(Yes, I meant to spell it that way, it's how my mom says it and I love it)
So, I have seen all kinds of versions of Shrimp and Grits over the years. Most of them might closely resemble the traditional look, but few resemble the traditional flavor. I have seen people try to make Shrimp n Grits with snap peas, cherry tomatoes, low-fat ingredients (this is blasphemy!), canned sauce substitute, margarine, etc. But that is not they are supposed to be.
In the "Charleston Receipts" cookbook (which my husband found a slightly beaten copy in a trash pile on trash day when we lived in Charleston. This is not as gross as it sounds, people leave all kinds of good stuff on the curb in boxes for people to take or to be picked up by the garbage collector in Charleston) anyhoo...so in this cookbook it says that the African-American cooks and caretakers of the Charleston area would make a quick breakfast for their charges with the fresh seafood and home-cured meats readily available in the kitchen. These talented and busy ladies would fry up some ham or bacon in a pan, add flour to the drippings, butter, then shrimp, a little cream and they would serve it up over some steaming hot grits. A hot, nutritous breakfast of grains and protein (and a wee bit of fat).
Shrimp and grits isn't supposed to be complicated. High-falutin' chefs who want to steal the glory that these amazing, Southern ladies perfected years ago try to make it all fancy to impress those outside of the lowcountry (coastal region of South Carolina). And if you are afraid of grits, don't be. It is made from corn, has a light flavor that is the perfect vehicle for so many foods. And my kids love 'em with some butter and eggs in the morning.
Here is my recipe, loosely adapted over the years, and even more loosely made each time I throw it together because I never do a recipe the same way twice.
Neva's Shrimp n Grits (serves 6)
pictured with a zucchini, onion and tomato saute and whole wheat french bread
2 Lbs Raw, peeled shrimp- cut in half (if you are cooking, enlist someone else for this chore- it is a major P.I.T.A.)
3 peices of raw bacon
1 stick of butter
1/4 c cream
1/2 c milk
1/2 c all purpose flour
1 clove of garlic- crushed
1 tb of finely chopped onion
handful or chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce as desired
grits- yellow are the best but plain ole quaker quick grits work fine too
Cook the grits- use water not milk to cook them as directed. They cook in less than 10 minutes, perfect for a busy mom! Stir in 1 TB butter and a little milk after they are cooked, plenty of salt. Set aside.
Fry bacon in a high sided skillet. Remove bacon, leave drippings in pan. Add shrimp, garlic, and 2 TB butter to pan. Cook shrimp HALFWAY. Remove shrimp to a bowl, leaving drippings in pan. On low-med heat, add flour a little at a time, whisking with a fork to smooth any lumps, add 3 TB butter. Whisk continuously. Add salt and pepper. After a minute or so of cooking the roux (flour-fat mixture) add cream slowly. Continuing whisking. Add 1/2 of milk slowly. Sauce will thicken. Add shrimp. Tell EVERYONE TO GET TO THE TABLE IMMEDIATELY (shrimp and grits do not wait for no man).
Chop bacon up and set aside (preferably have kids do this with hands while you are busy).
Continuing stirring to finish cooking shrimp and keep sauce from sticking until shrimp are pink and white*. Add milk if sauce become too thick (hard to describe how thick/thin it should be- you want it thinner than ketchup consistency but not as thin as cream).
*Big Side-Note- shrimp can overcook fast! Then they are too tough to eat. Shrimp are done when they have just gone from the raw gray-brown and clear color to a light salmon-pink and white. Remove from heat and serve as soon as this happens, do not leave them cooking in the sauce or you will have Rubber and Grits for dinner!
Plate a mound of hot grits, scoop shrimp and sauce over grits. Add chopped bacon peices and parsley to the dish. Serve and eat and begin dropping your ending "g's", Darlin!
Now you have tasted true Southern Ssrimp n Grits! (Caution: DO NOT weigh yourself for 24 hours after eating this delicious suppa'!)
For the semi-vegetarian: I make this for my mother-in-law who eats seafood and dairy but not meat- leave a comment if you want that version sent to you.