Doesn't this look delicious? Well, it was. I give the credit to the fresh shrimp from Sumter County Shrimp! These puppies were alive this past Thursday morning going about their shrimp-y business. Harvested Thursday, into my possession via cooler Friday, cleaned and cooked Saturday. Hard to get any fresher than that folks. I've blogged about these shrimp before (last year). This is their 2nd year of harvest and I'm a huge fan! I made this same recipe last year, with super fresh Sumter County Shrimp, and used the photo for my blog header, check it out! ⬆⬆
Here is a link to their page - Sumter County Shrimp, if you are in Alabama reading this you should totally make the trek to their farm in Bellamy, to Tuscaloosa, or Birmingham to get them! More details on their site, on sale through the first weekend in November. Pics from my first batch are below.
On to the recipe. There are a MILLION shrimp and grits recipes. Researching the "traditional" low country method, the consensus is a simple approach. Shrimp simply cooked in fat over morning "grits" that were common back in the day for breakfast. That's right, this started out as a breakfast dish (Breakfast is the best, am I right?). It's evolved over the years and now seems to be on every gourmet chef's menu across the Southeast and beyond. I've made a more cajun version with andouille sausage, peppers, and onions, and it's great, but keep going back to this version. The simplicity really lets the shrimp shine when using good quality shrimp like I am doing here.
For the Grits, I used smoked gouda, freshly shredded (the food processor attachment I have is my most used kitchen tool hands down), and stone ground grits. You can use instant or quick-cooking grits, but should seriously give the stone ground ones a try. If you aren't using stone ground, check the type and use the appropriate grit to liquid ratio. If you start cooking these before you do anything else, they will be done when the shrimp are done if you are going to be peeling and maybe de-heading a bunch of shrimp. For some extra shrimpiness, use shrimp stock vs water or chicken stock to cook your grits. I made a huge batch of shrimp stock with the heads and shells of last years harvest, froze it in 2 cup increments. You can make a quick stock with heads and shells in 15 mins, or go all out and throw in veggies and seasonings and let it simmer a couple of hours.
Stone Ground Grits
I had a helper this time cooking the shrimp and she did great. You want to cook them in an even layer, not crowding them, in multiple batches. Don't overcook them!
TIP: So how do you know if you've overcooked them? I found this helpful - If they look like a "C" they are cooked. If they curl up into a concentric "O" with top and bottom overlapping, they are Overcooked. C = cooked. O = overcooked. They will keep cooking slightly too when taken off the heat, so keep that in mind.
Side item suggestion - Balsamic mushrooms. My husband suggested to add some acidity to balance out the rich grits. Great idea by him. Saute some sliced mushrooms, drizzle with a couple tablespoons balsamic vinegar and white wine. Continue to saute' for a couple of minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon from the liquid.
Crusty bread is great too! We slice ours, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and brown in the oven at 450 for 3 mins or so, until just starting to brown.