Grits are not a global phenomenon. I didn’t realize this until just last week, when I had to explain the concept to a friend–I had always assumed that they were a ubiquitous part of breakfast, alongside scrambled eggs and bacon, and when asked to describe them, I couldn’t come up with a good answer. They’re kinda bland and a weird texture and not really comparable to anything. They just are.
In any case, I have since seen grits described as a cousin to polenta or cream of wheat. They are made of ground corn and can be served in a variety of ways: salted, smothered in butter and cheese, mixed with sugar, in a casserole or as part of the delicious shrimp and grits (also known as “breakfast shrimp”).
I have a soft spot for cheese grits, but if you’re looking for a full-on main course, shrimp and grits is the way to go.
The beauty of this meal is that it’s appropriate for almost all occasions: a family brunch, a wedding reception, a casual riverside dinner, the list goes on. And the shrimp-and-grits bar at debutante parties is a huge attraction. I recently had the shrimp and grits at Vidalia, which I highly recommend for a nice meal.
To make this delicious dish, follow the lead of Martha Giddens Nesbit, author of Savannah Entertains and Savannah Classic Seafood.
- 4 cups water
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 6 slices bacon, chopped
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.
If you’re going to serve grits as a side dish with salt or sugar, keep in mind that, like oatmeal, they harden and become rubbery as they cool. They cook extremely quickly, so they should always be the last thing you prepare before sitting down to eat. On our 5th grade overnight field trip to Rock Eagle, a 4-H camp in rural Ga., the big joke was that the grits would stick to the ceiling. Yup, we were really mature at age 10 and 11. But it’s the truth, so treat your grits with care.
[Sidenote for anyone who doesn’t know: GRITS also is an acronym for Girls Raised in the South.]