Most will agree that Shrimp & Grits is THE definitive dish of the South Carolina Lowcountry. I’ve often said that you throw a rock in this town & you’ll hit 8 restaurants, 8 chefs & 8 iterations of “S&G.” Some will be superlative, many will be OK and some will be less than optimal.
The earliest recipe I’ve found comes from the Carolina Housewife, written by Sarah Rutledge in the early 19th Century. Titled “Breakfast Shrimps & Hominy,” the dish is little more than shrimp cooked in bacon fat & served atop grits.
But the dish has taken on a life of its own these days, appearing on menus from Seattle to Brooklyn. One of the best iterations came from the founder of the Chapel Hill Institution Crook’s Corner, Bill Neal.
Neal’s version so wowed New York Times Food Editor Craig Claiborne in 1986 that he reprinted the recipe in the Times, thereby creating an overnight sensation.
Claiborne was also to have alleged that the best breakfast he’d has in his life was at Crook’s Corner with the Chef & Owner, Bill Neal.
Only problem was, Crook’s Corner didn’t serve breakfast…
So here’s to Sarah Rutledge, Bill Neal, Craig Claiborne and Shrimp & Grits! (…and apparently also to hot breakfast in bed…)
- 3 ½ cups water
- ¾ cup regular grits (do not use instant quick-cooking grits)
- Salt to taste
- 1 pound fresh shrimp in the shell
- 12 drops Tabasco
- 6 ounces finely grated sharp Cheddar cheese
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 ½ ounces finely diced bacon, about 1/2 cup
- ¼ cup corn, peanut or vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped scallions, including green part
- 6 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced, about 3 cups
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
Bring the water to boil and gradually add the grits, stirring. Add salt. Cook uncovered, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Cover closely and continue cooking over low heat for 25 minutes or until done.
Meanwhile, shell and devein shrimp and put in a bowl. Set aside.
When grits are cooked, remove from heat. Stir in 6 drops of Tabasco sauce, the cheese and butter.
Place two heavy skillets on the stove. Add the diced bacon to one skillet; pour the oil in the other. Cook the bacon, stirring, until it starts to brown. Add the shrimp and cook, tossing and stirring so that they cook evenly, about 3 minutes. Add scallions and cook briefly.
As the shrimp cook, put the mushrooms in the hot oil in the other skillet and cook, tossing and stirring, until the mushrooms give up their liquid. Add the garlic and cook briefly, stirring. Add the lemon juice and stir.
Combine the shrimp and mushroom mixtures in one skillet and sprinkle with parsley and the remaining Tabasco. Stir to blend.
Spoon equal portions of the cheese grits onto six hot plates. Spoon equal portions of the shrimp and mushroom mixture over each serving. Serve immediately
Neal’s recipe as reprinted by Craig Claiborne in the New York Times used 2 skillets, though if you’ve taken my Undiscovered Charleston tour you know I only use 1. As always, don’t be afraid to improvise around the theme as this is a great vehicle for those last few spears of asparagus, shishito peppers or the last nub of country ham cut into a simple julienne. Use what you have and cook with love.
- Category: Main Dishes
- Cuisine: Lowcountry
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