Grits, you see, are one of the Big Three Southern dishes; BBQ, Fried Chicken, and Grits. Admittedly, grits haven't caused generational family feuds and city riots like the former two, but they are just as foundational to Southern culture. Any Southern breakfast must have creamy grits to be authentic.
Many people think Southerner's don't like Northerner's because Yankees are rude, cocky, mean, and too high strung. Honestly, though, we're too laid back to give those things a second thought. The real reason Southerners have trouble socializing with Yankees, is because we find it hard stooping to the intellectual and cultural level of people who have yet to embrace grits and iced tea. I remember the first time I flew into Maine and ordered tea in a restaurant. The waitress brought a coffee cup full of hot water and a tea bag. I just assumed she misunderstood, so I said, iced tea please. To my horror, she told me they didn't have any. I began to panic thinking my plane had flown threw a time warp, and landed me in the dark ages. My only solace was that it was late, and I could look forward to some creamy grits with breakfast in a few hours.
OK, quit laughing. Yes, you're right. They were clueless about grits, too. They seriously thought 'homefries' were an adequate side dish to eggs and bacon. And they call us 'backwards'!
Maybe it's because grits, on the surface, appear to be simple and unsophisticated; plain and unworthy of gastronomical praise. Properly prepared, however, grits are a delight to the palate; a worthy companion to the most respected of entrees, when other starches have lost their lustre. Cheese grits with a Filet is heaven, and fried quail with yellow grits and gravy will make your tongue slap your brain.
The key words are properly prepared. The most fundamental axiom of grits making is: You MUST salt and butter grits WHILE they are cooking. Restaurants who serve unsalted grits should have their retail permits revoked. It's impossible to add salt and butter at the table and achieve the same results. Trying to salt grits after they're cooked is like trying to make husbands pick up their socks, or wives lose weight, after they're married. Ain't gonna happen. Also, for really creamy and delicious grits, use a course ground, slow cooking variety and replace about 1/3 of the water with milk.
My grits of choice, Carolina Plantation, are produced locally on the only Colonial Plantation still producing rice and grits. You can read more about them HERE.
In addition, for authentic, quality Shrimp & Grits, you must cook the shrimp properly and not over power them with fillers and cheap gravy. Many eateries, in ignorance or an attempt to save money, use a cheap tasting gravy, mix in a few overcooked shrimp, then pile in ham chunks as a filler to make customers feel like they got their moneys worth while completely overpowering the shrimp. If that's the only Shrimp & Grits you've ever had, welcome to the real thing!
Southern Shrimp and Grits
6 Slices bacon fried crisp. reserve bacon grease
1 lb Medium Wild Caught Shrimp (peeled & deveined)
1/2 Small onion chopped
1 Cup chopped mushrooms (more or less depending on preference)
1 TBS chopped garlic chives
2 TBS Sherry
Grits for 6 servings prepared according manufacturers directions
Fry the bacon until crisp and reserve the grease.
Prepare grits. (Add 11/2 tsp salt and half stick butter in the beginning and allow to cook with grits)
While grits simmer, sautee onions, 1/2 chives, and mushrooms in several TBS of bacon grease.
When mushrooms have reduced and onions are tender, add shrimp and sherry. Cook until Shrimp turn pink. (DO NOT not overcook shrimp)
Fill a serving bowl 2/3 full of grits, spoon on shrimp, and top with crumbled bacon and chives.
(A little shredded cheese is a nice addition. I like Parmesan)
Bubba's BBQ Shrimp & Grits:
Follow recipe above. Just before serving, add a good Carolina BBQ sauce to shrimp and mix thoroughly. Sauce will cook down very fast and burn, so be careful. Serve in smaller portions, add some paprika, and you have a wonderful appetizer! I use a locally produced sauce that's been popular for years. (I'm into local, as you can tell)
Debutante Shrimp & Grits:
This is an 'uppidy' version for High Class Southerners (Those who have more than half their teeth and hang out at country clubs) and is suitable for High Teas and book club meetings.
Substitute Pancetta for common bacon
Add a little chopped red bell pepper
Add 1 TBS Sherry
Garnish with a lobster tail. (just kidding, use a lime or lemon wedge)
There you have it. If you're not a convert by now, then, in the words of Flo from Mel's Diner; 'Kiss My Grits!' Then, pass me the shrimp ;-)