For Christmas dinner, Carol made two of her family’s favorites: shrimp and grits, and pear and bleu cheese salad. She also made pots de creme in some antique pots from her great aunt. It was a delicious dinner without the turkey, but with plenty of calories.
This post, though, is about the shrimp and grits. Carol and her husband met during their graduate studies in North Carolina. Coming from Louisiana, Carol was used to southern cooking, but her future husband had grown up in New Jersey and had gone to school in the Midwest, so southern cooking had to become an acquired taste. He adapted soon enough.
A favorite haunt for the two of them was Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. There, the menu includes pulled pork and North Carolina-style barbecue. But the place has gained its international fame from its version of shrimp and grits. Part of the uniqueness of Crook’s Corner shrimp and grits is that they stone grind their own grits. In fact, Carol still orders her grits from there instead of buying inferior brands at the store. And by inferior, I do mean inferior. Properly cooked grits require at least a half hour of cooking, and old-timey grits are for the most part not to be had. The grocery shelves, even in southern cities, have been filled with “quick” grits and, worse, “instant” grits. Instant grits are in the same category as instant mashed potatoes and instant rice. If that’s all you’ve ever eaten, it’s no wonder that you don’t like them.
Carol’s recipe comes from the Crook’s Corner cookbook, so it clearly is made with Crook’s Corner grits. If all else fails, you can get your grits from there, too.
Carol’s Crook’s Corner Shrimp and Grits
- 2 pounds fresh, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces bacon
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
- zest of one lemon
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
- Rinse the deveined shrimp in running water, and chill until ready to cook
- Bring the water and slat to a rolling bol in a deep sauce pan. Let the grits trickle through your fingers into the boiling water slowly while stirring constantly. The water will boil up and overflow unless you stir constantly, and remove from the heat as needed. When the grits have been completely added to the water, stir to remove any lumps, lower the temperature to a low simmer, and cover. Cook for at least 45 minutes. An hour is better. Stir occasionally.
- When the grits are cooked, stir in the cheese and keep warm until ready to serve.
- In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cut the bacon into 1 inch squares and add to the hot skillet. Stir frequently until crisp but not burned.
- Add the shrimp to the bacon and rendered bacon fat, stirring occasionally.
- When the shrimp begin to turn pink, add the garlic and sliced mushrooms. Stir occasionally until the shrimp are pink and the mushrooms are cooked.
- Serve the grits in individual soup bowls topped with the shrimp mixture and garnished with lemon zest and parsley. Pass hot sauce for those who like their shrimp and grits spicy. Seve with crusty French bread and the pear and bleu cheese salad.