Conference Food

Bad shrimp and grits is real.

Until this week it never occurred to me that you could prepare shrimp and grits badly. 

Yes it is possible,  even easy,  to ruin the component parts. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery and grits can be scorched or lumpy, but I  never encountered a serving of Shrimp and Grits, in all its exalted low-country gloriousness, that was anything but heavenly.

Apparently I lived a charmed life...until I was presented with a dish of shrimp and grits so bad it was inedible. Let me tell those of you who don't know me this is a shocking statement because I can, and will, eat nearly anything that isn't organ meat.

As I sat at Pittypat's Porch in Atlanta (shrimp and grits this bad deserves a public shaming) contemplating the how and why of the mess before me, I realized it is entirely too easy to over-engineer a recipe.

The shrimp and grits I regularly prepare at home is not sublime, or even noteworthy, but it is good and fast, and that is because I keep it simple.

The recipe below has not been 100% kitchen-tested because no real recipe exists. The grits? Yes, absolutely kitchen-tested. The skrimps? (a relative calls them skrimps and now we all call them skrimps), no. That said, this is pretty damn close. I make them so often I know the steps by heart.

South Carolinians - who would know best - will probably be as horrified by my pseudo-Cajun version as I was by the of the waste of ingredients I was served at Pittypat's. Feel free to teach me a thing or three and leave your suggestions/comments below.

City Girl Shrimp and Grits

The Grits
2 cups water
2 cups whole milk
1 clove minced garlic
1 stick salted butter 
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup quick grits (do NOT tell CG1) 
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

The Skrimps
1 pound cleaned shrimp (shelled, deveined, washed and dried)
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon oil of your choice (I use XV olive oil)
1 bag (shhhh! see grits above) defrosted seasoning blend (these are frozen vegetables and should include onion, celery, pepper and parsley)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Crystal Sauce
1 tablespoon minced parsley

Place water, milk, butter, garlic and salt in a 2 quart sauce pan. Bring to a gentle boil then add grits, stirring constantly until the meal is incorporated into the milk mixture. 

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until grits thicken and the bubbles breaking on the surface send red-hot rockets of grit lava around the kitchen. Remove from heat.

Add cheese, stir until blended, test for salt, cover and set aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan, add bacon and cook until bacon is crisp.

Add seasoning blend (or a cup on minced onion, half cup of minced celery, half cup of minced bell pepper and quarter cup minced parsley) to the pan, along with the remaining garlic, and cook COVERED for 4-5 minutes this makes the base of the sauce. 

Add shrimp and lemon juice, cover and cook for an additional 4 minutes or until shrimp are pink.

Sprinkle with 6-600 shakes of Crystal Sauce (aka to taste).

Ladle one cup of grits into a shallow soup bowl. Top grits with approximately one cup of shrimp mixture, and dust with minced parsley.