Growing up, my family seldom traveled. I was 14 or 15 the first time I took a flight and if we did go someplace for a long weekend, it was to visit friends in the Northeastern tristate area. Even though the town I grew up in was culturally diverse, I was an adult before I learned how geographically diverse the United States really is and with that, how geographically diverse our food culture is.
I really love coastal southern food. A few of my favorite cities are in the South, Austin, Charleston, Savannah, and whenever I see fried green tomatoes, pulled pork sliders, fried chicken or shrimp and grits on a menu, I’m pretty psyched, and not just because that also means there’s likely to be an excessively gluttonous macaroni and cheese on the menu, too.
Even though I’ve made several trips to the South, including a week in Charleston that resulted in a cooking class and the purchase of several cookbooks, I first tasted shrimp and grits for brunch at Carriage House in Chicago, a now-closed restaurant once known for its seasonal Southern cuisine, bourbon & craft cocktails.
The grits were quite possibly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, but the shrimp was served head-on. Now, I know that’s probably the proper way to eat shrimp and as a self-proclaimed foodie since long before the word ‘foodie’ made people want to hurl, I just can’t get over heads on shrimp. I have no problem averting eye contact with a whole fish, but when there are heads on shrimp, I’m pretty sure they can see into my soul and I want nothing to do with that.
Even though there are plenty of restaurants around the country that make perfectly delicious shrimp and grits, including the Carriage House if you don’t have the same psychological crustacean aversion that I do, you can also make them quickly and easily with very little cooking skill, and they won’t even give you the evil eye, either.
- 4 cups water
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 5 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- Bring water to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in three tablespoons butter and cheese.
- If using frozen shrimp, defrost according to package directions. If using fresh shrimp, rinse and pat dry. Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to a skillet and melt over medium heat, then add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, parsley and garlic. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is fully coated.
- Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately