The first side dish that comes to mind when I think indulgent? Cheesy grits. The perfect counterpart to spoon on top of said cheesy grits? Shrimp. A pairing that will not disappoint any palette, I've tried several recipes of shrimp and grits over the years, and every single one left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. Why? Let me tell you.
When Leah and I competed at the 2018 US Dressage Finals in Lexington, Kentucky, I was equally excited about the experience and the culinary scene in a new, vibrant city. My mom, Barrett and myself stumbled upon Carson's Food and Drink - life changed. Carson's is located in downtown Lexington and arguably serves some of the best fare I've ever held at the end of my fork. Barrett ordered shrimp and grits... He still claims the dish is the best shrimp and grits he's eaten to this day. We loved Carson's so very much that we ate there three times during the week of Finals, each night Barrett ordering shrimp and grits. So, you could say I carry some fond memories over the southern staple.
You could also concur that I've made it my mission to replicate Carson's shrimp and grits within my own kitchen. My recipe comes pretty, pretty dang close. While the preparation might look a little daunting, I promise you, it is not. If you can chop, drop, season and stir, you can create an elegant shrimp and grits that is sure to wow you crowd.
The price breakdown of this dish depends heavily on your local seafood market. I suggest using anything fresh, but frozen will work nicely too. Roughly, my shrimp and grits cost $7.00 per person and I was able to yield 6 servings out of the pot. Grits are incredibly inexpensive, and so versatile; I highly recommend you keep this ingredient in your pantry at all times. The meal is lovely for entertaining - invite your barn pals over, crack open a chilled bottle of white wine (or whatever you fancy) and talk all things horses.
Here's what you'll need:
1 1/2lbs peeled and deveined shrimp - fresh or frozen
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 small onion chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 leek - white part chopped (optional, but the flavor it adds is wonderful and leeks are so beneficial to our bodies)
3 strips bacon - chopped
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning
Splash of white wine (optional)
Salt + pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup quick cook grits
Sour Cream (add as much as you like)
Cheddar cheese (add as much as you like)
Salt + pepper
1) Chop bacon into bite sized pieces, throw into a deep dutch oven or pot, and cook over medium heat until browned. Remove from the pot and allow the bacon to drain with a paper towel placed on a plate.
2) While your bacon is browning, chop your bell pepper, onion, garlic, and leeks.
3) When you have removed your bacon from the pot, leave the grease and dump in your vegetables. Sauté until fragrant. The nose knows.
4) This the perfect time to season your shrimp! Make sure they are all coated in the cajun seasoning. Also, look for a seasoning without MSG. Read the package thoroughly before purchasing, because MSG is yuck.
5) Toss your shrimp into your vegetable mixture. Cook until they are pink and no longer translucent. You'll want to do this over medium heat.
6) When your shrimp is nearly cooked, throw your bacon back in...
7) Squeeze in the juice of one lemon...
8) And a splash of white wine (and a little salt and a little pepper)...
Admire your beautiful work. Allow the shrimp mixture to simmer over low heat while you prepare the grits. You want the flavors to marry.
For the grits...
1) Bring 4 cups (or one container in my case) of chicken broth to a boil in a separate pot.
2) When the stock is boiling, add one cup of quick cook grits. Stir, and reduce the heat to low. You'll need to babysit this and stir frequently. I made the mistake of walking away one time, and next thing I knew, I had lumpy grits all over my stove. Ha!
3) When the grits are thick, add in your sour cream and cheese! Eyeball this, and combine however much you'd like. Season with salt and pepper.
4) Stir to combine and appreciate this gorgeous concoction of deliciousness.
And there you have it, friends. Spoon a nice portion of grits into the bottom of a bowl and top with the shrimp mixture. You can garnish with a little green onion if you so desire!
My mouth is watering.