Family Recipe Box: Shrimp and Grits

I found my grandmother’s recipe box not long ago. I wrote about it here. Instead of being the treasure trove of her recipes that I’d anticipated it would be, it was filled with clippings of recipes I imagine she wanted to try. I realized then that for her best dishes, Grandma didn’t need a recipe. But, for my sake, I wish she’d written them down. So, I’m slowly curating my own family recipes and am hoping to recreate a few of hers. This is part of a series of posts for my family recipe box. 

In the spirit of collecting and curating these recipes, I’ll share a different, but equally special, one with you today. This is one that I’m glad to have in my recipe box both now and for posterity, and it’s a regular favorite at our house.

Shrimp and grits.

This particular recipe is special because we served it at our wedding, and then each guest took home a copy of the recipe along with a bag of local grits.

Charleston shrimp and grits recipe wedding favors via the Maypop

Recipe courtesy of Mediterra Catering. Photograph from Kim Graham Photography.

For starters, It’s important to use stone-ground or whole-ground grits. I love the buttery color of yellow grits, but white grits will work just as well. We used these grits from Carolina Plantation, but any brand will work. You may not find them on the aisle with the rest of the grits in the grocery store; look for them in the specialty section. Just be sure that you don’t use regular grits, and especially don’t dare use quick cook or instant. I’m not a grits snob; I love Jim Dandy and Quaker grits with cheese and butter and bacon for breakfast. But, the finer milling does not produce the same creamy, thick texture that you get with a stone ground grit. And that texture is crucial for this recipe.

You’ll want to start your grits first, as they take a long time to cook. I would say at least 45 minutes to an hour; you want to be sure they are creamy and tender. I follow the directions on the bag, but I substitute heavy cream for some of the water. I would estimate that I use approximately 3 cups of water and 1 cup of heavy cream for each cup of dry grits. But, if they are too thick, I’ll add more water or cream to achieve the consistency we like. (The heavy cream for the grits themselves is not included in the recipe pictured above.) 

Next, saute the onions and bell pepper in oil until the onions are translucent. Add the ham and shrimp, and cook a few more minutes until the shrimp are opaque. Add the half and half, stirring constantly, and reduce until thick. Finish with the parsley and lemon zest to taste. Serve the shrimp gravy in shallow bowls over a bed of the prepared grits.

It never hurts to top your grits with some shredded cheddar cheese. And, I’ve successfully substituted other types of ham and also bacon for the tasso ham.

If you’re visiting Charleston, you’ll find a million wonderful variations of shrimp and grits at local restaurants. My personal favorites are at Page’s Okra Grill. I promise it’s worth the drive over the bridge!

And, I’m dying to try this recipe for Cajun Shrimp and Grits shared by Layla at The Lettered Cottage.




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