Being from the east coast, I never really ate grits growing up. Since moving to the midwest, I’ve tried grits for the first time about three or four times: once with my wife, once during a trial in Volusia County FL, and a couple of other times I can’t remember. Because that’s generally what grits are, unmemorable. Here’s how I try to change that. (Incidentally, I have the same Memento problem with whether I’ve read Catcher in the Rye).
Shrimpy Cheesy Grits:
1. Boil: 1C and a little more of water. You can just eyeball about a cup of water, and if it goes over the 1C line a smidge, that’s just right. This style of measuring liquids comes naturally to me and is likely the reason why I got a C+ in my orgo lab in college.
2. Add: grits. No self respecting southerner uses instant grits. I am no southerner, self-respsecting or otherwise, but I adhere to the maxim. That is why we bought “Quick-5 Minutes” grits. There is a recipe for cheesy grits on the back. That was the starting point for my recipe. It serves 4, but since it was just me and my wife for breakfast, I halved the recipe and then added stuff.
3. Cover: reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add: shrimp. Stir. Let cook for another couple minutes.
We have a big ol bag of frozen cooked, peeled, shelled shrimp that I use for this kind of application. I think it’s 90-110 count. I prefer the bigger, raw shrimp with shells on, but my wife likes these. The size seems to be perfect for adding to stuff without having to either gets your hands or a knife dirty.
5. Cheese it: add 2 ounces of “pasteurized process cheese spread,” cubed. I think this means Velveeta. We had an old box of Velveeta hiding in the back of the fridge from the time we made a Western Dubuque Marching Band Cook Book recipe about half a year ago. Amazingly, the Velveeta five months later was still in perfect, edible condition. Everyone thinks that if the world gets overrun with zombies, it will be the twinkies that will sustain us. I think it’s the Velveeta. I mean, think about it. It’s sweet, savory, cheesy, it lasts forever, and they sell it non-refrigerated.
The problem with Velveeta (from a non-apocalyptic perspective) is that recipes call for it in ounces. This is useless, like pie recipes that call for fruit in pounds (give it to me in number of apples!) or cocktail recipes that call for booze in ounces (unless the recipe is for a gallon of hooch, give it to me in number of shots!). Sure, I could get a food scale and weigh it out, but having/using a food scale and cooking with Velveeta seem to be diametrically opposed approaches to cooking. Also, I don’t own a food scale.
My work-around? Velveeta, name brand or generic, comes in bricks which all seem to be of uniform height and width. Recipes should call for it in inches. For this recipe for 2 servings of cheesy grits, you will need 1/2 inch thick slice of Velveeta from a full sized brick. How many ounces that is, I don’t know. Although, if you are obsessive with math, you can extrapolate from the fact that the entire box is 16 ounces and the full length brick is x inches long…
6. Mix: cube the velveeta and mix it in with the shrimp and grits. stir it around until it melts. I did this for about a minute on heat and then a minute off heat.
7. Spice it: the recipe called for garlic powder and paprika. I switch cayenne pepper for the paprika and also added regular pepper. The recipe didn’t call for any salt, which I found surprising but ultimately moot. I would have skipped the salt anyway.
8. Eat: we had this with some dippy eggs (runny yolks) and toast. The toast was from a baguette we had bought from Red Hen Bakery around the corner from us. They make really great sourdough and ciabatta. The baguettes are really nice too.
My wife thought that I had added way too much pepper, and she was right. I told her that I also added some cayenne pepper, and I think she was annoyed.
This was my first time making grits, at least, as far as I can remember it was, so I was really super pleased with how it came out. The cheese added a bass (think pitch, not fish) flavor dimension that makes grits really boring otherwise. The shrimp were nice and cooked through and provided a much needed texture contrast. With eggs and toast, it made for a near perfect breakfast and was a nice – and quicker – alternative to home fries or potatoes that normally accompany a weekend breakfast for us.
It is a good thing that this grits recipe worked out. We have a 24 oz canister of it, and I would have no idea how to use it up otherwise.