Shrimp and Grits are a lowcountry thing - more South Carolina than North. However, you do see them on a lot of menus at restaurants in North Carolina. Although I haven't been to the coast too much, I would imagine you would see them even more regularly there than in the more central Raleigh area. The best shrimp and grits that I've had in this area came from Crook's Corner in Chapel Hill. I like my version of shrimp and grits, I think they are better than most of the shrimp and grits that i've had, but Crook's Corner's blew me away. Their grits were so light and the sauce was so subtle but still not overpowered by the grits or the bacon in the dish. I was able to find a recipe for Crook's Corner's shrimp and grits , which I roughly follow now as my go-to recipe. Maybe some old belle in Charleston would lose her shit if she found out that there were mushrooms in this recipe, but I really like the texture that they lend to it, so they are keepers in my book. Here's my spin on it...
2 cups water
1 3/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular grits (stone ground if you can find them, quick grits are ok but get kind of gummy)
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (milder hot sauce, you just want the acidic tang to balance out the cream)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 bacon slices
1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions, plus more for garnish
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
If you are using stone ground or non-quick cook grits, plan for about 40 minutes of cooking time for the grits. If you're using quick-cook, they will take about 5-10. You should definitely plan accordingly because letting quick cook grits sit on the stove for 40 minutes while you make everything else because you got quick cook instead of regular means your grits will turn to wallpaper paste, and that sucks. I can speak on that one from personal experience.
|I got these guys at whole foods, I pretty much only took a picture because the bag is awesome.|
So anyway, bring water, stock, cream, and salt to a boil and add grits. Lower heat to medium-low and make sure that you keep stirring or whisking the grits once every few minutes to avoid clumps. When the grits are nearly done, add the cheese, butter, and hot sauce, and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can leave them to warm on the stove until you're ready to plate.
|Mostly finished grits pre-cheese|
For the shrimp, start by cooking the bacon until it is pretty well done, then remove it from the pan and drain it on a paper towel. Save about 1 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan for everything else, and toss the rest. While the bacon is cooking, toss the shrimp in the flour and a little salt until evenly coated. Saute your mushrooms for about 5 minutes in the bacon fat until they start to brown. Toss in the green onions and garlic and saute very quickly (don't let the garlic brown). Add the shrimp and saute on each side for a couple of minutes, until they turn pink. Add the chicken stock, hot sauce, and lemon juice and cook until the shrimp are done. Add the bacon just as it is finishing. You may have to whisk the flour into the stock a bit to break it up, but it will create a nice slightly thickened sauce for you. Season to taste (I use Crystal hot sauce, which is really mild but super tangy, it's great for this. I also end up adding a lot more than 1/4 teaspoon). The truth is that the sauce is a very quick process, it should only take about 10 minutes start to finish (from the bacon being done to finished dish), so be sure to have everything ready to go once you add the mushrooms.
|All the cool kids ready to go to the party|
|After adding chicken stock, scrape up the brown bits so that they flavor the sauce|