August 16, 2021
It’s been about 100 episodes of Sportsman’s Kitchen since I first featured shrimp and grits. That 2013 column was mostly about the proper preparation of the grits, and the part with shrimp was almost an aside. This year, I’ll address the shrimp—and few extra improvements like pancetta and Andouille sausage.
Likely one of the world’s most popular seafood, shrimp are available in all corners of the United States, thanks to airplanes and freezers. But that’s not to say all shrimp are created equal. Size and source are important, as is the quality of the vendor.
Shrimp are sized based on the number of shrimp per pound, head-on. The larger the shrimp, the higher the price, and peeling/deveining adds to the total you’ll pay. Thirty-one to 40-count shrimp are a mouthful and 16 to 20 or larger might involve a knife at the table.
Most important is the source of your shrimp. We’ve all had those big, watery imported farmed shrimp at cocktail parties and have said thankful prayers for the strong horseradish-laden cocktail sauce for some flavor. Be sure to check that the shrimp you’re buying are WILD-CAUGHT. If they’re not available, spend your money on some nice pork chops!
The time between the catch and the sale is critical, too. There is nothing wrong with frozen or previously frozen shrimp, as flash freezing is common aboard larger shrimp boats. In all cases, you need to smell the shrimp you purchase. Any reputable seller, whether a seafood specialty store or grocer, should be to give you a free whiff. Good fresh shrimp should smell like the sea; bad ones like ammonia. Bagged frozen shrimp are more of a crapshoot. Look for a statement that they’re wild-caught and USA sourced.
Shrimp and Grits Recipe
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
- 1 cup uncooked grits (makes 2 cups, cooked)
- 4 ounces salted butter or shredded cheddar cheese
- 3 cups water and 1 cup milk
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped pancetta or thick-cut bacon
- ½ cup very thinly sliced Andouille sausage
- 1 pound wild-caught shrimp, peeled and deveined, lightly dusted with Zatarain’s Fish-Fri
- Scallions, chopped, for garnish
- Tabasco sauce
- First, cook the grits. The addition of salt, butter and milk and a long, slow 30-minute simmer is important. If you’re so inclined, substitute shredded cheddar cheese for the butter. A rough measure of liquid to uncooked grits is 4 to 1.
- Next, in a frying pan, over medium heat, in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, cook the pancetta and sausage until crisp.
- Set the cooked meats aside and sauté the lightly breaded shrimp in the remaining fat. Take care not to overcook, remembering, “C’s NOT O’s” is the formula for cooking shrimp.
- To finish, spoon the meat and shrimp over a bowl of grits, garnish with some sliced scallions and a splash of Tabasco sauce.
To Cheese or Not to Cheese (Grits)
Personally, I think folks began to add cheese to grits to cover up the flavor of the grits. In the part of Florida I grew up in (North Central), grits were served with fried fish, or with breakfast--not with cheese, but with butter, salt and black pepper. For this recipe, I believe in adding flavor with the toppings, and tasting the corn flavor of the grits.
And don’t argue with me about sweet or savory hushpuppies! FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine July 2021