Finally!!! Spring is in the air, we have scored one of our vaccine shots, and are full of hope for the coming months. It’s been a long freaking year, hasn’t it? We’ve learned some lessons to be sure, but we are still here with our feet firmly planted on solid ground and determined to grab every bit of happiness we can find. Let’s take a minute to pat ourselves on the back and be thankful we’ve made it through, and let’s pause to remember those we’ve lost with love.
Just because spring has arrived does not remove my craving for occasional comfort food, and smoky brown butter shrimp with cheesy grits do the trick. The grits are cooked with plenty of milk to make them creamy, with a good amount of butter and cheese stirred in for extra measure. The shrimp tossed in smoked paprika, then quick cooked in garlicy brown butter. To make this whole thing even better, it all comes together in about 20 minutes.
Are you wondering about grits? Grits are made from ground corn, and can be white, yellow, or even blue. I had never tried them until our friend Van sent us a couple of packages from Geechie Boy Mill (geechieboymill.com), grown and milled on Edisto Island, South Carolina. We were hooked after the first bite, and it is no mystery to me why grits are a staple in many people’s diets. In researching shrimp and grits, I discovered that there are about as many ways to make grits, let alone shrimp and grits, as there are people who cook them. Everybody has their own spin, but I have gone a simple route. This is comfort food after all, and when I want comfort food, I want it in a hurry.
You don’t have to be a shrimp expert to make these shrimp look good. The secret is to toss them into some smoked paprika and salt just before cooking. Your skillet should be ready with butter that has melted to the point it turns golden brown. This gives the butter a more intense, rich and nutty flavor. Add a little garlic, cook 30 seconds more, and toss that shrimp in there. Cook the shrimp about 1-2 minutes until they look like the photo below, then flip the shrimp over, quickly turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let these guys finish cooking on their own for about one more minute. When they’re done, the center will look opaque but not raw. If you see something that looks raw, just cover and let them sit a little longer.
Grits are super simple too. Just bring equal amounts of water and milk to a boil, add salt and pour in those grits. Stir and bring back to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pan and peek in every couple of minutes to give them a good stir. Stirring releases the starch in your grits, which will make them creamier. This goes on for about 20 minutes, or until the grits are done. Some people like super soft grits, but I like a little texture. You decide: If you like a little texture, your grits should be done in about 20 minutes. If you want them super smooth, keep cooking until you’re happy with them. I like grits to be pourable out of the pan when they’re done, but other people like them pretty firm. Once again – your call. If you think your grits are too thick, just add more milk or water and stir until they seem just right for you.
A lot of shrimp and grits recipes call for adding sautéed onions, peppers, or what have you to the grits. Not my thing, but adding a side of sautéed colorful peppers makes a nice balance.
Good grits are hard to come by in our neck of the woods, but it couldn’t be easier to order them. I ordered these guys on a Sunday, and they arrived Tuesday from South Carolina. You can order grits from many places, and in my book it’s well worth it to get stone ground grits from the source. However, if you are pushed for time and don’t want to wait around for an order to arrive, a good polenta can stand in for them.
A big thank you to Van Vinikow for introducing us to these beauties, and thanks to all of you for reading today – I really appreciate it. I hope you will love this recipe as much as we do, and would love to hear how you changed up your version to make it just right for you. Email me any time at email@example.com
I promise to reply to each and every note you send. xoxoxox
- FOR THE GRITS
- 1 cup yellow, white, or blue corn grits (preferably stone ground) NOTE: This recipe uses grits from Geechie Boy Mill (geechieboymill.com), milled and grown on Edisto Island, South Carolina. They are AWESOME, and available by mail order.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 tablespoon butter (or to taste)
- ½ - 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or any other favorite cheese you like. Monterey Jack is good, for example).
- FOR THE SHRIMP
- 1 to 2 pounds colossal shrimp (Size 13/15 per pound), peeled and deveined. This all depends on how many shrimp you think each person will eat, so just do the math and decide, then leave a couple for yourself since you are the cook and you will want to taste – you know - to make sure they’re just right. NOTE: Feel free to use smaller shrimp if you want – cooking time will be a little shorter)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2-3 tablespoons butter
- FOR THE GRITS
- Add the water, milk, salt and butter to a large saucepan and bring to a low boil.
- Slowly pour in the grits and stir until mixture comes to a low boil again.
- Reduce heat to simmer, cover the pan and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Peek in every couple of minutes and give it a stir – stirring releases the starch and makes the grits creamier. Telling when the grits are done is kind of a matter of your own taste. If you like them super creamy with no texture, they will most likely need to cook for longer than 20 minutes. I like them with a little texture left in the larger grains. The finish is up to you, but you’ll probably want to start tasting them at the 20-minute mark.
- When grits are done, add more butter if you like and stir in. Now is the time to take a look. The grits should be ‘pourable’, rather than stiff. If they are too stiff, just add more water or milk and stir until you reach pourable consistency.
- Add the cheese and stir until melted.
- Serve immediately.
- FOR THE SHRIMP
- Sprinkle the shrimp with the salt and smoked paprika and either use your hands or a couple of forks to toss the shrimp with the spice mixture. Make sure each shrimp is well coated.
- Heat a large skillet to medium high and add the butter. Continue heating the butter until it just begins to turn golden. Add the garlic and continue cooking another 30 seconds or so until you can smell the garlic.
- Immediately add the shrimp (in one layer – not a good idea to pile them on top of each other).
- Now is the time to keep an eye on them. The shrimp will turn a beautiful deep red and look firm on the side being cooked when they are done. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes, but every stovetop and every skillet is different, so you need to look carefully and use your own judgement.
- When they are cooked on one side, turn each shrimp over, immediately cover the pan, and let them finish cooking with the residual heat of the skillet. This will take about 1-2 minutes. When shrimp are done, they look opaque in the center. If they shrunk up, they went too long but what the heck – they will still be delicious. We learn by doing, so consider it a life lesson that tastes good.
- TO SERVE
- Spoon a generous portion of grits onto the plate and spoon on the shrimp. I love to drag a piece of shrimp through the cheesy grits and pop the whole works in my mouth, but chow down however works best for you. I don’t need to tell you anymore – instinct will take over. Enjoy!!