New Orleans is one of those cities you feel like you know, and love, even if you’ve never been. It’s storied, romantic, mythic, Gothic, strange, and beautiful. I’ve only visited a couple of times for a couple of days. Once, for my 25th birthday, a trip we will not discuss, and once on business. And when I say “on business” I mean I drove overnight in a four row passenger van with a bunch of do-gooder hippie liberal arts majors to attend a conference on community organizing, stopping only to hacky sack at Waffle Houses along the way. The next few days were a blur of alcohol and idealism, and intoxicated on a heady mixture of the two a group of us girls crashed a wedding, where we ate shrimp and grits by the handful. Literally, we didn’t even use plates. Or utensils. Such Northern marauders. Sherman! I hope to get back to Louisiana one day soon, for all the reasons we all go: food, music, booze, voodoo. Until then I can console myself with this simple, soulful dish and pronouncing one-syllable words with more sounds than are necessary. Say it with me, and put a little Paula Deen stank on it: “shriiamp”.
There are many lovely little touches to this easy recipe. Cooking sweet shrimp in bacon fat causes some kind of unholy chemical wonderfulness – golden, crisp, plump little critters. The, when you add very hot shrimp to warm cheese grits stringy, melty, gooeyness ensues. Finally, you get brightness, crunch, and color from the last minute add-ins, spice, from the seasoning, and vinegar from Tabasco, if using. And I think you should. This is creamy, comforting, stick-to-your-ribs food. Great, now I want ribs.
Shrimp and Grits
- 6 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
- 1 cup white corn grits
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup scallions, diced
- 2 tablespoons parsley , chopped
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
In a deep skillet, cook bacon bits over medium heat until the fat has rendered, transfer to a paper towel.
Bring 4 cups of water to a rapid boil, then slowly whisk in the grits. Cook 20-25 minutes over medium-low heat, until all the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in butter, cheddar cheese and bacon.
Add shrimp to the hot bacon grease and saute briefly, 2-3 minutes. Season and stir in garlic, scallions, parsley, and lemon juice. Remove from the heat and serve in a bowl over grits with Tabasco to taste.