I was born in Alabama, where much of my family still lives . The other half live in north central Florida. My family is Southern. Not in the old-money, high society, bow-tie wearing kind of way. Instead my family comes from humble roots with my Great Grandfather as a butcher and his wife a homemaker who took care to feed five children. Then those five children, mostly women, took to starting their own families and between my Grandma and her sisters I have witnessed true Southern cooking. My summers were spent eating fried fish, picking peanuts out of their boiled shells and drowning in watermelon juice.
But if I had to choose a Southern food that brings comfort, memories of family and tradition, it would be grits. Grits are a Southern staple that can be seen on any menu from breakfast, lunch to dinner. Made from hominy (corn), ground up and boiled in water until thick. Most people associate their similarity with cream-of-wheat. However, I assure you friends, they are not a thing like cream-of-wheat and from an entirely different grain. Famously, they’re eaten at breakfast simply with a dash of salt and good dollop of butter.
But, if you gander over to the coastal edges of the Southern United States you’ll find the loved creamy comfort food paired with shrimp. Blackened shrimp that is.
Growing up I’d watch my Grandpa serve up grits along with his eggs, bacon, apple sauce and biscuit. He’d take his fork and gently cut up his fried eggs and drudge them through the grits mixing them to soak up all the creamy yolk. My cousin emulated his way of eating any chance he got, so he’d follow suit. My sister never cared much for grits as a child, though as she got older came to love them. I however, have always loved them. I’d eat them cooked slowly sprinkled with salt and pepper and stirred in butter and as it melted I’d eat the luxurious mixture. They are so warming, like a big bowl of oatmeal only savory and much more creamy from their finely ground texture.
Unfortunately, with little health benefits there’s not truly a reason to eat grits. Used to be that these were such a staple in the Southern household because they’re both inexpensive and last long. A single cup of grits will pretty much turn into about four servings, any leftovers may then go into dressing (southern stuffing) or casserole. If there’s a quality I have learned from the stories of my great grandparents it’s ‘waste not, want not’. They used everything they had and grits especially were one of those things.
Pairing with shrimp came about in the coastal states of the Carolina’s, Louisiana, and South Alabama where the states have a plentiful supply of crawfish, shrimp, and the like. Fishermen were the first to pair the two in their beautiful marriage of flavors and actually would eat them for breakfast. Leave it to a fisherman to grab a few fresh shrimp and plop them on some fresh cooked grits, which he probably did out of pure necessity for something to eat. Now you can pretty much find Shrimp ‘n Grits in most Southern restaurants as a staple meal for dinner.
After living in southern Alabama and frequently visiting my Dad there during my youth, I have had my fair share of Shrimp ‘n Grits. Some good, some not so good. I’ll say for sure though, the best grits I’ve ever had have come out of my Grandma’s kitchen. Isn’t that the way it always goes? Everyone claims, “No one can cook better than my Grandma,” and I’d be ready to stand by that statement in a heartbeat. But truthfully, not just in my humble opinion but in the opinion of many of my friends, there are no grits like Grandma’s.
I believe this it’s not all about the type of grits you buy, though I know it plays a small role, rather it’s all about the method. My Grandma taught me the art of grits, which involves attention, lots of butter and constant stirring. Having learned from her how to make true grits, I knew how big of a feat this was to try to make a grain-free replica. Alas, I’ll tell you they are not the same as stone-ground grits slathered with butter and doused with salt and pepper. I would be lying if I told you that. Yet they are creamy, rich, comforting and filling. They are grain-free and damn delicious.
Topped with garlic blackened shrimp they become even more savory and filling without being as heavy as the typical corn variety. Shrimp are one of my favorite sea foods with their sweet light taste that can be seasoned with a plethora of different spices to take on a totally new flavor.
Whether you’ve had grits before and miss their comforting nuance and flavor, or you’ve never tried them at all, I promise you will love these. I even made sure a friend whose also had my Grandmother’s grits tried these out before I shared. This satisfies my craving, brings warmth to my heart and soul . I can eat grain-free “grits” until my heart’s content or my bellies full, hard to judge which would happen first!
SHRIMP ‘N GRAIN-FREE “GRITS”
Serves – 4
4 cups riced cauliflower (place head of cauliflower in blender to rice it and then measure out from there)
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon bone broth (preferably chicken or turkey, beef will work but different flavor)
1 teaspoon Great Lakes grass-fed beef gelatin *red can (can be made without if you don’t have it)
1 pound shrimp
Coconut oil or ghee for pan
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1. Heat half of coconut oil or ghee along with ½ tsp salt on medium heat in a sauce pot, then add the cauliflower and stir until toasted. It will look only slightly golden (around 5 min).
2. Then add broth and stir while lowering heat to a simmer.
3. In a bowl combine coconut milk, gelatin, olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt and stir until combined.
4. Add the mixture to the pot and allow it to simmer on low for ten minutes (allow another 5 minutes without gelatin and stir frequently).
5. While it simmers grab a freezer safe glass bowl and place it inside the freezer.
6. Heat a skillet to medium-high. I prefer cast iron.
7. Combine the spices for the shrimp in a bowl and season each shrimp on both sides by rubbing the seasoning all over.
8.Once the skillet is hot, place the shrimp in the skillet in batches, once the tails turn pink flip and cook another 30 seconds until pink, meaning they are done.
9.Once the grits have finished simmering transfer the mixture to the cold bowl. Allow for it to become slightly cooled, warm and closer to room temperature.
Serve “grits” with extra olive oil or ghee (preferred if you tolerate), then top with shrimp!