Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Being from Kentucky, I don't mind saying that I've eaten my fair share of grits. Most people from here and from the rest of the South Eastern US have grown up with this dish but it was only when I first traveled to Charleston that I tried Shrimp and Grits for the first time. My first encounter with the dish came at a restaurant called The Noisy Oyster and it was love at first taste. I came back to Kentucky determined to add this dish to my favorites and I've been making it ever since. Since it's such a unique recipe, I searched for some background information on it and came across some very interesting facts in an article written for "What's Cooking America."

To a Southerner, eating grits is practically a religion, and breakfast without grits is unthinkable. A true grit lover would not consider instant or quick-cooking grits; only long-cooking stone-ground grits are worth eating. Outside of the southern states, the reaction to grits is mixed.

Grits are served as a side dish for breakfast or dinner and are traditionally eaten with butter and milk. three-quarters of the grits sold in the United States are from a belt of coastal states stretching from Louisiana to the Carolinas, known as the "Grits Belt."

Grits (or hominy) were one of the first truly American foods, as the Native Americans ate a mush made of softened corn or maize. In 1584, during their reconnaissance party of what is now Roanoke, North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh and his men met and dined with the local Indians. Having no language in common, the two groups quickly resorted to food and drink. One of Raleigh's men, Arthur Barlowe, recorded notes on the foods of the Indians. He mad a special not of corn, which he found "very white, faire, and well tasted." He also wrote about being served a boiled corn or hominy.

When the colonists came ashore in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, the Indians offered them bowls of this boiled corn substance. The Indians called it "rockahomine," which was later shortened to "hominy" by the colonists. The Indians taught the colonists how to thresh the hulls from dried yellow corn. Corn was a year-round staple and each tribe called it by a different name.

In the Low Country of South Carolina and particularly Charleston, shrimp and grits has been considered a basic breakfast for coastal fishermen and families for decades during the shrimp season (May through December). Simply called 'breakfast shrimp," the dish consisted of a pot of grits with shrimp cooked in a little bacon grease or butter. During the past decade, this dish has been dressed up and taken out on the town to the fanciest restaurants. Not just for breakfast anymore, it is also served for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

In 1976, South Carolina declared grits the official state food:
Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of South Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace.'
Article by Linda Bradley

Creamy Shrimp and Grits

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined*

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)

1/4 cup butter

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 cup stone-ground grits**

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and black pepper to taste

6 bacon slices

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped green or red bell pepper

* Add add flavor, place the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over low heat approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the broth, discarding shells. Add shrimp broth to hot stock.

** If using quick-cooking grits (not instant, reduce cream to 1/2 cup and reduce stock to 1 cup.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter salt, and pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added; reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (be careful not to scorch mixture), or until the grits are tender.

NOTE: Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. remove from heat. Serve shrimp and grits with a wedge of sweet yellow cheddar corn bread.


Betsy said...

Not being from a grit eating family, I think I've only had them a handful of times....but I like grits! This dish looks so yummy!....bacon, shrimp, grits, gream...."how bad could that be???" as Ina Garten would say :)

willow said...

I went to college in the south and they served grits with almost every meal, so I really acquired a taste for them. Real comfort food. I could eat them every day, but others around here don't appreciate them like I do.

Your recipe looks amazing. I can almost smell it from here. sigh.

Dee Dee said...

Oh my Rebecca...We know all about grits! I had not eaten them until I married my husband. His family had yellow grits each morning for breakfast. For many years I prepared them for my children, and you are so instant grits in this family. I have not had Grits and Shrimp (looks mighty tasty), but I have heard of grits with redeye gravy. We have eaten them served with fresh salmon....a very tasty way to eat this South Carolinian choice of food...What a fun post :)

steviewren said...

I haven't had Shrimp and Grits, but I am a fan of grits, butter and cheddar cheese with sausage torn up and mixed in. Mmmmm, good breakfast comfort food.

Rebecca said...

Besty and Willow, the dish is so good and when it's served with cornbread...Oh my...I could eat way too much of both!

Willow, where did you go to college?

Rebecca said...

Deedee and Stevie, I figured being from the south that you would've had grits more often than not...If you like shrimp with sauces( or gravy) then you'll like shrimp and grits. My favorite regional restaurant here is called Holly Hill Inn and they serve the most amazing grits with White Cheddar cheese... They get them from Weisenberger Mill, a local family run business that's been in operation since 1865...Ah..Bliss!

rochambeau said...

I LOVE GRITS!!!!!!!!!!!
Your of my top ten foods Rebecca!

Your my kinda girl!

Blog Princess G said...

I'm salivating again. D'oh!!

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

REbecca, I'm slightly embarrased here....I dont' know what grits are. I've heard of them, and know they are a southern tradition, but I'm flummoxed as to what it is...a grain of some sort? I don't think they sell them up here. Do they go under another name, perhaps (other than hominy?)

Thanks... I always learn something on your blog!

Rebecca said...

Lavinia, no need to be embarassed if you haven't grown up around them it only stands to reason that they'd be a bit of a mystery.

Grits are corn based-actually consisting of corsely ground corn and they're cooked to make an almost porridge substance.
"Traditionally the corn for grits is ground by a stone mill. The results are passed through screens, with the finer part being corn meal, and the coarser being grits. Many communities in the Southern U.S. used a gristmill up until the mid-20th century, with families bringing their own corn to be ground, and the miller retaining a portion of the corn for his fee."
We eat them mainly with breakfast but also sometimes at suppertime. Some people just like them with salt and butter while others serve them with cheese( which is great, IMO) and with shrimp or sausages with a gravy. We usually have several cheese grits casseroles brought to our church pot-lucks, and there is rarely any left to take home:-)

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Thank you Rebecca, for clearing up that mystery. So the taste is one of corn, I take it? Well really now, I think I'll have to visit down south to investigate further!

I'm in the middle of reading your history of far so fascinating...