Within the first week of arriving in the South, I made it a priority to track down a hot serving of shrimp and grits. Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to find a place producing this southern classic.
I was amazed by the flavor such simple ingredients can pack; it’s safe to say I’ve never tasted anything like it, having rarely encountered southern cuisine in my daily life until recently.
When I saw locally-sourced blue corn grits, I felt inspired to give this dish the old college try. I purchased my first ever container of Cajun seasoning (made in Louisiana!) and prepped my ingredients as I let my thoughts wander backwards to what it was that made that first forkful taste so…significant. Perhaps a splash of cream over the top added to the sweetness of the moment?
There’s no shortage of dairy and salt in this take on the classic. Go easy on the Cajun seasoning if you are sensitive to spice. Don’t skip the bay leaves. Cut your peppers and onion uniformly. And remember: relax! Southern cooking and stress do not go well together (don’t ask me how I know !)
Best served immediately. A spicy red wine would be a divine compliment to this dish.
South Carolina Shrimp and Grits
- Dutch oven
- Cast iron skilled
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups corn grits stone ground
- 2 whole bay leaves dried
- 1 tsp salt
- 7 Tbs unsalted butter cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 red bell pepper large
- 1 jalapeño large
- 1 white onion small
- 2 smoked sausages or andouille sausages
- 5 pieces thick cut bacon
- 1/2 can light beer
- 1 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 Tbs unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- fresh watercress leaves for garnish
- Place water, milk, grits, bay leaves, and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook, whisking attentively, 30-40 minutes, adding small amounts of water and lowering heat as needed if grits begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove bay leaves, and add butter and parmesan and stir into the grits, tasting for salt. Stir in heavy cream and simmer about 1 more minute, or until the cream is incorporated. Cover until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, finely slice red bell pepper, jalapeño, and onion into uniform slices. In a large cast iron pan, sauté bacon over medium high heat until crispy, then drain on paper towels. Add the two sausages to the pan with reserved bacon fat and sear on both sides of the sausage until crisped and browned, about 4 minutes each side. Add sliced vegetables and sear, about 3 minutes. Add beer and Cajun seasoning and stir until vegetables and sausages are coated. Cover and turn heat to medium, leaving undisturbed for 5 minutes.
- Remove lid, remove sausages using tongs and place on the same draining plate as the bacon. Add butter and heavy cream to the pan and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. While sauce is reducing, snip drained bacon into 1” pieces and add to the pan. As soon as sausages are cool enough to handle, cut each lengthwise, then into half-inch-thick half-moons. Add to the pan and stir.
- Partition grits into bowls and ladle meat and sauce over the top. Garnish with a pinch of watercress and serve immediately.