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
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.
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.
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.
I write. I design. I cook. I read. I make music. I talk to people -- all kinds of people.
I used to teach and hopefully will do so again someday.
My dream job would be a cross between barrista and consultant, with a large helping of international travel and bohemian wandering through concerts, museums, galleries, and open spaces.
Somewhere back in time, my students started calling me "RameyLady" and the name stuck. I like it. There's a Ramey-man too. He's a much better writer but he seems to be too humble to share it with the world....at least, not yet.