shrimp & white cheddar grits

shrimpgrits

Is there anything more quintessentially southern than shrimp and grits? But man, grits sure do get a bad rap and I’ve met many people who claim to truly loathe them. But I would like to invite any grits-haters over for these white cheddar grits. These are slowly stirred and end up rich, smooth & absolutely decadent. Any grits-haters out there? Dinner at my place and I’ll try to convert you.

SHRIMP & WHITE CHEDDAR GRITS

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cups of shrimp stock *see directions below or buy pre-made
  • 1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup white cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 lb (8 oz.) pancetta or bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 24 large shrimp (approximately 1lb), peeled and de-veined *save your shells for the stock!
  • 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • 2 tsp. sea salt, plus more salt and pepper to taste

For the shrimp stock:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • all your shrimp shells from above
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped into big sections
  • 1/2 large carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 large celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 plum tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 5 springs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • small handful of whole peppercorns

Directions:

For the shrimp stock:

  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until almost smoking.
  2. Add the shrimp shells, onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  3. Then add the white wine and let it boil until it’s reduced by half, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken stock and water, the tomato, thyme (can throw them in as whole sprigs), bay leaf, and peppercorns.
  5. Bring it up to a boil and then turn it to medium low and cover it. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and skim the surface as needed.
  6. After the 30 minutes, strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve (preferably lined with cheesecloth) into a large bowl. Press on the solids to extract as much stock as possible. Discard the solids.
  7. If using immediately for the shrimp and grits recipe, return to the large saucepan and bring it back up to a boil and continue with the recipe. If saving for later, let it come to room temperature in the large bowl and then cover and refrigerate (or freeze). The stock will last up to 2 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer.

For the grits:

  1. Bring 4 cups of the shrimp stock and 2 tsp. of salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat.
  2. Once boiling, slowly whisk in the cornmeal.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking, whisking every few minutes, until the grits are soft and have lost the “gritty” texture (about 20-30 minutes). *If the mixture becomes too thick, you can add the remaining cup of shrimp stock and continue cooking until it is absorbed.
  4. Stir in the white cheddar cheese and heavy cream and whisk until smooth.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your preference.

For the shrimp:

*Make the shrimp once the grits get going. Don’t forget to stir your grits often.

  1. Cook the bacon or pancetta in a medium saucepan over medium heat until golden brown and crisp and the fat has rendered (about 8 minutes).
  2. Transfer the bacon using a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
  3. Spoon off all but 3 tbsp. of the fat from the pan and return the pan to the stove over high heat.
  4. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add the shrimp, garlic and thyme to the pan. Saute until the shrimp are light golden brown on both sides and just cooked through (about 1-2 minutes).
  5. Transfer the shrimp to the plate and reserve the garlicky sauce left in the pan to drizzle over the finished dish.
  6. Divide the grits evenly among 4 bowls and top each with shrimp. Drizzle the shrimp and grits with the reserved sauce. Sprinkle the bacon or pancetta pieces and green onions on top. Serve immediately.

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