After I published a post titled A Short History of Shrimp and Grits in the Houston Press last year, I got a comment from Nathalie Dupree who reminded me that she had written an entire cookbook on the subject. Dang! That’s dedication.
I thought about it after sampling the shrimp and grits at Ouisie’s Table the other day. As I said before, shrimp grits started out as low country fisherman’s dish of shrimp cooked in bacon grease served over creamy grits. It was Mississippi-born New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne who turned the dish into an icon of Southern cooking in 1985.
Bill Neal at Crook’s Corner restaurant in North Carolina started out with a French restaurant, but at Clairborne’s suggestion, turned it into an upscale Southern eatery. Neal’s shrimp grits featured a spicy sauté of shrimp over cheese grits loaded up with bacon, mushrooms and scallions. I think the shrimp and cheese grits at Ouisie’s Table were inspired by Bill Neal’s recipe. Almost every great Southern chef has got his or her own take on shrimp grits by now.
Here’s my humble version, made with our bold-flavored wild Texas brown shrimp:
Texas Brown Shrimp and Jalapeño Grits
The shrimp fishermen who made the original Low Country breakfast shrimp didn’t serve them with cheese grits, and I don’t either. The grits I make at home are Anson Mills stone-ground yellow grits cooked overnight in a crockpot in a mixture of three parts water to one part milk. I do like them spicy though. Cut down the amount of jalapeño or substitute green pepper if you are cooking for small children or Yankees.
4 cups cooked yellow stone-ground grits
1 stick of butter, divided use.
1 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced (or to taste)
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
6 green onions, chopped
Half cup cream (or as needed)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound Texas brown shrimp, shelled
Freshly ground black pepper
Green onion tops for garnish
Over medium heat, melt three quarters of the butter in a skillet and sauté the onion, chile pepper, celery and half of the green onions in it. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the onion is softened, add the grits and stir. Add cream and keep stirring until the grits are the desired consistency.
Over medium heat, melt the rest of the butter in another pan and add the garlic and the rest of the green onions. Stir until wilted, then add the shrimp. Salt to taste. Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp are just cooked through. Add Tabasco sauce to taste.
Put a pile of grits in the center of a bowl or plate and top with shrimp. (Or you can arrange the shrimp around the outside of the grits.) Sprinkle with pepper and garnish with shaved green onion tops. Serve immediately with a stout Bloody Mary.