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This recipe for shrimp and grits comes from nutritionist Ellie Krieger. Maybe you’ve caught her show on the Food Network, or seen her cookbooks at the store. Ellie is probably best known for creating healthier versions of classic comfort food. I own her book The Food You Crave, which includes recipes such as macaroni and cheese “hiding” pureed butternut squash, and an eye-catching chicken pot pie that features only green and white vegetables and uses phyllo dough for the crust.
This particular recipe didn’t come from that cookbook; I actually found it through Pinterest on Prevention.com. Although I’m a “Yankee,” I was drawn to this classic Southern dish for one key reason: shrimp! Paul’s allergic, so I don’t eat much shrimp. Since he’s been busy with band camps and rehearsals lately, I took advantage of the opportunity to try something new.
I made a few changes to the original recipe. The original feeds 4, but I cut it in half for dinner and lunch the next day. I used regular cornmeal rather than grits (which are made from hominy or white corn, depending on who you ask), so maybe technically this is shrimp and polenta. And I added my own “secret” ingredient: a big spoonful of hot sauce added with the chicken broth in Step 6.
- 1/2 cup grits (or regular cornmeal)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 slices Canadian bacon, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
- 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (defrosted if frozen)
- 1 small onion or 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup chicken broth (I used Better Than Bouillon)
- 1-2 tbsp hot sauce, optional (I like Frank’s)
- 1/4 cup milk
- Make the grits. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Combine cornmeal with about 1/2 cup cold water in a bowl and whisk together. When the water in the saucepan boils, add the cornmeal mixture while whisking constantly. Stir in the milk, butter and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until smooth and creamy, about 40 minutes.(Ellie’s recipe says to boil the water then add the grits by themselves, but I find that I get fewer lumps using this method. Still be sure to whisk well as you add the cornmeal mixture to the hot water.)
- Prep the rest of the ingredients: Cut the Canadian bacon into strips. Chop the onion and pepper and mince the garlic.If using frozen shrimp, place them in a colander and run cool water over them to defrost. Pick through the shrimp and remove any bits of shell or mud veins.
- Heat about half a tablespoon of the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook until nearly done, about 3 minutes (it will start to look more opaque and feel firmer). Transfer the bacon and shrimp to a plate or bowl.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, paprika and a pinch of salt and cook another minute. You can add a dash of cayenne here, too, for an extra little layer of heat.
- Make a roux by sprinkling the flour over the vegetable mixture. Cook and stir for one minute.
- Add the broth, milk and hot sauce to taste and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook and stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.
- Return the shrimp and bacon to the pan and simmer about 1 minute, until the shrimp is cooked through.Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the shrimp over the grits.
*Nutrition facts calculated using 1% milk.
This dish is flavorful, filling and comforting without breaking the calorie bank. The grits are smooth and creamy with the milk and butter, while the sauce adds just the right amount of heat and a touch of acidity from the vegetables to balance the richness. The key is not to overcook the shrimp; keep them tender and you can eat the whole bowl with a spoon.
This meal is not as good the next day, but I think this is the best way to reheat it if you have leftovers: Store shrimp and grits separately in the fridge. Place cold grits in a bowl and add a splash of water or milk. Reheat in the microwave a minute at a time, stirring frequently, until it warms and becomes creamy again. When nearly ready, add the shrimp to the bowl and microwave about another minute or so until hot. The shrimp won’t taste as good as they did the first time, but the heat from the already-warmed grits helps to warm them so that they don’t completely overcook in the microwave.