Every once in a while I crave something warm, comforting, and quick with a flavorful kick and this recipe for shrimp and grits fits the bill. A true New England girl I had only heard of grits when they were referenced by Joe Pesci in the movie My Cousin Vinny but had never tasted these tiny creamy grains until I was introduced to them by a friend from Texas in college. Her father would eat a bowl full of grits each morning for breakfast. When I moved to Norfolk I would see grits on the menus of many restaurants and I even cooked them on occasion at home (never for breakfast though).
There is something oddly comforting about this simple grain. Topped with a bit of butter they are nice but when you add in cheese–and in this case a bit of bacon–the comfort level moves to a whole new level. Of course grits cannot be purchased here but I had the foresight to add two boxes of them to our consumables shipment before we moved to Albania. We don’t eat them often but when we do I find myself wondering why I don’t make them more often. After all, they are easy and tasty and can serve as the basis for any saucy protein.
This recipe is an adaptation that is courtesy of From Away. Gouda cheese has become my go-to substitution when cheddar is called for and not available (as is always the case in Albania). I also made my own Cajun mix since this combination of spices is unheard of in the Balkans.
Shrimp and Grits
6 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 cup white corn grits
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Gouda cheese, grated
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning**
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup scallions, diced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Tabasco sauce, to taste
** To make your own Cajun seasoning mix combine the following in a small bowl:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Yields approximately 1/8 of a cup. Since you only need one teaspoon of the mix for this recipe, you can store the remainder of the mix in an airtight container in your spice cabinet until you make shrimp and grits again.
To make the shrimp and grits:
- In a deep skillet, cook bacon bits over medium heat until the fat has rendered, transfer to a paper towel.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil, then slowly whisk in the grits. Cook 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat, until all the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in butter, Gouda cheese and bacon.
- Add shrimp to the hot bacon grease and saute briefly, 2-3 minutes. Season and stir in garlic, scallions, parsley, and lemon juice. Remove from the heat and serve in a bowl over grits with Tabasco to taste