Every morning during training at Space Camp I make a packet of instant grits for my breakfast. Some people would think that instant grits are not real grits and would suggest I wait. Grits aren’t served on the camp line until almost 9 o’clock. I simply can not wait for industrial grits. I have a great system which yields respectable grits. One pack of grits, one serving of butter, two packets of pepper, and one packet of salt all mixed with water from the coffee maker at camp.
Some of the counselors from the north, I will refrain from calling them yankees, think that I am mixing up cream of wheat or oatmeal. And when I try to teach them of grits they are perplexed as to why anyone would want to eat grits. Even the name sounds horrific. Grits are firmly rooted in my southern heritage. Grits fall behind eggs in the south as the most liked breakfast item. On days that Gran would prepare rice with breakfast my cousin Dustin would refer to them as long skinny grits. Proving that our first reference point as southern children to a grain dish is the honorable grit!
Growing up we would have breakfast for supper. This was the best, because you didn’t have to rush out the door to school or work. You could enjoy each morsel of food. One night Mr. Horn, long time friend of my family and husband of my fourth grade teacher, stayed for supper. From how much he ate I felt that Mrs. Horn didn’t feed the poor man. He ate everything insight. I think he ate every grit in the bowl. With our grits my mom would cook country ham and red eye gravy. I believe the combination of red eye gravy and grits is culinary perfection.
While living in Jackson, I worked at Twin Lakes Conference Center as a host on the weekends. I love the mornings!!! Ms. Bobby in the kitchen would feed us in the back after the guests went through the line. On the morning she prepared grits I would go back for seconds and sometimes thirds. Bacon was my preferred side item during those years. My roommate Chef Holman made wonderful grits as well. She taught me to use cream rather than milk. I also learned to add different types of cheese if using grits with other dishes.
As my taste buds have matured, I love to find new ways of preparing grits. I have enjoyed shrimp and grits from South Carolina to Texas. Here in Huntsville there are a few places which have shrimp and grits. None of which I would write about. So often cooks want to cover up the grits with a thick roux or it has a soup like consistency. The best shrimp and grits I ever had was at Blackberry Farm on the back deck of the main house. I give it a five grit rating.
Last night I tried for the first time making shrimp and grits. I have never even tried cooking shrimp, so my attempting a dish that I had no experience in was quiet a leap of faith for me. I looked on the internet and found a Paula Deen recipe. If you are going to cook a southern dish she is the first and sometimes only person I would trust outside of blood kin. After doing my research I visited Fresh Market in hopes of finding high quality grits. I was shocked to find Fresh Market, known for its exotic and gourmet foods only sold Quaker instant grits. The same grits I eat for breakfast at work. I would have thought the store would have had something better than instant grits.
During my adventures in life and food I have learned that three minutes is the standard for cooking shrimp and bacon makes everything good. I have learned that eggs and grits make a great combination, but never order grits from the Waffle House. I know after my experience cooking shrimp and grits, the best place to get the southern dish here in Huntsville may be from my own kitchen. I have included Paula Deen’s recipe. Please try to find your own favorite dish and make it at home. We live in a country that spends too much time around someone else’s table eating food from a stranger’s kitchen. Eat what you love with the ones you love!
Paula Deen’s Shrimp & Grits
1 cup stone-ground grits
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, left whole if small and roughly chopped if medium or large
6 slices bacon, chopped into tiny pieces
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
1 large clove garlic, minced
1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the grits and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well with a whisk. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Keep covered until ready to serve.
2. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned and crisp, then drain on a paper towel. Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet and sauté over medium heat just until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley, green onions, and garlic while shrimp cook. Do not overcook! Remove the skillet from the heat.
3. Pour the grits into a serving bowl. Pour the shrimp mixture over the grits. Garnish with the bacon bits.