Growing up in New Jersey the closest I ever came to eating grits was a bowl of Italian style polenta with braised pork. While polenta and grits are essentially cousins (read about their differences here), I was not a fan of grits when I was first introduced to them after moving to Kentucky in my teenage years. The way they were prepared reminded me of an even blander oatmeal and I swore them off forever. That is, until I was introduced to a cajun quintessential dish, Shrimp and Grits.
Shrimp and Grits is not always cheesy, but it is always creamy and rich. Cajun style provides a spicy kick from andouille sausage, but you could leave it that out for more a low-country take. However you make it, it is without a doubt a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. My recipe does call for cheese, and lots of it, but it makes every bite like a little spoon full of cheddar + smoked gouda heaven. This dish actually christened our RV as the first homemade dinner shared as a family in our little vacation getaway home on wheels. Jeff fell head over heels in love with Shrimp and Grits that night and this time around I swore it was the only recipe I'd ever use for the dish again.
A few days ago we enjoyed a rare rainy day in Austin and decided it was ideal weather for such a comforting meal. Even more rarely, I had my whole family at the table; Jeff, Hope and her husband Ryan, my youngest Bella, and even my son Chandler and his wife Madison visiting from San Diego! Madison helped me make dinner and we had a great evening cooking together for the first time in ages. We did have to double the recipe to feed the 7 of us but it could not have come out more perfectly in terms of quality AND quantity. One of Chandler's friends dropped by to say hi and ate the last plate, happily feeding 8 hungry bellies. Here's how to make it:
Spicy Sprimp and the Cheesiest Grits
with Andouille Sausage
Feeds 4 | Prep: 15 min Cook: 20 min
Andouille Sausage & Spicy Shrimp
12 oz andouille sausage, sliced 1/4"
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning* see note
olive oil as needed
salt + pepper to taste
3 cups water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon or Better than Bouillon
¾ cup grits
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups smoked gouda cheese, shredded
1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon cajun seasoning
¼ cup heavy cream
salt + pepper to taste
Creamy Pan Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
1. Pat shrimp dry with a paper towel and place in a bowl. Lightly season with salt and pepper, add cajun seasoning. Toss until coated evenly. Let marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes, 30 is ideal.
2. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. While the water boils and the shrimp marinates, brown your sausage.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, when oil is hot begin browning the andouille sausage in batches. Once all sausage is brown on both sides (about 2 minutes a side), set aside on a plate. Leave as much as the andouille fat in the pan as possible.
Turn heat off until ready to sear shrimp. Shrimp cook quickly so you can wait till your grits are done for this step.
3. Once water has come to a boil, whisk in your chicken bouillon. Add in grits and ½ teaspoon of salt (optional).
Cook your grits according to package directions. The ones I used called to cover, reduce heat, and let simmer for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally until done.
4. When grits have been finished cooking, turn off heat and whisk in butter.
Next whisk in half the cheese. Once it has fully incorporated, whisk in the remaining cheese.
Add ¼ teaspoon cajun seasoning and ¼ cup heavy cream and whisk until well mixed. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Set grits aside until ready to serve, they will thicken as they sit.
5. Returning to the pan with the rendered andouille sausage fat, re-heat pan over medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil if needed. When pan is hot, add shrimp in batches for to properly sear and prevent steaming. Shrimp should only need about 1 minute per side, but they are done when pink and tail begins to slightly curl into a "C".
As your shrimp have finished cooking, remove them from the pan and set aside with your andouille.
6. Reduce pan to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add minced garlic to melted butter and stir continuously for 1 minute to prevent burning. Avoid browning the garlic.
Add chicken broth and heavy cream to pan. Stir in 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning.
Simmer sauce mixture over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until thickened and reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Once sauce has thickened, return andouille sausage and spicy shrimp to pan. Toss until sausage and shrimp are well coated.
Serve the andouille + shrimp over grits with a generous amount of pan sauce. If desired, top with additional cheese, cajun seasoning, and sliced scallions.
If you do not have cajun seasoning on hand, you can easily make your own! Here is how:
Ingredients for Cajun Seasoning
1 ½ Tablespoons of smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon oregano
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.