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Before ever tasting shrimp and grits, I must admit I was more than a little bit apprehensive about it. Grits were something you only ate at breakfast with your eggs and ham or bacon, or so I thought.
I love shrimp, whether it’s boiled, fried, sautéed, baked or grilled. But combining it with grits? “No way,” I said. Boy, was I wrong.
My conversion was actually the result of my first taste of cheesy grits, which I made at home. I had seen a couple Food Network cooking shows that raved about the taste of cheesy grits, so I decided to find out for myself. The result was Cheesy Grits with Red Eye Gravy.
I fried up some country ham and saved all the drippings. Then I cooked the grits using milk and butter instead of water. I had heard the grits would be creamier that way than if made with water.
Once cooked, I added some shredded Swiss cheese, stirred well and poured it into a 2-quart baking dish, topped it off with some grated Parmesan cheese and then baked it for about a half-hour.
The gravy was the easy part. We always have plenty of strong coffee in the morning. Just add a good cup of strong coffee to the country ham drippings, bring to a boil and let simmer until slightly thickened.
If you aren’t a fan of red-eye gravy, try my Shrimp and Grits with Gravy and Country Ham. The grits are made using chicken stock instead of water, along with whipping cream, butter and tomato paste. I like using shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese with this dish.
The gravy is simple to make, combining butter or margarine, minced garlic, all-purpose flour, chicken stock, whipping cream, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. You can add the chunked ham to the sauce or just serve it on top of the grits, cooked shrimp and gravy.
Cheesy Grits with Red-Eye Gravy
To make the grits:
1 qt. milk
1/4 lb. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup quick (5-minute) grits
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan, bring milk and butter to a slow boil. Stir in grits slowly. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the Swiss or Gruyere cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well and pour into greased 2-qt. casserole. Put dots of butter on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes. Place heaping spoonfuls of cheesy grits onto serving plates and top with the red-eye gravy. Makes 6-8 servings.
To make the red-eye gravy:
1 cup strong brewed coffee
2 Tbsps. drippings from fried country ham
Add coffee to drippings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Shrimp and Grits with Gravy and Country Ham
To cook the shrimp:
1-1/2 pounds (26-30 count) shrimp
1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
To cook the grits:
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
1 cup quick grits (5-minute)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
To make the sauce:
2 Tbsps. butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsps. all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 slice sugar-cured country ham, cooked and diced.
Peel and devein the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine Cajun seasoning, paprika, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle mixture over the shrimp to coat; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring chicken stock and 2 tablespoons butter to a boil. Slowly add the grits, whisking often for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, cream and cheese. Keep whisking for another 2-3 minutes, or until grits become creamy.
In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add minced garlic and stir briefly. Add spice-coated shrimp and cook until they’re just done and tender. Do not overcook. Remove the shrimp and set aside in a bowl.
In the same saute pan, add flour and stir with a wooden spatula to make a roux. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the roux reaches a medium-tan color, then slowly add the chicken stock and heavy whipping cream. Whisk together and cook another 2 minutes, then whisk in Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce.
To serve, mound some of cheesy grits onto a plate and top with several shrimp. Drizzle the sauce over the shrimp and top with some of the diced country ham. Makes 4-6 servings.
Shrimp and Grits with Peppers, Green Onions and Tomatoes
Many of the shrimp and grits renditions I’ve eaten are shrimp with some sort of sauce or gravy, served over white grits. My goal was to create a shrimp and grits dish that was a little different than the standard, combining onions, peppers, tomatoes and spicing it up a little with some cayenne pepper and chili powder.
2-1/2 cups milk
4 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup quick-cooking (5 minutes) white grits
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/4 cup fresh, chopped oregano
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) whole tomatoes, drained, quartered
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1-1/2 lb. uncooked medium shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Bring milk, butter, chili powder and cayenne pepper to a slow boil; stir in grits slowly. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth and creamy, about 5 minutes. In a large skillet or saute pan, sauté shrimp, onions, green peppers and fresh oregano over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer another 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in the warm grits and serve with freshly grated Romano cheese. Makes four servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.