I moved to Savannah, Georgia 12 years ago. I had lived in the South my whole life – South Louisiana, South Arkansas, even a stint in Southern England (that counts, right?) – and at 17 I moved to South Georgia.
The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post
If there is one thing I’ve learned about the South by being in the South, it’s that the food (like the accents) is purely regional. In South Arkansas you see a lot of catfish, BBQ, fresh game, and a decent amount of spice and heat. Here in the Low Country, they serve up a lot of fresh catch fish and seafood (it ain’t Fall until you’ve been to an oyster roast), alot of rice dishes and they go real light on the spice. Arkansans take their iced tea with a little sugar and lemon; Georgians take their sugar with a little tea and lemon!
Something I first encountered here in Georgia was Shrimp & Grits. I like shrimp. And I like grits (for breakfast, typically). But I wasn’t quite sure what to think about this Coastal Georgia concoction. But after the first bite, things start to come into perspective. Marinated and pan seared shrimp over a bed of rich, creamy grits, topped with a savory pan sauce….what’s not to love!?
Coastal Georgia has some great local shrimp. They are a dark grey color with an almost sweet tasting meat. Any type of shrimp will work well in this dish – just make sure you get the freshest shrimp you can find. I understand this may be a challenge if you live in land….but shop around until you find something good. Once you get your shrimp peeled and deveined, you will want to season them up. Toss them in a mixture of Cajun spice, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Leave them uncovered in the fridge while you start the grits.
I’ve come to realize that outside of the South, grits have a bad rap. Or no rap at all? Apparently there are some places where you can’t even find grits at the store….ya’ll are really missing out! The problem with grits is that alone, they are bland and boring. You can’t just boil water, add grits, and expect something spectacular to happen. Grits are good when you add a little butter and spices. Grits are great when you add a little more butter and a lot more spice!
The type of grits you use is not nearly as important as the additions and cooking method. I really like stone-ground, coarse yellow grits. But plain old white grits (just make sure they are NOT instant) work good too. Start by boiling chicken stock and butter. When the stock starts to boil, slowly pour in the grits while constantly whisking. This makes sure you don’t get lumps (nobody likes lumpy grits!). Add in the milk, salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Turn the heat down to low and put a lid on it. Keep an eye on them – you will need to give them a stir every 5 minutes or so. When you stir, make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan. How do you know when the grits are done? They will be thick, and most of the liquid will have evaporated. When you scrape your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, it should take a few seconds for the grits to fill it back in. Likewise, when you stir real hard, the grits will pull away from the side. Take them off the heat and add in a little cheese.
While your grits are going, we should start the shrimp and sauce. I’m starting with a nice dry-aged, cherry smoked bacon. You can use any type of bacon that you want – but keep in mind there aren’t many ingredients here….so make sure it has good flavor. Dice up the bacon and saute it in a non-stick skillet. Once it’s brown and crispy, transfer it to a plate. Pour off any excess fat (keep a little, and keep what you pour off – you may need it later!) and brown up the shrimp. Shrimp cook quick, and your pan is already hot. Let them cook on one side for about 3 minutes, then flip them. They shouldn’t need to cook longer than 2 or 3 more minutes. If you bought really small shrimp (or big ones, for that matter) you will have to adjust your time accordingly. Just know that once they are almost completely pink, take them off the heat. They will continue to cook through while they are resting.
After you pull out the shrimp, saute the garlic and white parts of the scallion. Just for a minute, until it’s nice and fragrant. Then whisk in the flour to make the roux. You want a light tan roux – cook the flour and stir continuously until you get to the right color. Whisk in some chicken stock and let it come to a simmer. Whisk in the milk, and do the same. Now add in Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and about half of the bacon (the rest we can use as garnish). Turn the heat to low and let it simmer until thickened up (about 5 minutes).
Now it’s eating time! Scoop out a generous helping of grits onto each dinner plate. Divide the shrimp, and divide them between each plate. Next spoon over a Tablespoon or two of the sauce (pour the rest into a gravy boat – some people want more sauce) then sprinkle the top with green scallion tops, bacon and a little parsley. A dash of Tabasco, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper are optional, but highly recommended. This recipe makes dinner-sized portions.
- 3/4 Lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 T. Cajun spice
- 1 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- salt & pepper
Mix seasonings together in a small bowl. Coat shrimp in seasoning, leave in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- 1 C. chicken stock
- 1 – 2 T. butter
- 1/2 C. grits
- 1/2 C. milk
- 1 tsp. Cajun spice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 Oz. extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
Bring stock and butter to a boil. Whisk and slowly pour in grits. Add in milk and spices. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Stir regularly until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in cheese.
- 4 slices bacon, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 scallions (green onions), whites and greens separated
- 2 T. flour
- 1 c. chicken stock
- 1/4 C. milk
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- salt and pepper
- few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Saute the bacon until crispy. Remove from pan, reserve bacon fat. Saute shrimp. Cook for 4 – 6 minutes, until almost cooked through. Remove from pan. Make sure 1 T. of bacon fat is in the pan. Saute garlic and scallion whites for one minute. Whisk in flour, cook to a light tan color. Whisk in stock, and bring to a simmer. Whisk in milk, and bring back to a simmer. Add in W’shire sauce, Tabasco, 1/2 of the bacon. Allow to simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.
To assemble, spoon grits onto plate. Top with shrimp, and spoon over sauce. Garnish with bacon, parsley and scallion greens. Season with Tabasco, salt and pepper to taste