Shrimp and Grits. Just the two words together take me to the coast and suddenly, I’m smelling the salty, ocean air and listening to the waves crash. Only this time, I’m in Statesboro, Georgia bringing the flavors of the lowcountry to my very own dinner table.
The sauce in this dish is money. It’s what sets it apart from any old recipe and makes you want to lick the bowl. This is stick-to-your-ribs kinda cookin’.
Be sure to make this recipe when you’ve got some time to be patient. It’s not one you want to throw together on a weeknight. If you prep your vegetables beforehand, that’ll save you some time. The recipe serves two, but I could only finish half. It’s rich and filling and needs nothing but a good appetite.
Bring salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, let your olive oil get hot. You want a good, crisp sear on the outside of the ham you’ll add later.
When the water comes to a boil, stir in quick-cooking grits (not instant) until well mixed.
As the grits cooks, toss chopped ham into the skillet. The recipe called for tasso ham and I searched every accessible grocery store high and low for it until I decided to settle for a smoked, chopped ham by Carolina Pride. Also, I had to add at least a half cup more water to the grits than the recipe called for because the consistency was too thick. The grits should be easy to stir like a good cream of wheat, not clumpy.
Once you toss in the ham, don’t stir it continuously. Just let it do its thing. Give it one good stir before tossing in your other vegetables.
I chopped two tablespoons each of onion, red bell pepper and leeks. Hint: Always read the recipe completely before embarking on cooking. I chopped two entire leeks before I realized I needed white parts only.
Once the ham is nice and crispy, add in the rest of your vegetables and saute. The smell in the kitchen is enough to make you stick your entire head over the skillet and inhale deeply time and again.
If using frozen shrimp, thaw them overnight, drain and rinse.
Toss the shrimp in and gently stir them around with the vegetables for 45 seconds or so until they turn pink. It’s very easy to over cook the shrimp, so keep a close eye on them. Once cooked, you’ll remove them and finish up the sauce.
I just love cooking with wine. Always cook with a wine you’d drink. It doesn’t have to be an expensive bottle. In this recipe, you use two tablespoons of wine to deglaze the pan, then you add the heavy cream, stir, watch it thicken and reduce by half.
The sauce will slowly thicken as it comes to a boil.
The ham is the true star in this sauce. The texture really compliments the grits and adds a nice depth of flavor.
To assemble the dish, divide the prepared grits into two bowls. Surround the grits with cooked shrimp, then drizzle the sauce right over the top of the grits. Woo whee!! That’s Some Kinda Good y’all! I start getting excited right here. Finish it off with a sprinkling of scallions. Don’t leave off the scallions. I know it’s easy to x-nay the garnish, but it really adds a bright, fresh and special finishing touch to this delicious dinner.
Light a candle, pour a glass of wine and take in the flavor like it’s the last meal you’ll ever eat. Just take a bite and imagine your backyard is the ocean. Savor it. Indulge. You’ll be glad you did.
The complete recipe can be found in Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. Paula doesn’t disappoint!