Easy-to-fix comfort food, with just the right amount of spice and flavor.
Did I ever tell you that I’m 100% Italian? That’s right. Italian on both my mother’s (Anna Maria) and my father’s (Salvatore) side. And, while this dish is named Easy Shrimp and Grits ( mainly because that’s what Bobby Flay called it), in my family this dish would have been called Easy Shrimp and Polenta. So, what’s the difference between grits and polenta? Nada. Polenta and grits are basically the same thing: coarse ground cornmeal that is thickened by cooking it with a liquid or two (water, broth, cream, milk), and flavored with something (spices, herbs, vegetables, cheese, etc.) or not. In my Italian family this dish has always been “polenta”. If you really want the technical low-down and a boatload of info about cornmeal, you can find more here.
On to the recipe! Do you love shrimp but are looking to expand your shrimp-cooking repertoire with something a little different? Jackpot: this is the dish to try. The match-made-in-heaven, pairing of the smoky-spicy shrimp and the creamy-cheesy grits will no doubt hit the spot. I garnished our Easy Shrimp and Grits (Polenta) with homemade kale chips, which to me added the perfect amount of texture and crunch. A nice side salad with fresh crisp greens would also do the trick.
The Nutrition 411
- People are confused about shrimp; don’t be. Even though shrimp tastes rich, it is not high in calories and it’s a good source of protein. And, although shrimp is high in cholesterol, it’s also low in saturated fat which is known to contribute to clogged arteries. All in all, in moderation this dish definitely fits into a healthy diet.
- Cornmeal: Nutritionally speaking, corn meal is not good or bad. You could do a lot worse when it comes to carbs. Cornmeal is a good source of carbs and fiber and a decent source of protein, iron, zinc, and unsaturated fat. Some corn meal is whole grain, some is not. If the label says “degerminated” it’s not whole grain. We used degerminated in our recipe.
- Kale chips: These little munchmasters add complexity and texture to this dish but they are not a must. (Some people just plain don’t like them.) If you’re game to give them a try, you can buy them already prepared or make them yourself (a subject of a future post).
- Do not use already cooked shrimp. Buy raw, frozen shrimp and defrost it, or fresh shrimp (if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where they sell fresh shrimp).
- Use coarse-ground cornmeal. Coarse means coarse. I used Organic Grits/Polenta, that was made from corn from Shady Side Farm, and purchased at one of our local farm markets. The texture was perfect!
- Some polenta chefs say to cut the cooking time in half, you can add a pinch of baking soda to your corn meal while its cooking. I have never tried that before but perhaps someday I will.
- If you don’t eat bacon, but want that concentrated burst of umami flavor, try using chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil instead.
- Texture is a thing, get it right. Cooked polenta/grits should be creamy not gritty. Gritty = under-cooked. Take you time to cook the cornmeal until until it’s creamy in texture. Also, don’t be surprised when the cooked grits/polenta harden when cooled. That’s what “they” do. Reheat them in the microwave – with a little water, milk, or broth to make them deliciously creamy again.
So you can call it polenta or you can call it grits, but do make this dish — and call it whatever suits you — as soon as possible!
Peace, love and good eats; from our empty nest to yours.
Mr. EN’s Take on This Recipe: Surprise! Mr. EN was out of town when I made this so I shared it with my 88 year old, 100% Italian mother who said: “This is good. What kind of cheese is in the polenta? That’s not Parmesan.” 😊
Easy Shrimp and Grits (Polenta)
Yield 2 servings
- 10-12 shrimp (size 26-30) raw, peeled and deveined
- 3-4 slices bacon, raw, chopped
- ½ cup coarse ground grits/cornmeal
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup, high-quality, sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- smoked paprika
- crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ¼-1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- In a medium size pot, bring water and stock or broth to a boil.
- Add cayenne pepper, a dash of salt and a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Stir in the grits and cook, stirring often, over medium low-heat, until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- While the grits are cooking (keep stirring them though!) pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle with a little salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
- Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well and remove from pan.
- In the same pan that you cooked the bacon in (with a little bacon grease left in it) add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp slightly browns on one side, then flip the shrimp over and add the lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions, and garlic. (Hold just a little cheese, scallions and parsley back for garnish.) Sauté for 3 minutes more.
- When done, remove the cooked grits/polenta from heat and stir in the butter and cheese.
- Divide the shrimp mixture and cooked grits into two portions and sprinkle with a little extra cheese, parsley and scallions.
- To lower the sodium use water or zero-sodium stock or broth and low-sodium bacon and cheese. You can also skip the added salt.
- If you love garlic (I do!) add 2-3 cloves of smashes roasted garlic to the grits/polenta near the end of the cooking time.
Serving Size about 1 1/2 cups
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value
Total Fat 24 g
Unsaturated Fat 12 g
Cholesterol 124 mg
Sodium 911 mg
Total Carbohydrates 35 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Protein 30 g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Maggie C says
I’ve had a bag of those grits in my ‘fridge for a month and didn’t know what to do with them. Thanks for the inspiration!
Definitely! I’m glad I could provide inspiration. You can also use them to thicken chili (stir in a few tablespoons and let them cook awhile in the chili) or make some delicious homemade cornbread. Happy cooking!