Monday, February 20, 2012

Shrimp and Grits the Charleston Signature Dish

I have to say that the most requested thing that people ask me to cook for them in New York City is Shrimp and Grits. It is funny to me in a way. I don't mean funny "HA HA", but funny strange.! It is strange to me that New Yorkers seem to have a love affair and a fascination with Shrimp and Grits in such a major way. I mean I get the fascination with all things southern and even the evil grin that comes from talking about Paula Dean. But truly aside from fried chicken I can not think of a food item that is more iconic to Yankees up here than Shrimp and Grits. Ok that being said, there are not that many restaurants in NYC that even serve it. The Redhead in the east village does a nice job, but the portion is so small compared to what I am used to in Charleston  and is a little bit of a put off.  I would have to say in fact that, in New York I have yet to have really good Shrimp and Grits in a restaurant, unless you count the ones I had at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola after I gave the Chef my recipe. (Which by the way I hear has been changed since. But at least my recipe was on a New York city menu for a hot second!) Thank you Marc and Tim!

No offense Redhead but for all ya'll in NYC in particular, you should just learn to make this dish at home. It's not hard. And that's exactly where the dish came from. It is a low country shrimpers breakfast. It use to consist of basically shrimp cooked in a butter sauce and placed on top of a bowl full of grits. Very simple, clean, tasty. It was the breakfast that the shrimper's would have when they set out in the mornings for the day. This culinary tradition is carried on today the the Wreck Restaurant on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant SC. serving up down home breakfasts including Breakfast Shrimp and grits. So as this dish evolved it has come to include all sorts of other ingredients like pork fat products and other savory add in ingredients. But that original version which is so simple, is still very good.

My version of Shrimp and Grits comes from a variety of places. My Grandmother and Mother have made this dish based on a recipe from the "Charleston Receipts", a cookbook of Charlestonian cookery which was first published in 1930. It's subsequent versions still include the recipe for "Breakfast Shrimp and Hominy" the name in the original 30's version or Breakfast Shrimp and Grits in the 1976 revision. My version also calls upon my experiences in dining out in Charleston over the years and having tried a variety of different chefs take on the dish. Everytime I go home I have to have this dish at least one time while I am home. It's sort of a tradition with me.

There are just about as many Shrimp and Grits recipes out there are there are cooks. I think that's the beautiful thing about this dish. You start somewhere and before you know it you have developed your own unique version of this dish.  And that's the joy of cooking at home, you are the chef, you call the shots! So that being said for me the taste of this dish is all in the sauce. It's the glue. And there are two primary ingredients my Grandmother and Mother used to make this dish that gives it the flavor from the old school recipes. One is Seafood seasoning, that's right Old Bay. The other is Ketchup. Yes Ketchup. All the flavors that it has already make it willing and easy base for the rest of the sauce. A little strange perhaps but such are the secrets of home cooks. They also make it easier than making shrimp stock and adding all sorts of herbs. Not that that is bad but why when this base sauce is so easy and so good.

So here in the thick of Martis Gras I give you this celebration of the southern table. Give it a try at home, and tinker with it after you have made it per recipe the first time. Make it yours and people will be asking for you to make it again and again. Enjoy Ya'll!

Forrest's Famous Shrimp, Sausage and Smokey Grits ( 4 servings)


3 cups of whole milk
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/4 cup stone ground Grits ( don't use instant)
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda and white cheddar cheese mixed half and half
4 tablespoons butter

Bring liquids to a boil add salt
Add grits slowly using a whisk to stir in making sure that they do not clump
Reduce heat to simmer
Stir till it starts to thicken a bit.
Cook 20 to 25 mins or per package instructions
When done add butter, pepper and cheese stir till melted and mixed well.
Hold Warm.

Shrimp and Sausage Sauce

1 lb wild caught shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound Andouille sausage cut up in small pieces
3 strips smoked uncured bacon ( not apple smoked)
1/2 green bell pepper finely diced
1/2 red pepper finely diced
1/2 onion finely diced
1/4 cup finely diced up celery
1 teaspoon finely minced or jarred garlic
1 tablespoon Old bay Seasoning
2 good dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup of Water to thin sauce
2 Tablespoon heavy cream
dash or two of tabasco
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
4 green onions chopped ( held in reserved for garnish)


In a heavy skillet cook bacon, remove and reserve grease in the pan add 1 tablespoon butter.
Add Shrimp and 1 sprinkle with 1/2 tablespoon of the Old Bay, cook 2 to 3 mins till done remove from the pan hold on the side.
Add sausage  and the bacon and brown then add all vegetables.
Saute till soft but not overly brown about 5 to 7 mins.
Add rest of Old Bay and W sauce and garlic and Ketchup and hot sauce. Cook till incorporated.
Add  lemon juice  and the cream and about 3 tablespoons of the water.
Add shrimp and warm through.
Add parsley. if sauce is too thick add water a tablespoon at a time to thin.

To serve

Divide the grits between 4 bowls ( flat bottomed pasta bowls work well)
Top with the Shrimp in a circle
Then spoon sauce over the shrimp and grits filling in the spaces between in the shrimp.
Garnish with the green onions.
See wasn't that easy!
Pretty and tastes good too!!


  1. You know I am stealing this. Also, if people use instant grits they should be shot!

    1. Steal away you'll get a cookbook with all sorts of things to steal soon enough I hope!