This humble Low Country dish can be dressed up to the nines.
This humble Low Country dish can be dressed up to the nines.

Dish of the Week: Shrimp and Grits

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re covering good ol' fashioned Shrimp and Grits.

The word grits is derived from the Old English word "grytt," – meaning coarse meal. Though the term grytt originally referred to wheat and other porridges, grits is used to describe the Native-American ground corn dish – commonly made with butter and milk – that is a staple in the South today.

And one of the most popular pairings for the dish? Shrimp, of course!

Shrimp and grits is a traditional Low Country breakfast that started out as a seasonal fisherman’s dish. Known as “breakfast shrimp,” the dish was made during shrimping season (normally May through December), with the fresh shrimp being cooked in bacon grease and served over creamy grits.

It was made in coastal Low Country towns for decades, but it was relatively unknown in areas outside the region until the 1985. That’s when Craig Claiborne, a writer from The New York Times, visited the popular Chapel Hill restaurant Crook’s Corner and – impressed by chef Bill Neal’s shrimp and grits – published a recipe for “Shrimp With Cheese Grits” in the paper. By the '90s, the dish had spread throughout the South, transforming what was once a humble breakfast food into one that made its way onto the menus of fine-dining establishments.

Today, you can find both homestyle and chef-driven versions nearly anywhere. But Neal’s original recipe, which is still served at Crook’s Corner over 30 years later, is iconic for a reason. Sometimes, it’s best not to mess with the classics.

Crook's Corner Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients yields 4 servings
2 cups water
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup regular grits
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 bacon slices
1 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp hot sauce
Lemon wedges

Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Add Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients. Keep warm.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon, and set aside.

Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and salt; dredge in flour.

Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are lightly brown. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet.

Serve shrimp mixture over hot cheese grits. Top with crumbled bacon; serve with lemon wedges.

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