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eG Cook-Off 55: Shrimp & Grits


Chris Amirault
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Welcome to the eGullet Cook-off 55: Shrimp & Grits. Click here for the Cook-off index.

Let's just start with a shameful fact: until this moment, eG Forums has had no topic dedicated to making this classic southern dish. True, there's this rambly topic on the origins and particulars of shrimp & grits, and this one on a shrimp & cauliflower "grits" project by Chappie, and a couple dozen on grits basics. But nothing focused on preparing shrimp & grits.

Perhaps this is because many think of it as a dish without need for specificity or even care. I mentioned to someone recently that I had to do some prep for a shrimp & grits dinner; he retorted, "How much prep is there?" I suppose you could toss some grits into boiling water, toss some shrimp into a skillet, dump B onto A and call it done.

But that seems unfair, doesn't it? The grits below can be a simple foil for dolled-up shrimp, or they can be the luxurious star, creamy, cheese-y, and more. Additional ingredients, garnishes, and accompaniments vary widely, too. If you've had a top-notch version of the dish, you know it isn't just, well, shrimp & grits.

Even this Yankee knows that it's good for what ail's you, late winter blues included. So let's see what your basic recipe is, and then you can show us what you do to kick things up a notch. So to speak.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Cook my stone ground grits with half milk and half water. At the end, I finish with a small splash of cream and adjust seasoning.

For the shrimp, I start a pan of several slices of bacon cut into cm squares. Once the fat begins to render, I add onions and red bell pepper and then after they are soft I add garlic. I toss in shrimp and tomatoes and saute. When the shrimp are almost ready, a slight bit of flour, brown for 30 seconds and then add stock I made from shrimp shells. Finish with scallions and fresh thyme.

I also occasionally make Hastings recipe from Hot & Hot. It's fantastic. This is a recipe that he put in Coastal Living that is very close to the one in the cookbook.

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=10000000451836

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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This may seem horribly like missing the point, but is there any acceptable, perhaps even common substitute for grits?

I'm having no luck finding them, here... none at all.

There really is no substitute. Coarse ground cornmeal is sometimes the right grind but sometimes not. It's kind of a crap shoot if you are somewhere that you can't find cornmeal produced as grits.

That said, the link below is to a mill in the town where I grew up that produces fantastic grits (I prefer white) as well as excellent fresh ground flour. These are the only grits I ever buy. They ship to all of North America.

http://www.oakviewfarms.com/Default.aspx

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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My grits come from Anson Mills, Columbia, SC. So does Thomas Keller's.

How do you get them? I just checked google and Zingerman's is the only source -- at $12.50/lb.

By the way, Nathalie Dupree has an entire book on the subject.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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BadRabbit: no cheese?

Sometimes yes sometimes no. I find when I finish with cream I get all the richness and smooth (and creamy) texture one usually accomplishes with cheese. When I have Marscapone, I'll add a small knob of it and a little parmesan at the end.

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I'm partial to the white stone ground grits from Hoppin' Johns, which are easily ordered on line. I've never tried Anson Mills, bu maybe I will. I start my grits in water, but add whole milk at two different junctures. No idea where that recipe came from. Sometimes I add cheese to finish, sometimes not. Depending on what's in the fridge, or my mood, I might add sharp cheddar, or creme fraiche, or even a mild goat cheese. Actually I prefer my shrimp 'n' grits without extra cheese.

Grits topped with some kind of salsa are yummy, especially a spicy fresh tomato salsa, so that's an essential for me, with or without cheese, with or without shrimp. And then the shrimp. I've done the shrimp numerous ways: a quick pan-fry or something I clipped from I don't know where called Southern Barbecue Shrimp. You preheat the broiler and cover a sheet pan with foil. Then mix melted butter, worcestershire sauce, a tablespoon or so of golden sugar, fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of Old Bay or other seafood seasoning and toss the shrimp to coat. Arrange them on the sheet and broil, turning them over at half-time; only takes a couple of minutes per side. Using Old Bay and worcestershire doesn't seem very southern, but so it goes.

So, I plate the grits, top with salsa and then top that with shrimp. I drizzle on any extra shrimp sauce from the bowl or the foil and that's my shrimp 'n' grits.

As for a substitute for grits, well, couldn't you use a coarse-ground polenta? Actually I've stopped using polenta altogether, and if I'm cooking Italian I just make grits instead and tell everyone it's polenta.

Edited to add some prices: I just looked at the three on-line sources mentioned. Anson Mills sells 12 oz. of grits for $5.95. Hoppin Johns sells 2 lbs grits for $7.50. Oakview Farms seems to have a great deal: 2 lbs for $5.25. I didn't price shipping.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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Jack Fry's restaurant on Bardstown Road in Louisville features Shrimp and Grits in a Red Eye gravy. Theirs also includes tomatoes, country ham and shitake mushrooms. According to one source, they use both milk and whipping cream (4 cups to one) in the grits preparation.

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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My standard shrimp & grits methodology is almost identical to BadRabbit's and seems to be one of the more common preparations here in Georgia. The red pepper and tomatoes provide a nice balance of sweetness and acidity.

For the grits I like to simmer equal parts whole milk and chicken stock with some garlic and fresh thyme and then use this liquid to cook the grits. I generally finish the grits with some butter or cream and maybe some freshly grated parm. I'm not sure what others do, but I typically season grits at the end of cooking -- when I season at the beginning they tend to get too salty at the end.

Last, the use of stone ground grits (as opposed to quick/instant grits) can't be overemphasized. As a transplanted midwesterner, I used to hate grits until I was exposed to real stone ground grits when I moved south about 16 years ago. As others have noted, Anson Mills produce great stone ground grits.

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My shrimp&grits mentor was Bill Neal of Crooks Corner fame (Chapel Hill, NC) back in the 80s. For him it was a breakfast dish fancied up for dinner.

Grits were either Quaker or Martha White----nothing fancy there. They were cooked with water then seasoned with sharp Vermont cheddar, parmigiano, butter, cayenne, and salt and pepper.

The mis en place for the saute included rendered bacon bits, sliced mushrooms, peeled shrimp, chopped garlic, sliced scallions, tabasco, and lemon juice. It was a quick relatively dry cook in half bacon fat half canola with things going into the pan in the above order. Cheese grits on the plate then the shrimp scattered right on top.

This is one of the simplest and most called for dishes I know.

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I forgot to mention hot sauce or crushed red pepper. I always add one or the other. I like to use a relatively hot sauce because Tabasco and other milder sauces add too much vinegar to a dish that already has enough acid. I mostly use the red El Yucateco habanero sauce.

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Can you find any type of coarsely ground corn?

Not that I've seen; this is a smallish town, and I'm trying to think whether there's any speciality shop I've missed; I don't think so. So, I'm going to be making shrimp and quinoa.

Shrimp and Quinoa?????? what sacrilege! Perhaps you will discover some new fantastic dish, but I just imagine the nutty taste of quinoa clashing with the shrimp. Grits are bland and generic that's why they are so great as a base especially for butter, salt and cheese. Quinoa has a definite flavor profile. I just don't think you are going to get the same results by using quinoa. but by all means please try it and report back.

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Can you find any type of coarsely ground corn?

Not that I've seen; this is a smallish town, and I'm trying to think whether there's any speciality shop I've missed; I don't think so. So, I'm going to be making shrimp and quinoa.

Shrimp and Quinoa?????? what sacrilege! Perhaps you will discover some new fantastic dish, but I just imagine the nutty taste of quinoa clashing with the shrimp. Grits are bland and generic that's why they are so great as a base especially for butter, salt and cheese. Quinoa has a definite flavor profile. I just don't think you are going to get the same results by using quinoa. but by all means please try it and report back.

Agree. I believe I'd try something like pulsing hominy to close to the right consistency before I jumped all the way over to quinoa.

Edit: Changed suggestion to hominy.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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So, what's the difference between grits & polenta?

They are generally made from different strains of corn and polenta is generally a little finer grind (though still relatively coarse). Some grits are also made from hominy while I don't think you ever see polenta made from lye soaked kernels.

Though yellow grits are widely available now, they are not the norm while most (all?) polenta is yellow.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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