Shrimp and grits is comfort food at its very best. The Southern classic makes for a cozy and hearty brunch, lunch or dinner any day of the week. This newfangled version counts on pimento cheese to add a robust, smoky and spicy flavor to the creamy grits while the shrimp is battered and fried for lots of textural crunch in every forkful.
If you’re unfamiliar with pimento cheese, allow us to introduce you. Pimento cheese is a tried and true Southern spread made with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and jarred pimentos. It’s cheesy and creamy with just the right amount of tang from the pimentos. While it’s available to buy in grocery stores all over the South, this recipe has you make your own. Luckily, it’s as easy as stirring a few ingredients together. Our version calls for garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder and cayenne pepper for added oomph and flavor. The homemade pimento cheese is mixed into the grits to lend lots of richness and cheesy goodness.
Though the fried shrimp is quick-cooking, the grits take about an hour to cook. So get those started and allow them to simmer away while you prepare the other meal components. The shrimp is briefly marinated in buttermilk and Cajun spices before it’s tossed in seasoned cornmeal and deep fried. Pile the crispy shrimp on top of the creamy grits, sprinkle bowls with thinly sliced scallions for a jolt of freshness and dig in.
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- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups yellow corn grits, rinsed
- 1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1 jar chopped pimento peppers, liquid drained
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- thinly sliced scallions, to garnish
- 1-1¼ pounds large shrimp, deveined and shells removed
- 1½ cups full-fat buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, divided
- 6-10 dashes Louisiana-style hot sauce
- 4-6 cups vegetable or peanut oil
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1½ teaspoons ground mustard
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
For the pimento cheese grits:1.
Place a large pot over medium heat and pour in vegetable broth and milk. While you wait for it to come to a boil, place the grits into a mesh strainer and rinse with cold water until the water runs clear.2.
When the broth and milk come to a boil, whisk in the grits and reduce the heat to low. Cover with a lid and cook for 45 to 50 minutes. Be sure to stir the grits frequently to prevent them from clumping or sticking to the bottom of the pan. If they begin to thicken before they've finished cooking, reduce the heat and add additional milk in 1/2 cup increments.3.
While the grits are cooking, prepare the pimento cheese mixture by combining shredded cheddar cheese, cream cheese, chopped pimento peppers, garlic powder, smoked paprika, onion powder and cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl.4.
Once the grits are soft and tender, remove them from the heat and stir in the pimento cheese mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the fried Cajun shrimp:1.
In a large mixing bowl, combine shrimp, buttermilk, 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning and hot sauce. Set aside and marinate for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes.2.
Heat 1½ inches of oil in a large pan to 350 F to 375 F. Meanwhile, combine flour, cornmeal, ground mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper, cornstarch, baking soda and remaining Cajun seasoning in a separate large mixing bowl.3.
Place a handful of marinated shrimp into the flour mixture. Toss together the shrimp with the flour, being sure to coat each piece thoroughly. Shake each piece and transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining marinated shrimp.4.
Slowly lower 10 to 14 pieces of shrimp into the oil, keeping a 1/4 inch between each piece. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the shrimp are golden-brown and crispy. Transfer the fried shrimp to a paper towel-lined plate or sheet pan. Continue to fry the remaining shrimp and be sure to continue monitoring the oil temperature in between each batch.5.
Once all the shrimp are cooked, keep them in a warm oven until ready to serve.
Serve the grits warm with fried shrimp and garnish with thinly sliced scallions.