Cheesy Grits and Cajun Shrimp

This combination of creamy, cheesy grits, the spice of the Cajun shrimp and the bacon crumble topping adds a whole new flavor level to a Southern staple.

Note: I think using the shrimp stock to cook the grits makes this dish pop, but if you don’t have the time to make the shrimp stock, just substitute vegetable broth.

Shrimp Stock

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 cups shrimp shell and tails

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 small carrot, coarsely chopped

small celery stalk, coarsely chopped

½ cup diced canned tomatoes

1 bay leaf

8 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon vegetable base

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat.
  2. Add the shrimp shells and tails, onion, carrot, and celery, and sauté, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 4 cups cold water, the tomato, bay leaf, peppercorns and vegetable base.
  4. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. Strain the stock through a fine strainer into a bowl.
  6. Add water to equal 3 cups, if needed.

Grits

3 tablespoons Amish Country rolled butter, salted (preferred brand)

3 cups shrimp stock (or substitute vegetable broth)

1 ½ cups quick-cooking (not instant) grits, such as Quaker

1 tablespoon juice from diced tomatoes

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup (4 oz) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup jalapeno jack cheese, shredded

salt (as needed)

To cook the grits:

Combine the butter and the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the grits and simmer, whisking frequently for 5 minutes. Add the tomato juice, milk and cheese. Keep stirring till blended and the grits look thickened and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Shrimp

1 tablespon Cajun seasoning (I like Emeril’s Cajun seasoning blend.)

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 pound medium sized (26-30 count) shrimp, frozen, cooked.

  1. Take them out of the freezer, put in a strainer, and spray with cold water for 5 minutes till thawed.
  2. You will have to take the tails off. I save these tails for the next batch of shrimp stock.
  3. The shrimp end up being too “wet” at this point. Give each a little squeeze and dry them off a bit in a frying pan (no oil, just dry), maybe 5 minutes.
  4. You are ready to cook the shrimp-see below.

To cook the shrimp

Combine the Cajun seasoning, paprika, Italian seasoning, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the shrimp to the bowl and stir to coat evenly. Melt the butter in a 12 inch-skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the shrimp and cook until heated through.

Bacon:

½ pound thick slice Oscar Meyer original bacon, cut in ¼ inch lardons, cooked on low to a medium crispness. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the cooked bacon bits onto a paper towel-lined plate.

To serve

Scoop some grits onto your plate. Top the grits with 8 shrimp. Sprinkle one-fourth of the bacon crumble on top and enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

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