Can you guess what it is? Well, it’s creamy grits woven with melty cheese, topped with crispy bacon, succulent shrimp, and tender vegetables, all smothered in a sweet, smoky, and flavorful sauce. That’s what.I got the idea to add BBQ sauce to this southern classic in none other than Charleston, South Carolina–the cuisine capital of the South. My mom ordered a BBQ shrimp and grits dish at 82 Queen, an adorable local spot with renowned food, historic elegance, Southern charm, and a lovely courtyard complete with pink flowers, dazzling lights, and a white gazebo (basically a page out of Southern Living magazine). But what I loved most about this place was the chef’s creativity, his ability to put a fresh and flavorful twist on Lowcountry classics, helping prove that Southern food is more than just fried chicken. (For those in other parts of the country, yes, we do in fact eat other foods.)
Anyway, the incorporation of BBQ sauce into the shrimp and grits was a big thumbs-up, so my first objective when I returned was to create my own. GAME-CHANGER, I tell you. Like birthday dinner/special occasion request, AND easy and quick enough for a weeknight staple.
This recipe is also very adaptable, so experiment with your favorite flavors and see what masterpiece you can create! I’d love to hear your own combination of cheese, seasoning, and sauce, and how it turns out!
- 70 g (scant 1/2 cup) white corn grits (Bob’s Red Mill)*
- 1 cup + 1 Tbsp water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
- 2 slices turkey bacon**
- 3-6 Tbsp chicken broth
- 3-5 oz sliced cremini mushrooms
- handful sliced red or green bell pepper (or anaheim for a little kick)
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 6-8 oz raw wild red shrimp, peeled and deveined***
- sprinkle dried oregano
- 2-3 Tbsp BBQ sauce of choice (I recommend Stubb’s Original)
- 1 oz freshly shredded cheese (smoked gouda or Italian blend, such as fontina and asiago)
- sliced green onion or chives
Thaw, peel, and devein shrimp (if necessary). Sprinkle with dried oregano and set aside.
Bring water and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in grits, then milk, and reduce heat. Simmer 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from heat another 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat on both sides until crispy. Set aside. Pour some chicken broth into the pan and scrape up browned bits, then stir in mushrooms and peppers. Sauté a couple minutes, then stir in garlic. Add shrimp to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink. Stir in BBQ sauce, and a little more broth if needed to thin out sauce.
Divide grits between two shallow bowls, and fold cheese into each. Top with shrimp/veggie/sauce mixture, torn bacon, and sliced green onion or chives (opt.) Serve with roasted vegetables or a salad, and crisp whole grain bread fresh out of the oven. Fall in love. Devour.
*For the grits, I use Bob’s Red Mill southern-style white corn grits/polenta. Some varieties may require different cooking times, so check the package first.
**I use turkey bacon because it is flavorful and aromatic without all the grease of pork bacon, but the decision is up to you. If you’re a sausage person, you could also sub sausage. Or leave the meat out and load up on shrimp. Whatever makes you smile. And jump up and down. And squeal like a child because you love it that much.
***For the shrimp, my favorite is wild red shrimp. It’s sweeter and more tender than any other type I’ve tasted, but it can be hard to find. Wild pink would be my next choice. Frozen shrimp work great (which I love because I can always have them on hand); just thaw in cold water, drain and peel.