Having lived several years of my life in the American south, I discovered the pleasure of eating grits. Admittedly grits are not something that everyone considers a gastronomic pleasure. In reality, this coarsely ground corn of Native American origin, is generally just a vehicle for the other seasonings around and in it. Most often one finds grits on the breakfast table or buffet; however, based on the growing number of times grits are listed in dinner entree recipes now, it appears that they are becoming nearly as popular as their sister, thick, maize-based porridges from around the world like polenta and farina.
Those who have lived in the south have no doubt heard many praises for this homely starch. The state assemblies of both Georgia and South Carolina have made proclaimations about the southern staple. As well, an article in the Charleston, South Carolina Post 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.”(1)
I have often needed to defend the joys of eating grits as others wrinkle their faces at the mere mention of the ingredient. I contend that those who have protested so much have yet to taste well-prepared grits. So now, I challenge you, regardless of your geographic location, to try this delicious seafood and grits meal. Its hardiness is simply perfect on a cool fall or cold winter day, and yet, it is just as appropriate for al fresco service on a spring or summer night, given the bright notes & acidity from the lemon juice, parsley, and scallions.
This recipe will serve 4 and takes approximately 15 minutes preparation time and 25 minutes cooking time.
• 4 cups water
• Salt and pepper
• 1 cup stone-ground grits (not instant or quick cooking)
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
• 6 slices bacon, chopped
• 4 teaspoons lemon juice *
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley *
• 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
• 1 large clove garlic, minced
Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In (some of the) grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.
*Sometimes I will use lime juice and cilantro instead of the lemon and parsley to very good effect. I like serving maragitas on the rocks in salt-rimmed glasses with this variation on the recipe.
Wine Pairing Possibilities:
My particular favorite with this dish is Cupcake Vineyards Chardonnay. The winery describes this variety as “soft and creamy with apple, tropical fruits, vanilla and spice”, which I find spot-on. The smoothness is a lovely complement to the dish when using the theory of a full-bodied wine with a full-bodied meal.
If you’d like your wine to cut through the fattiness of the bacon, you may wish to serve this along with a Pinot Grigio or even a Prosecco. The Prosecco is particularly a good choice if you are making this for small-bites prior to seating at a dinner party. (The recipe would make more than 20 appetizer portions looking particularly stunning in an Asian soup spoon plating.
If you prefer a red wine, which I often do, a dry fino sherry, sangiovese, or grenache may provide a nice synergy to the flavors of the meal.