With the name, The Shrimp Connection it should be obvious right – shrimp! And what better way to use local fresh-caught shrimp than in a classic Carolina dish – shrimp and grits. Lucky for us, Nate recently picked up a bag of locally made stone ground grits with the idea of making them for breakfast one weekend. When I went to purchase the shrimp that next Saturday, I told the friendly proprietor I wanted to prepare shrimp and grits like a “real Southerner.” He replied, “Ma’am, there are some really good recipes out there, but a lot of not so good recipes too. We’ve got a really good recipe on our website. Why don’t you check it out?” While I’m not a fan of being called Ma’am just yet – give me until I hit 40 at least – I did admire the man’s Southern graciousness and marketing skills by shamelessly plugging his website.
I conceded to the plug and searched the site for the recipe, but came up empty-handed. Now I was nervous. I was going to have to do a blind Google search for an “authentic” recipe in hopes I didn’t get one of the “not so good ones.” I wanted to make the dish as close to the classic as possible. I wasn’t nervous about preparing the shrimp – we cook shrimp a lot and in a variety of ways. It was the grits that had me in a tizzy. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what grits were (I know, and I was still allowed to buy a house in the state!) or how to prepare them. What if my first attempt at this dish was a total disaster? You know, so bad that the locals give you a, “Well honey, bless your heart for trying.” I may be new to the South, but I know what that really means. This Yankee transplant was determined to find a real recipe and learn a little more about these grits. I’m a pro at cooking risotto… How different could it be, right?
What if my first attempt at this dish was a total disaster? You know, so bad that the locals give you a, “Well honey, bless your heart for trying.” I may be new to the South, but I know what that really means.
After some research, I found several articles lauding the shrimp and grits at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill and a recipe at saveur.com referring to it. As noted in Eater.com, this celebrated restaurant is often cited as the birthplace of the dish, its popularity stemming from the use of fewer, fresh ingredients. That’s all I needed to read – the likely creator of the dish, and the use of a few fresh, delicious ingredients – I was ready to take on the challenge.
I stayed fairly true to Saveur’s recipe, in particular, their instructions for preparing the grits. While some recipes call for milk or cream as the cooking liquid, this recipe uses all water (a must for these lactose-intolerants!) and minimal butter (The Paula Dean-style use of butter thankfully could be avoided!). I also omitted the mushrooms feeling they’d give the dish a “beefy” taste. I really wanted the flavors of the grits, shrimp, and sauce to shine through. Also, the recipe says it serves four, but don’t kid yourselves, if you’re going back for seconds – and trust us, you will – the recipe serves about 2 ½. We’ll definitely be using this dish as a show-off meal when entertaining. You know, because that’s what I do now as a southern lady, I entertain. I’d say double the ingredients if preparing for four people.
(For the full ingredient list and recipe instructions, check out the printable recipe card, below.)
After trying out the recipe at home back in May, I’ve ordered it at several local restaurants for comparison. (The dish at Flatiron in Davidson is pretty darn delicious!) I was impressed that the look and flavors of my creation were on par with the high-end restaurant fare I sampled. However, I haven’t quite mastered those grits. At serving time, mine looked and tasted perfect – tender, creamy, and a little bit gritty from the corn. By the time I reached the last spoonful at the bottom of my bowl though, they were lumpy and a little dry. Were they undercooked? Should I have soaked them in water the night before? I’m determined to get them right, so if your a southern grit connoisseur, send me your suggestions. In the meantime, I’ll keep up my recipe research by taste-testing across the Piedmont.