First, a confession – I had planned to make this recipe on a Saturday so I could buy the slow-cooking grits per the book’s recommendation, but when I went to Zingerman’s Deli on Saturday morning, after my habitual stop at the nearby Farmer’s Market, I accidentally bought a can of the quick-cooking grits, rather than the slow ones, and didn’t realize it til I got home. At which point, rather than make another round trip in to town, I decided to use what I had. So they cooked for at least an hour I’d say, but not 4 hours. They were good; I have no doubt the slow-cooking ones are even better.
I also got the Benton’s bacon from Zingerman’s Deli. Sliced medium-thick. I used a wee bit more than the recipe called for – mmm, bacon.
Nicely colorful ingredients – the celery/onion/red pepper. I bought 18 large shrimp instead of the 12 jumbo, seemed to work out fine. And, since my husband can’t eat gluten, I used all purpose gluten-free flour in the pan to create the sauce – it seemed to do ok, although might not have been as thick as the regular flour version would be.
It worked fine to cook the shrimp for just a minute or two, and then shell and clean them after that – maybe that is a common way to do it, but I never had. I’ve always shelled and cleaned shrimp raw. I liked this method.
It was fun to tie the shrimp shells in the cheesecloth – I dont know why. Maybe because it felt old fashioned. Our big iron skillet was perfect for this dish. I did need to add maybe 1/4 cup more water at one point, but not much.
It cooked up easily, we heated the plates as directed, served the grits and then the shrimp and sauce on top, and ate it out on our back deck. Was scrumptious. And more than enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
Shrimp and Grits with Benton’s Bacon
From page 205 of Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon by Ari Weinzweig:
For the grits:
4 cups water
1 cup coarse-ground grits
3/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons butter
For the shrimp sauce:
4 ounces (about 2 to 3 slices) bacon, diced
12 fresh shell-on jumbo shrimp
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 small sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
Hot red pepper flakes (preferably Marash), to taste
Freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper to taste
Heat the water in a large pot over high heat. Add the grits before it begins to boil, stirring well. Continue stirring while the pot comes to a boil, then reduce the heat. Add the salt and butter, stirring for a minute to melt the butter. Hold the pot at a low boil, stirring the grits regularly until they begin to thicken (3 to 5 minutes).
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, loosely covered, for 30 to 60 minutes – or longer still – until grits reach desired doneness. The longer you cook ’em, the better they’ll get. Stir fairly often to avoid clumping and sticking.
While the grits are cooking, start the sauce.
Cook the bacon in a 13-inch skillet over medium heat for a few minutes until lightly cooked and the fat is rendered. Remove half the bacon from the pan and reserve, leaving the other half in the skillet with the fat.
Add the shrimp to the skillet, sprinkle with salt and saute briefly so that they’re very lightly cooked – but not cooked through – on each side (probably less than a minute per side). Remove shrimp to a platter and set aside.
In the same skillet, saute the onion, celery, red bell pepper, and garlic until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, shell and clean the shrimp, reserving the shells and tying them in a cheesecloth bundle.
Sift the flour directly over the vegetables and give it a good stir until it dissolves. Slowly add in the water, mixing constantly, so that it forms a smooth sauce. Bring the mixture to a high simmer and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring steadily.
Add the shrimp shell bundle, the bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Keep at a low simmer for 15 to 30 minutes or until the grits (which are cooking in the other pot) are almost ready. Add additional water if the sauce gets too thick. It should be the texture of a moderately thick pasta sauce.
Cut the peeled and cleaned shrimp into 1-inch pieces. (You can leave them whole if your prefer, but I like the more effective shrimp distribution that you get from having smaller pieces.) Return to the sauce and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove and discard the shells. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle the cooked grits onto warm plates. Top with the shrimp sauce, sprinkle on the reserved fried bacon and serve hot.
Serves 3 to 4 as a main course