Shrimp and Grits: An Iconic Southern Breakfast Dish

 In Shrimp and Grits

Where Did Shrimp and Grits Originate?

Shrimp and grits history shows us that this southern cuisine of humble ingredients became a meal with gourmet status, the Civil War being partly to blame, and the remainder of the credit going to North Carolina cook named Bill Neal. The end of the Civil War greatly and negatively impacted Southern culture and commerce, and many Southern families lost all they had in this conflict. This impact includes their diet, which shifted to being nearly entirely economical. 

In today’s Southern cuisine, we see many tougher cuts of meat like pork or beef shoulder, more resilient vegetables like collard greens or beans, and many seafood items that could be procured through fishing practices for free. It may even surprise you to know that for over 100 years after the end of the Civil War, shrimp and grits still were not considered to be a gourmet dish! This meal was considered a quick, easy breakfast food. 

In 1982, a man named Bill Neal became a chef at Crook’s Corner Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was here and then that Neal forever changed, and elevated, the status of shrimp and grits. By using a simple southern shrimp and grits recipe, combining grits, shrimp, cheddar cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and more, he caught the attention and hearts of many, and his recipe has inspired the use of this dish in even the finest kitchens across the country

Shrimp and Grits Recipe

Making shrimp and grits is simple, even if you are a beginner in the kitchen. These ingredients can all be found in a one-stop shopping trip to your local grocery store. The list may seem simple, but by melding these ingredients together, you are left with a savory, comforting, and delicious meal, all in just over 20 minutes! This recipe is sure to have you asking, “where can I find shrimp and grits near me?” Here are the ingredients used in Bill Neal’s southern shrimp and grits recipe:

  • 1 (14-ounce) canned chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup of half-and-half
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of regular grits
  • 3/4 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 3 bacon slices
  • 1 pound of medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of chopped green onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup of low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon wedges

How to Make Shrimp and Grits

  1. To start, bring the first four ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan and gradually whisk them into the grits. 
  2. Next, reduce the heat and simmer, occasionally stirring for 10 minutes or until thickened.
  3. Then add the cheddar cheese along with the following four ingredients. Keep warm.
  4. After this, cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove the bacon from the skillet and drain/pat dry on paper towels. Next, reserve one tablespoon of bacon drippings to add to the skillet. Then, crumble up the bacon and set it aside for toppings later.
  5. Next up, sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper and dredge them in flour.
  6. Sauté mushrooms in those bacon drippings you had saved in a skillet for about five minutes or until tender. 
  7. Then add green onions and sauté them for two minutes. 
  8. Add the shrimp and garlic, sautéeing for another two minutes or until the shrimp are lightly browned. 
  9. Next, stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and hot sauce, cooking the mixture for two more minutes while also stirring to loosen anything remaining on the bottom of the skillet.
  10. Finally, serve the shrimp mixture over the hot, cheesy grits, topping the dish with crumbled bacon. Serve the dish with lemon wedges on the side as well.

While the above recipe is a southern shrimp and grits classic, many people love adding sausage and vegetables such as bell peppers and onions into their shrimp and grits recipe. This addition creates an even wider flavor profile for anyone enjoying the dish, and it is a fun spin on the original recipe. Here is another recipe that can be used to create the Old Charleston style of shrimp and grits:

  1. First, bring water and two teaspoons of salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk the grits into the boiling water and then whisk in half-and-half. Reduce the heat to a medium-low temperature and simmer, occasionally stirring, until the grits are thickened and tender. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, set aside the grits and keep them warm.
  2. After finishing with your grits, sprinkle the shrimp with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Then add lemon juice and toss the shrimp to combine the seasoning, setting them aside to marinate.
  3. Next, place sausage slices into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir the sausages occasionally while cooking until browned, which will take around 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the sausage from the skillet after it is done cooking.
  4. After you have completed cooking the sauce, add bacon to the same skillet and increase the temperature to medium-high heat. Cook the bacon for about five minutes on each side until it is evenly browned, then transfer the bacon onto paper towels to drain. When the bacon cools down, chop or crumble the bacon, leaving bacon drippings in the skillet.
  5. Next, add bell peppers, onion, and garlic to the bacon drippings, stirring and cooking for about eight minutes or until the onion becomes translucent.
  6. After that, stir the cooked sausage and marinated shrimp into your skillet with the cooked vegetables, then turn off the heat and set aside the mixture.
  7. Then melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking in flour and consistently stirring to create a smooth roux. Turn the stove down to low heat and cook, constantly stirring, until the mixture is golden brown in color. This may take up to ten minutes but be sure to watch carefully, as the mixture burns easily.
  8. Next, pour the roux over the sausage, shrimp, and vegetables. Turn the stove to medium heat, adding chicken broth, bacon, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring to combine all of the ingredients. Cook the mixture until the sauce thickens up and the shrimp turn opaque and bright pink, taking about eight or so minutes. 
  9. Finally, just before serving, mix the sharp Cheddar cheese into the grits until they melt, turning the grits creamy and light yellow, then serve your shrimp mixture over the cheese grits!

What Goes Good with Shrimp and Grits?

While either shrimp and grits recipe is delicious and filling on its own, it can be beautifully paired with a light vegetable dish. These ideas are especially helpful if you are hosting guests and you need the perfect complement to your main dish, really impressing everyone at the table! Here are a few great vegetable dish options with ingredients all easily found as your local store or market to balance the savory richness of southern shrimp and grits:

  • A simple salad of buttery greens tossed with a green goddess or buttermilk dressing
  • Southern-style collard greens
  • Creamed spinach
  • Creamed peas
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Green bean salad

Finally, if you are pairing your shrimp and grits recipe with wine, we recommend using a dry white wine to balance out the meal’s rich, buttery, savory flavors. A wine such as sauvignon blanc would be a perfect complement to the garlic-infused shrimp, or even a pinot grigio would be perfect to top off the savory with a bit of sweetness. Whatever you end up choosing, dry white wine is bound to top off this incredible meal perfectly. 

Shrimp and Grits Near Me

Now that we have discussed shrimp and grits history, where did shrimp and grits originate, how to make southern shrimp and grits, and what goes good with shrimp and grits, you may have a bit of a craving for this class dish now and are wondering, “where can I find shrimp and grits near me?” At Stiltsville Fish Bar, we whip up a delicious spin on the shrimp and grits recipe, including stone-ground grits, creole sausage, melted tomatoes, sweet peas & beer demi-glace. 

We invite you to come to check out our amazing shrimp and grits recipe by giving us a call or visiting our website to make a reservation with us today. Our menu is full of delicious and savory, mouth-watering seafood options, complemented by an incredible selection of wines, beers, and cocktails specifically chosen to best pair with your meal. Our good vibes and various seating options make our space perfect for any occasion. We look forward to hosting you!

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