Shrimp and Cheese Grits
I first had shrimp and grits in Charleston, S.C., and fell in love. The dish is Carolina Low Country cooking at its finest, showing French, Spanish and African roots. Stay away from instant grits and even quick-cooking grits if you can; they lack the depth of flavor of raw grits. It's also not unusual to cook the grits using milk instead of water, but I find milk more an interference than an improvement. However, if I have it, I like to cook the grits using shrimp stock instead of plain water.
Makes 4 servings
4 cups water or 2 cups water and 2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken or vegetable)
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup raw grits (don't use instant grits, and try to avoid quick grits)
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Bring water, or water and stock, to a gentle boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, salt and pepper. Slowly stir in grits (making sure the grits don't settle on the bottom and burn) then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Grits should be creamy, with about the consistency of oatmeal. If they are too thin, cook a bit longer; if they are too thick, add a bit of hot water, but keep in mind the cheese will thicken the mixture. Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese.
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound shrimp, peeled (reserve shells for making stock)
4 slices bacon
1/4 bell pepper (any color), diced (about 1/4 cup)
3 scallions thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup finely diced tomato (canned works fine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Mix together the white, black, red pepper and salt. Toss pepper mix with shrimp in a medium bowl and set aside.
Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, cool and chop coarsely.
Reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the skillet, add bell pepper and cook over medium heat until softened. Add scallions and garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add all remaining ingredients (including chopped bacon), increase heat to medium-high, and cook until shrimp is opaque — about 5 minutes.
Spoon grits onto plates or bowls and distribute shrimp over grits.