Grits: It’s a Southern Thing, Y’all

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.]

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3 Responses to Grits: It’s a Southern Thing, Y’all

  1. Catherine says:

    Agreed. Love some shrimp and grits. It will be served at our wedding reception as well…

    (P.S. Love this blog! I adore brunch!)

  2. Maggie says:

    I would have to say now that I have moved up North the inability to order cheese grits with my brunch has taken its toll. Which is why I have my mom send me Crook’s Corner’s (a Chapel Hill staple) grits regularly. Bill Neal’s shrimp and grits recipe is by far my favorite and just generally the most classic shrimp and grits recipe out there! (Something wonderful about the parmesan and cheddar to make the cheese grits and the dash of tabasco and mushrooms with the shrimp make all the difference!) I also recently made shrimp and grits for a Derby party I threw and to watch people try something so great for the first time is so enjoyable!

    And side note: I laughed out loud at the thought of grits on the ceiling at Rock Eagle. Must have been ubiquitous across time for all those 5th graders and 6th graders that went to Rock Eagle! (I hadn’t thought about that place in so long, but we went on multiple class trips there growing up in Atlanta)

  3. AntepleJainia says:

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!

    Cheers
    Christian, Satellite Direct Tv

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