table.  If you timed it right, you would see the most beautiful sunsets ever.  I’ve tried to recreate the shrimp and grits I remember but I think the view and setting certainly added to how amazing the whole experience was.

With the exception of the shrimp and the grits, this recipe calls for things you probably already have in the kitchen – chicken stock, onions, bacon, butter, etc.  If you’ve been following eyummykitchen.com, you’ve seen that I am a big fan of recipes using ingredients you may already have on hand.  I like dishes that aren’t overly complicated or confusing. Life is too short!

The key is starting with the bacon and building layers of flavors with each ingredient as well as having everything ready to go (the French call this mise en place) before you start cooking.  It’s a perfect meal on a cold night since it’s filling and comforting although I make this all year long.  I like to add a little Tabasco on mine, but I don’t dare add it while I’m cooking since my husband is not a fan (I affectionately call him Captain Vanilla).  Scallions would be a good addition as a garnish too, but Captain Vanilla is opposed to those as well!

Ingredients

1 lb                   Shrimp, thawed or fresh, deveined, tails removed and cut in half

1 cup                Grits (not quick cooking or instant) (Dixie Lily is my new favorite)

6 cups               Chicken broth (if not homemade, use low sodium)

½ cup               Whole milk

½ lb.                Thick cut bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup                Onion, finely diced (I always use a sweet onion like Vidalia)

1 cup                Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tbs                 Butter

1 tbs                 Scallions or chives, finely chopped

1 tsp                 Seasoned salt

1 tsp                 Dried parsley

1 tbs                 Corn starch

Directions

In a large saucepot, bring five cups of chicken broth to a boil and add the grits and whisk well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.  When the grits are almost done (they should be soupy and a bit al dente), add the milk and cheese, mixing well.  Simmer for another three minutes and then turn off the heat. 

In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium heat, remove to a plate with a paper towel to drain.  Pour off all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease and reserve.  Add onions to the pan along with ½ tsp of seasoned salt and cook till translucent, about four minutes.  Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer.  If needed, add a bit more of the leftover bacon fat and the butter.  Cook for two minutes on each side until pink and firm.  Add the remaining cup of chicken broth and stir until combined over medium heat, scrapping all the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add 2/3s of the bacon, parsley, and ½ tsp seasoned salt. 

Once combined, dissolve 1 tsp corn starch into about 1 tbs of water and mix into the shrimp.  This will thicken the sauce ever so slightly.  Cook for another two minutes on low.

To serve, you can place the grits into a large, shallow serving dish and top with shrimp mixture or make individual plates.  I usually serve individual bowls right from the stove just in case there are leftovers (and there rarely are!) you can still control the ratio when you reheat it.

Garnish with some scallions (and a few drops of Tabasco on mine!)

Enjoy!

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