Cornmeal: Shrimp and Bacon Grits

Shrimp and Grits-ForkFingersChopsticks.com

A few of you have said “grits” (the name) is off-putting.

True, it’s a little rough and abrupt. It doesn’t roll fluidly off the tongue. But, I like it. Just like I dig accents and colloquialisms – Southern included. When I lived in Texas, I couldn’t resist picking up a little twang and using “y’all” and “fixin’s” in my vernacular. It was signature to the South, just like grits.

To no surprise, shrimp and grits is also rooted there – South Carolina in particular. It was referred to as “breakfast shrimp” and was a simple fisherman’s breakfast during shrimping season–usually consisting only of shrimp, grits and salt.

Then along came Bill Neal, a young North Carolina chef whose interpretation of the dish has been described as “one of the signature dishes of the Southern culinary renaissance.”

Neal gussied up the low-country version adding sautéed mushrooms, bacon, garlic and cheese grits. It was a hit. Not really a surprise to me since it has bacon and cheese.

His version has become popularized with a little help from a New York Times review and his Southern cookbooks: Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking; Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie; and Good Old Grits Cookbook. Neal died in 1991, but his shrimp and grits are still a favorite at his former restaurant Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C. For any of you into Southern food, you may also want to check out Remembering Bill Neal: Favorite Recipes from a Life in Cooking, another collection of his recipes used at Crook’s, which was published in 2004.

The recipe below is adapted from Neal’s version. I reduced the amount of bacon, increased mushrooms, tweaked the seasonings and used green chile cheese grits for some extra earthiness and depth. It’s relatively easy to make and is fantastic for brunch served with some home-made biscuits. It’s good. So good, my husband puts it in his top 5 recipes on this site.

Also, I wanted to share this quirky, little black and white film about grits that I found while perusing the internet.

Tidbits on Grits:

  1. Southerners generally prefer stone-ground grits to the instant version. I found at least one reference to instant grits as “hog slop.”
  2. St. George, South Carolina hosts the World Grits Festival.
  3. At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga., Quaker (the grits producer) introduced the international audience to grits via its grits campaign.

Sources: Good Old Grits Cookbook by Bill Neal & David Perry; “Some South for Your Mouth,” Duke Magazine.

Ingredients - Shrimp and Cheese Grits - ForkFingersChopsticks

Shrimp and Bacon Grits

Adapted from Bill Neal’s Shrimp and Grits

Serves 4

I’m not a big fan of Tabasco sauce and used another Lousiana-style hot sauce. Make sure to add the lemon juice a little at the time to your liking.

Ingredients

1 recipe green chile cheese grits

3 slices bacon, diced

Vegetable or canola oil, if needed

4 cups fresh white mushrooms, sliced

1 pound fresh shrimp, deveined and peeled

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 to 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce

2 green onions, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Salt

Black pepper

Method

  1. Have green chile cheese grits near ready. Keep warm when done.
  2. Prepare shrimp for cooking. (If using frozen shrimp, rinse in warm water until thawed. Do not microwave them.) Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
  3. Dice bacon in medium size pieces and cook in a large skillet on medium-high heat until the edges are barely browned. Do not cook until crispy. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Set aside.
  4. Leave a thin layer of bacon grease in the bottom of the skillet, if not enough, add some oil. Over medium-high heat, saute the mushrooms for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Lightly salt mushrooms. Add the shrimp, stirring frequently; when shrimp are about half cooked, add the garlic and cooked bacon. Saute until shrimp are cooked (do not overcook or they will become rubbery).  Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice, hot sauce, green onions, parsley, salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings and lemon juice.
  5. Serve hot over hot green chile cheese grits.
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11 Responses to Cornmeal: Shrimp and Bacon Grits

  1. I had a college room mate from Nashville and I still slip a y’all in there every once in a while ;) We LOVE shrimp and grits around here. I like this Texas version you’ve done…going to have to try it. I make a North Carolina version.

    Andrea (FFC): This version is a little lighter on the bacon than the original but still plenty rich in flavor and texture. It’s adapted from a NC recipe with just a bit of southwestern green chile. Girl, you have me wondering what you put in your NC version?

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by pammy b, ForkFingersChopstick. ForkFingersChopstick said: New blog post: Cornmeal: Shrimp and Bacon Grits http://forkfingerschopsticks.com/cornmeal-shrimp-and-bacon-grits/ [...]

  3. That looks BIG on flavor. Am wondering where we’ll be getting our shrimp now since the Gulf is out. That was the farm-raised sustainable kind. My heart is broken.

    Andrea (FFC): Ditto.

  4. Shrimp AND bacon — two of my favorite ingredients. I imagine the grits acting almost like a sauce. Yum!

    Andrea (FFC): I like my grits a little thick. Your right shrimp and bacon is a great combo.

  5. arkansas rob says:

    Damd gurl, them grits and bacon be good. keep’em comin’. you get a “shut up now” for that recipe.

    Andrea (FFC): Just keepin’ it real.

  6. kirby says:

    not to diminish any of the other wonderful dishes on my wife’s site, but this dish rose to the top of my palate list when i tasted it. no, it leaped! it’s that good. w/grits and peppers as the base, the rest of the flavors – the bacon, hot sauce, shrimp, mushrooms, garlic, onions – all layered up for medley and depth of flavors that’s just hard to describe. there’s an old saying down south: MMM MMM MMM MMM MMMM (five times)! see three times means it’s really good. five times means it’s damn near orgasmic. what more do you need to say?

  7. cna classes says:

    It’s posts like this that keep me coming back and checking this site regularly, thanks for the info!

  8. Monet says:

    What a wonderful recipe and blog! I’m happy I stumbled on your site. My grandmother use to make us shrimp and grits, but this recipe might even be better than hers!

    Andrea (FFC): Thanks for stopping through and taking time to leave a comment. It’s hard to beat bacon and shrimp with cheese grits. But, I’m sure your grandmother’s was special because it was made with love.

  9. sippitysup says:

    I grew up in the south. There is nothing about grits that is off putting. Especially in your hands. GREG

    Andrea (FFC): Obviously, I like “grits” too! I didn’t know you were a Southern boy. No wonder you’re so cool.

  10. True story (many years ago):
    Yanlee sales rep for fishing tackle company making calls down South & finding grits not to his liking. Went to a cafe w/ #1 breakfast (2 eggs, ham, grits, biscuit); #2 ((2 eggs, ham, bacon, biscuit); #3 ((2 eggs, ham, bacon, biscuit), etc. w/ 1- and 3-egg variations. Said to waitress, “I’d like a #4 with no grits.” Waitress to Yankee, “Honey, we ain’t got nothin’ with no grits.”

    Claire

    Andrea (FFC): Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Gisele says:

    Hmmm… I have spent most of my adult life saying I ate enough grits (grits w/ eggs, grits w/ cheese, grits w/chili, grits w/ wieners) as a young child to last a lifetime, but this recipe would definitely be worth giving it a shot again!

    Ah- and btw, Trader Joe’s often has Wild Blue shrimp caught off Baja California that’s great! Hope fully the price won’t go up too much now.

    Andrea (FFC): I only started eating grits as an adult, after I met my husband. So, I’m game for all of the above but might skip the wieners and eat sausage instead. Thanks for the tip on TJs, although the nearest one to me is in Santa Fe. Even Omaha is getting one before Denver. What’s up with that?

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