Shrimp and Grits

from Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking

This dish is also known as "Classic Charleston Breakfast Shrimp." It's very nearly the definitive Charleston supper dish, though when I moved back home in 1986, it had all but disappeared from both home and restaurant menus. Now nearly everyone in town is addicted to my grits, and most restaurants serve a version of the dish.

This is what most Charlestonians think of as shrimp and grits. The secret to a nonpasty gravy is to cook the flour, which takes about 5 minutes. You'll need to start cooking the flour before you add the shrimp, because they don't take as long to cook. This is the real thing. Be sure to use my real grits (See John's Products) in this recipe. For the best flavor, make a simple stock from the heads and/or shells of the shrimp.

Serves 2

1 cup (½ pound) peeled shrimp
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
3 tablespoons bacon grease
1 small onion, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
about ¼ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Creamy Grits
¾ to 1 cup hot water or stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)

In a bowl, sprinkle the shrimp with the lemon juice, salt, and cayenne and set aside. Heat the bacon grease in a skillet and sauté the onion and pepper over medium heat until the onion begins to become transparent, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the flour begins to brown. Add the shrimp and about 3/4 cup water or stock, stirring constantly and turning the shrimp so that they cook evenly. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked through and the gravy is uniformly smooth, thinning with a little extra water or stock if necessary. Serve immediately over grits.