A friend and I were talking about grits today at work (I know. We’re weird.). And then we started talking about Charleston and how we both want to visit. My mom visited a few months ago and loved it. A college friend recently got engaged there (and I secretly loved reading her story on her blog). This is a town I’ve never been to that I’ve wanted to see for years, and so I concocted a scheme so I could visit tonight.
I started thinking about dinner at about 3 o’clock, which is easy to do when you’ve forgotten to eat lunch and you’re kinda bored at work. Shrimp and grits! It was the obvious answer. I daydreamed about it the whole train ride home.
Grits — the real kind, not instant — are incredibly delicious. Rich and creamy (without cream! Though I won’t stop you from stirring some in at the end) and not the least bit grainy. They seem a little intimidating — what if they get lumpy? — but they are surprisingly easy and well worth the time. And no, you don’t have to stand there whisking over a hot pot for half an hour.
Shrimp are a great freezer staple because they thaw and cook in just minutes. I choose wild American shrimp because they are sustainably harvested and farmed shrimp are often raised under less-than-ideal conditions (for both the shrimp and the environment). Of course, I love the opportunity to add in as many veggies as I can. And because it’s Southern, butter.
So go on a little journey tonight in your kitchen, while you plan your next weekend getaway.
Shrimp and GritsThe key to lump-free grits is to add them to the pot ever so slowly. Just sprinkle them in a little at a time while whisking. Once you have them all incorporated, you only need to stir the pot a couple of times while they cook. You can pay extra for a package that says “polenta” on the front, or you can use medium- or coarse-ground cornmeal — they’re the same thing. The shrimp and veggies only take about 15 minutes from start to finish so start cooking them accordingly. Serves 2.
For the grits (makes 3-4 servings):
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, water, or a combination
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional: 2-4 oz. shredded cheese
- Add stock/water, salt, and butter to a large pot (at least 3-qt) and heat over high heat. Just as bubbles begin to form on the surface, slowly whisk in cornmeal. Whisk for a minute or two, then cover and reduce heat to low. Stir every 15-20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed, 30-40 minutes. Stir in cheese, if using.
For the shrimp:
- 8 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
- 1/2 a green bell pepper, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- a couple handfuls of spinach
- salt and pepper
- juice of half a lemon or lime
- cilantro or parsley, to garnish
- Heat a large skillet (I used cast-iron) over medium heat. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry, then season with salt and pepper. Add the butter to the skillet; once melted, add the shrimp. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, depending on how large they are. Transfer to a plate or bowl, set aside.
- Add both peppers to the hot pan, season with salt and pepper. Cook about five minutes, til they start to soften. Add in remaining veggies. Cover for a few minutes to wilt the spinach, then cook uncovered for a few minutes more to break down the tomatoes.
- Squeeze in the lemon/lime juice to deglaze the pan; use a wooden spoon to scrape up the yummy brown bits. Return the shrimp to the pan, stir to combine, and serve atop the grits.