Shrimp and Creamy Grits
If you have lived or have roots in the Southeastern coastal U. S., shrimp and grits is an old friend. Once a breakfast staple, this dish has pushed its way onto lunch and dinner menus across the Mid-Atlantic, and now even appears on menus in the North. The styles, variations of and additions to this dish are seemingly endless.
When my daughter lived in South Carolina I was fortunate to be introduced to this and many other Low Country dishes. In particular, I learned about creamy grits, made from stone ground grits. Previously I had only tried the "instant" variety of grits, a poor representation of the real thing.
Grits are basically just dried and ground white corn. Long slow cooking, reminiscent of the process for making risotto, produces a flavorful and satisfying porridge which makes a perfect partner for additions such as eggs, sausage or gravy. Stone ground grits can be hard to find, especially in the North, partially because this variety has a short shelf life. (Ground slowly, like other stone ground grains, stoneground grits contain oils that can become rancid fairly quickly. This can be mitigated by keeping stone ground grits in the freezer.) However, stone ground grits can be ordered from several on-line suppliers.
My version is extremely simple, with little to distract from the wonderful combination of the creamy grits and the fresh shrimp cooked in a broth made from their shells and heads. Good for breakfast, lunch or dinner, I look forward each year to the arrival of the local Maine shrimp and the opportunity to make a few more meals of shrimp and grits.
Shrimp and Creamy Grits
1 lb fresh cold-water shrimp, peeled (called Maine or Matane shrimp)
3 C red shrimp broth
3 T + 1 T butter
1 cup stone ground grits
1 C heavy cream
3 - 4 C stock, milk or water
salt, hot sauce to taste
2 scallions, chopped
Bring 2 cups of the water to a boil. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter, and when it has melted, stir in the grits. Lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cream and simmer 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Then, over the next 20 - 30 minutes, keep adding the remaining liquid by half-cupfuls, simmering and stirring occasionally, until the grits are done to the desired consistency. They should be slightly soupy but stiff enough to stand up on a spoon. Season to taste.
In a sauté pan, bring the red shrimp broth to a simmer. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter, then add the shrimp and stir for a minute or two over low heat. Do not overcook the shrimp. Remove from heat, season to taste, and spoon the shrimp mixture over bowls of hot creamy grits. Garnish with the scallions.
I use a crock pot to make the grits, which reduces the amount of watching it takes. I perform the first step (boil water and butter, stir in grits) in a saucepan on the stove, then pour the mixture into the crock pot, which I've preheated, and continue with the rest of the preparation in the uncovered crock pot set on high.