Shrimp and grits is by far my most requested dish. Friends routinely email or text for the recipe, and my sister
demands requests it every year for her birthday. If ever I named a signature dish (which I won’t because I don’t play favorites), this would be it. Shrimp and grits is a dish of lowcountry origins, associated with the Carolinas, but has spread far and wide across the Southeast. It is most commonly seen on brunch menus, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three).
Mine is by no means a “classic” version of shrimp and grits. Classically, shrimp and grits is sautéed shrimp over grits. That’s it. While the simple preparation has its merits, both of my feet are in the “more is better” camp. This is evident if you’ve ever seen me frost a cake, fill a macaron shell with buttercream or lemon curd, or pour a glass a wine.
In testing this recipe, I used pancetta, prosciutto, and bacon (not at the same time–even I couldn’t do that). Proscuitto was lovely with its paper-thin crispiness, but it didn’t deliver the smokiness I thought the dish demanded. Pancetta was closer, but I felt I needed to stay true to the Southern origins of this dish. Bacon won out (as it almost always does). I add sautéed bell peppers, onion, crisped bacon, diced San Marzano tomatoes, and a little white wine to deglaze the pan before the shrimp cook in the fragrant mixture. The grits plump up and simmer in their bath of butter, stock, and half and half. For a finishing touch, I adorn them with a melting swath of goat cheese and a generous sprinkle of sharp cheddar. Swoon.