I cannot explain my love for shrimp and grits. For the last decade, I have been enamored by this southern seafood combination. There are 1,000 different ways to make shrimp and grits, and I have probably tried half a dozen of them. Many modern recipes add a lot of frills, but at its core, I believe you have to make the most creamy and flavorful grits to support the shrimp.
After his first bite Jim asked, have you made this before? Well, yes I have made Shrimp and Grits before but I never make them the same twice. There are so many flavor combinations out there and I chose to keep exploring.
Making cheesy grits
I buy Bob's Red Mill Polenta Corn Grits and follow the quick directions for cereal. Bring 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of chicken bouillon to a boil. Add 1 cup of Corn Grits slowly and whisk as you pour them in. Reduce heat to low and cook slowly for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for a couple minutes. This will make four servings. After the grits have absorbed the liquid, I start adding in milk, cream, and cheese.
My favorite preparation is to add cream cheese and milk to get the creamy consistency I prefer. In this recipe, I started with cream but switched to milk in order to thin out the grits. Next, I added two cups of shredded cheddar cheese. I personally thought it was too cheesy but Jim about fell out of his chair he loved them so much. Cheese is a personal decision and I respect whatever you decide to do.
Fresh or frozen
I was reading online the debate about buying fresh or frozen shrimp and the valid point was made that unless you live on the coast, the "fresh" shrimp you see at your supermarket was likely frozen, shipped, and then defrosted to sell. So you really don't know how long the shrimp have been sitting there in the case. The recommendation is to buy frozen and then defrost at home.
4 servings of cooked grits
2 tablespoons olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch evoo)
1 cup diced ham (Bacon or sausage works here too)
1 Onion, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
2 cups leeks, diced (When they are in season, leeks can be huge so I am putting two cups here. We are only going to use the white and light green parts, which is the bottom 3-4 inches. Be sure to slice in half lengthwise, then cut into thin half-moon shapes first. Rinse really well in a salad spinner because leeks have a lot of sand and dirt in them.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
Kosher salt and pepper
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons green onions, sliced
Building flavor with meat first
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil and ham, stirring and shaking pan to heat the cubed ham through and until you see brown spots on the meat. After a few minutes, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl and set aside.
You should have a good amount of drippings left in the pan from the ham. If you don't have about a tablespoon of oil, add a splash of olive oil, then throw in the diced onion, leek and bell pepper. Adjust heat down so that the veggies do not brown too fast. Cook and stir until the onion is translucent about 5-7 minutes.
Add the garlic last, stir for a minute, then pour in a half cup of wine to deglaze the pan and scrape off any flavor bits from the bottom and sides. Reserve the other half of the wine to deglaze the shrimp. Pour all the veggies into the bowl with the ham.
Cook the shrimp
In the same pan, adjust heat to medium-high and add butter and sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning. Let the spice bloom for 30 seconds and then add the shrimp in a single layer. It should not take long for color to appear on the shrimp. Flip them after a minute and then shake the pan until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through. Add the remaining half cup of white wine and deglaze the pan.
When the wine stops bubbling, add back in the ham and veggies and stir to combine. I had heavy cream in the fridge which I used in the grits, so I poured in about half a cup into the shrimp and veggies. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn heat to low or off and cover until ready to serve.
Ladle creamy grits into a bowl first, then scoop shrimp and sauce next over the grits. Finish with sliced green onions for a pop of freshness.