My Shrimp & Grits Recipe

This has been a much-requested recipe, so I’ll share a version of it here.  No apologies for the rustic nature of these directions – the only measuring utensils you need are for the opening steps of the grits. The rest you can eyeball. 😉

I will say that, made well, this recipe beats nearly every bowl of shrimp & grits you will ever find.  So invest in high-quality meat and spices, and break out the cream and butter. And true stone-ground grits. Do not EVEN think of making this with some crappy store-bought instant grit crap.

Also, don’t tell me “I hate grits. They’re gross and I refuse to eat them” until you’ve made them THIS WAY.  Then, if you still hate them, you are still wrong but we can remain friends. 🙂

RameyLady’s Shrimp and Grits Recipe
Serves 4. Scale up or down as needed.

THE GRITS – start these first.
1 cup stone ground, local grits (I use local Timms Mill grits) – follow package directions re: sifting or rinsing
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 stick of butter
1 tsp salt
1-2 cups of cream, half & half, or whole milk (or a mix of those)
1/2 cup of shredded cheese (your choice, I like sharp cheddar or maybe smoked Gouda)
more salt, pepper, dried thyme (to taste)

To make the grits:
In a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pan or pot, combine the broth and butter over medium heat to bring to a simmer.  Stir in 1 cup of stone ground uncooked grits and reduce heat to medium-low.  You want the grits to bubble and cook, but they turn into a nuclear meltdown of bubbling 3rd degree burn material if you let them get too hot, so don’t go more than a minute without stirring.  Stir & cook carefully for 15 minutes, then pour in 1/2 cup of cream (or milk or half & half or whatever combo of those you’d like) and stir well.  Add a pinch of salt — not too much because the cheese you add at the end will also be a bit salty– and fresh-ground pepper, plus any additional seasonings you’d prefer, like dried thyme. Reduce heat to medium-low: you want the grits to bubble slowly but not so fast that they splutter. (Recall the nuclear warning, above.)  Start making the Shrimp part, below….  As the grits continue to cook over the next 25-40 minutes, add cream a couple more times, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the grits are cooked through, not “gritty,” and thickened to your preference.  Just before serving, add the cheese, stir through until melted, and check to see if you need any additional salt.  Store leftover grits in the frig for several days or freeze for later.

THE SHRIMP PART – start this once you start adding cream to the grits
Start this once the grits are in their first cooking phase.

3-4 slices high quality bacon, diced and divided (I use Trader Joe’s applewood smoked)
1-2 lb fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 lb high-quality andouille sausage (kielbasa works too)
splash of lemon juice or half a lemon
olive oil
couple tablespoons of butter
salt, pepper, seasonings*, thyme
garlic cloves – diced or use a press
cream sherry — about 1 cup total (I use Fairbanks cream sherry – see photo below)
1 onion, diced large
1-2 bell peppers, diced large
several fresh summer tomatoes, diced large
dried thyme & basil
about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cream or half n half (or whole milk)
about 1 T cornstarch

*I rely on two seasoning blends for my shrimp and grits; both come from The Spice & Tea Exchange, and you can order them online if you don’t have a store in your area: Cinnabar Smoke Blend adds a slightly warm, Eastern flavor to the dish; Sweet Heat packs a little more punch but the sweetness offsets the heat in everything else.  If you don’t have these, that’s fine – if you’re using high quality sausage and bacon, their flavors will infuse the dish.

To prepare:
Stage 1:  Prepare shrimp (peel, etc) and season to taste. I use a little salt & pepper plus a splash of lemon juice and some favorite spice blends  –  see note above. Set aside to marinade for 15 minutes to 4 hours.   Dice the bacon and if you’re using sausage, prep that as well (if the sausage is raw, I usually cook andouille as links first, then chop into pieces and return to the pan later as listed below; kielbasa can be chopped into slices without any pre-cooking).

Add 1 strip’s worth of bacon and about a quarter of the sausage to a large wide pan OR tall cooking pot (large enough to hold 4 quarts of liquid – that way you won’t get spattered) over medium heat to render fat and flavor.  After the bacon is 80% cooked through, add one chopped clove of fresh garlic to the pan and star.  Arrange the shrimp over the bottom of the pan in an even layer. If you have too much shrimp to cook all in one batch, split into two batches (and split the bacon and garlic as well, since you’ll want to cook each batch fresh.)  Flip the shrimp after about 60 seconds and cook on the other side till the shrimp are BARELY done – firmer to the touch and pink . Pour a couple tablespoons of sherry into the pan and stir. Cook for about 30 seconds, then remove everything from the pan into a dish and keep warm to add back later– pour everything in the pan out and reserve all juices. Set aside. (If making two batches of shrimp, reduce pan heat a little and start with some fresh bacon.)

You can wipe the pan if you want. I usually don’t.

The one time I break my “only use alcohol you’d be willing to drink as part of your food” rule. This sherry is meh at best, but the “sherry” flavors come through nicely once it’s cooked down. I use it in everything…

Stage 2:  Add the rest of the chopped bacon (about 3 slices worth). If you’re using sausage, add the rest of it to the pan here.   Let the bacon render some fat, then add either 1 tsp of butter or a couple tsp of olive oil to the pan.  Add 1-2 T fresh chopped garlic. Stir. Add the diced onion and chopped bell pepper and cook for just a minute or two until the vegetables soften slightly.  You should also season the vegetables – at least throw in some dried basil and thyme, about 1 T of each.    Turn heat up to medium and pour a good half cup of sherry (up to 1 cup)  into the pan.  Stir well and then allow the sherry to reduce by half, which will take several minutes of boiling.

Stage 3:  After the sherry has reduced by half (or so), add the diced fresh summer tomatoes. Whether you include the seeds is up to you; I don’t get too fussy here. Just chop the tomatoes & throw them in. Add another round of seasoning, like basil.  Add about 1.5 cups of cream (or milk or half & half or all three) and slowly pour the cream into the pot, stirring as it hits the warm vegetable-sherry mixture. Simmer on medium for 5 minutes, until cream begins to reduce.   Mix 1 T of cream with 1 T cornstarch in a separate bowl; stir vigorously with a fork until every bit of cornstarch is dissolved.  Turn up heat a little past high and add this to the pot; allow to boil until the cream begins to thicken (because of the corn starch).

Stage 4: Return the shrimp and their juices (and bacon/sausage used in step 1) to the pan and check your grits; you’re probably ready to add the cheese.  You can safely “hold” either part of the dish on low heat until the other is done, but don’t add the shrimp into its pan until you know you’re within 5 min of eating. (Overcooked shrimp is gummy and gross.)

Serve by ladling 1/2 cup or more of grits into the bottom of a wide flat bowl, then top with about a cup of the shrimp mixture.

You really don’t need anything else with this dish – it covers all the bases. 🙂   It pairs very well with beer or wine.  I prefer a warm red, but white wine drinkers can find something crisp and lemony.

Enjoy! 🙂

My shrimp and grits. Made this batch last night and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch
My shrimp and grits. Made this batch last night and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch

Summertime Livin’

Sorry, folks, for the long hiatus from writing, but — it’s summer.  #sorrynotsorry

Days are long (and sometimes hot). There are books to be read, games to be played, people to be seen, and (most importantly) fresh produce to be consumed — made a cobbler today; cannot WAIT till all those fresh tomatoes roll in!

(Bonus: My favorite quick peach  cobbler recipe.)

Discovered a new author – Octavia Butler. One of her book collections was on sale last week in the iBooks store, so I picked it up after reading that one of her short stories won a Hugo back in the 1980s. Found that book on Kindle and rolled through it rapidly in the last couple days — Bloodchild and Other Stories.

Turns out, Butler was probably the first African-American woman science fiction author, and one of the only black writers in the genre, period.  Bloodchild included a couple of fantastic personal essays by her on becoming a writer – you can find them online here (I’ll link to the first as a PDF) and I recommend reading both:

Positive Obsession
“Furor Scribendi”

If you happen to pick up the story collection, don’t miss the short story “Speech Sounds,” which won her a Hugo award.  It’s an outstanding piece.

Been also wasting some good time playing games. Was given a tip by a coworker to enjoy the typographic gem Type:Rider (desktop; also for iOS or Android), a 2D platformer built totally around typefaces and fonts. The art is gorgeous and every level imparts tons of historical and artistic information about how various font families and printing developed. Definitely two thumbs up as a learning experience, as an interactive work of art, and as a solid game in its own right.

Type:Rider – TRAILER – EN from Cosmografik on Vimeo.

I might get around to some more writing in the next few weeks, but my day job is stealing most of my creative juices right now, leaving me with plenty of seeds and thoughts but little energy to get them all into words by the time I come home. I’ve done some more thinking on “Careers as Verbs”– I think that could develop into useful prompts for discussing calling and vocation, especially with young people who are trying to figure out what to study or what to do after graduation.  We make college students choose from a list of nouns when they’re picking a major when most of our lives are spent in action.

Along the way, we hope to tidy up a couple home improvement projects, do a little organizing, and see some friends. And eat good food.  Must enjoy the heck out of summer! (Looking for some good eats? Try these pork carnitas.)

I hope your summer is swimmingly awesome too.


Quotable: Faith Isn’t About Finding Answers | RELEVANT Magazine

Appreciated this article from Relevant.

The danger, though, isn’t that we don’t find all of the answers. The danger is that we think we can know them.Because faith doesn’t demand answers. Faith, by very definition, is being comfortable with what we dont know.

Our mission has shifted from embracing the wonder of an infinite God to building a box of absolute truths that let us understand Him and allow us to correct the “misconceptions” of others.

via Faith Isn’t About Finding Answers | RELEVANT Magazine.

The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living

“I would have fainted, had I not believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Ps 27:13)

John’s story (link below) of God’s steady pursuit of him in Grace is a beautiful read.  Please don’t miss it. 

Fundamentalists Drink Good Beer, Too: The Story in Order sort of.
^ This post lists all of the segments of the story in their chronological order; John wrote them out of order but it’ll make more sense if you follow this list.  Also, don’t miss today’s post of his that wraps up his pilgrimage (which isn’t on the list yet, but I’m sure it’ll get there soon.)

Grace. It’s bigger than our sin. Really.


At the core

Funny how you can work for your entire adult life and not realize what you’re actually good at.

Lately I’ve experienced a slow-moving epiphany. A career, calling, and vocational revelation.

It started a couple years ago at the going-away party for those of us departing NCS. There was an open mike and one of our friends got up and said, “You challenged me to grow as a person. Thank you. I didn’t realize I had grown stagnant.”

At the time, the comment surprised me.  I’m used to rattling around in the minds of people, asking questions or provoking ideas. It’s kind of what I do.  That feature might have been present in me before I entered the classroom, but teaching honed it to an edge.

And honestly I think my job as a teacher slowed my perception of my own skill set.  Of course teachers provoke their students to grow and develop and think — it’s what the word education means at its core. (e+ducere: from the Latin, to lead out).  And leading young minds to connect dots, challenge assumptions, question a situation, explore a text — that was my daily bread.

Arriving at my current job in marketing, I knew I had a range of skills that overlapped with higher ed. After all, I had 10 years experience with the student-side perspective on the college search process.  I can write copy (when needed); I can hack my way through a photo edit or the basics of a design; I can wrangle details of scheduling and trafficking to keep the projects flowing. But it still didn’t feel like a snug “fit.” The tailoring was off….

Last December, my office folks worked through an online tool to determine how we fit into the flow of work.  In a Design Thinking approach to work, some people identify as Ideators — they generate lots of ideas, play with them, kick off projects. They love the starting line more than the finish line.   At the other end are Implementers. Man, every office needs a few good people who roll up sleeves and take pride in actually getting things done.  Developers pick up an idea and hone it so it works. They start connecting dots and setting up systems — I have a dose of that in me for sure.

But my profile identified me as a Clarifier. Someone who digs in, asks questions, wrestles ideas, makes sure things are right before we take next steps. Uh, yeah. lol   I ask more questions than a 4 year old on a KoolAid high. I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember (no exaggeration). (Remind me to tell you the story of my 3 year old self following around the stone masons working on our house, asking an incessant stream of questions…)

As I fell into a messy soup of work this winter, especially projects related to our Admissions office, I found that the best way forward usually arose when I took the time to write a creative brief before plunging into a project.  We’re a small shop, so sometimes I generate an idea, assign it to myself, get some feedback, write a creative brief, create the copy, and run it past my boss. Then I pitch it out to one of our freelance designers to create, while I oversee the process much like an art director would.  Finally, as the project begins to take its final shape, I start gathering feedback from people to hone the design.  The process is too lone-wolf; hopefully we can retool our workflow.  

But I learned through this deluge of work that, actually, I really enjoy the process of writing a creative brief and providing art direction for our talented designers.

Because I get to watch them grow, to develop as artists and designers.

That’s when I finally figured it out — literally a week or two ago — that what’s been consistently beloved about my various careers is my love for developing people’s minds or skills, or for tending an idea or project or institution as it grows.  

To watch someone grow — to see their souls and talents and gifts open up like flowers before the sun.  That is something I love, and I fall toward those moments like moth to flame.

I really don’t know why it took so long for me to figure this out. But it’s nice to have found where I best contribute.