Shrimp and grits has become popular on menus at high-end restaurants of late, but it's a dish that has been around for hundreds of years. Grits are so closely associated with the southern United States that the region is often called the Grits Belt. Made of ground dried corn, grits are similar to polenta, but coarser. A staple of workers' diets in the past, they are now a trendy accompaniment. This recipe features traditional red-eye gravy, which is also good with ham steaks and pork chops. It's made with coffee (use instant if you don't have fresh). Warning to those who are sensitive to caffeine: Consider using decaf unless you want to find out firsthand how the gravy got its name.
Ready time: 75 minutes
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups half and half cream or milk
3/4 cup stone-ground grits
1/3 cup butter
Salt to taste
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped smoked ham or turkey
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coffee
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 smoked chorizo sausages, diced
1 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
16 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 green onions, finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
To make the grits, bring water and cream to simmer in a pot over medium heat. Slowly whisk in grits. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed and grits are thick (about 20 minutes). Add butter and season liberally with salt. Remove from heat and fold in cheese. Reheat when needed.
To make the gravy, heat butter in a pot over medium heat. Add onion and ham and sauté for 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook until golden (about 2 minutes).
Combine coffee and stock and whisk in gradually to prevent lumps. Continue whisking until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Reserve.
To make the shrimp mixture, heat vegetable oil in a skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add chorizo and sauté until browned (about 2 minutes). Add onion and peppers and cook until onions are translucent (about 2 minutes longer). Add shrimp and sauté another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add gravy and simmer until shrimp is pink and curled (about 1 to 2 minutes longer). Stir in parsley and green onions. Adjust seasoning as needed. Serve over warm cheddar grits.