Ahh fall. The breezy temperatures the last few days in Atlanta are certainly welcomed. Fall is my favorite time of year. There's nothing I love more than crunchy leaves beneath my feet, a slight chill, boots, and pumpkin flavored everything. Around this time, I also start craving warm comfort foods. This recipe is slightly special to me, as it is the very first thing I successfully cooked on my own. And it's the first dish I made for loved ones to try out my cooking. While this dish is as uncomplicated as it gets, the flavor is excellent.
If you told me ten years ago that grits would one day be one of my favorite foods, I would have laughed at you. I only knew of the boxed, instant variety. After having grits at restaurants and noticing the taste difference, I decided I loved these grits! The difference? Stone ground and local.
An excellent little mill in Georgia makes the best stone ground grits. Logan Turnpike Mill, based in Blairsville, Georgia, grinds their corn on an antique mill. Slowly. This process creates an incredible flavor that you'll definitely notice. If you're local to Atlanta, I purchase mine at Whole Foods. If you're elsewhere, lucky for you they can be purchased through Logan Turnpike Mill's website.
For this recipe, you'll need the following:
2 cups Logan Turnpike Mill White Grits (or your favorite stone ground grits brand)
8 cups water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 Vidalia onion
Crushed Red Pepper
Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper
Optional: 6 slices of uncured, gluten free bacon - try Whole Foods brand, Applegate Farms, or Hormel Naturals
To start, add two cups of grits to a large pot and rinse. Once rinsed, add in eight cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and leave uncovered. Check periodically, and stir stir stir.
While the grits are simmering, cook the six strips of bacon first, if using. I like to use the bacon because the fat they leave in the pan will be used for the vegetables & shrimp, and is responsible for a large amount of the flavor. Once bacon is cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan, add the shrimp. Season with crushed red pepper, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Cook until white throughout, and remove from the pan and set aside. Add the vegetable and onion mixture to the same pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. As a final step, add the shrimp back in to the pan and add a bit of Tabasco sauce if you like a little kick, approximately 1 tablespoon. Toss the mixture together and then remove from the pan.
Once the grits are thickened and all liquid has been absorbed, add in the heavy whipping cream. Stir quickly and remove from heat. The best thing about grits is their neutral flavor allows you to add in anything you like. If you prefer sweeter grits, you can add a bit of honey. If you love cheese, sharp white cheddar is excellent in this recipe.
For serving, add grits to individual bowls. Spread the onion and pepper mixture on top, along with some of the crumbled bacon. Add five to six shrimp to each bowl. Serves four.