Coarse Correction

I have been a big fan of grits for a long time, or at least what I thought was grits. About 10 years ago I got to try some OG Grits. They were coarse-ground with a stone mill powered by the War Eagle Creek (a tributary of the White River) in Rogers, Arkansas. Quick grits do not taste like this, nor do other coarse-ground grits you get in the store. The difference is similar to the difference between freshly squeezed lemon juice and bottled lemon juice. If you have always used lemon juice out of a plastic bottle, that is lemon juice to you. But once you figure out you can squeeze it out of a fresh lemon, there is a clear and distinct difference. A word of warning: Just like getting lemon juice from the bottle vs getting lemon juice from a fresh lemon, there is extra work. But the final result is worth it.


War Eagle Mill is a great resource for true grits, but there are many other locations around the country. Like most things, there is a way to do it and a better way to do it. Many times the bag for your grits may lead you slightly astray. The soak is very important — I will let you know how I have adjusted the soak — for now, my method is ever-evolving. The soak is why the next time you cook grits it will lead to a superior result. Real stone-ground grits have the chaff from the corn. Think of the parts of popcorn that get stuck in your teeth. Wouldn’t it be nice to remove them? By soaking them, you can. Many methods suggest soaking them in water, stock, whey or milk overnight. I like heating the milk before soaking and find that they cook much nicer the second day. Find a tall container (that won’t melt with boiling liquid). Place your grits inside, bring about 5 times the amount of liquid to a simmer (add a nice pinch of salt) and pour it over the dry grits. Stir vigorously with a spoon and watch pieces of chaff start floating to the top. Use a small strainer or perforated spoon to scrape off the floating chaff from the liquid. Repeat the process of stirring and scraping off the chaff another 3 or 4 times. Each time you will scoop out a little less. Now place the container in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4 to 5 hours to soak.


Heating cold grain and cold liquid together can lead to bad things. It can take much longer and it is much easier for the items at the bottom of the pan to stick and need constant attention. I like to strain the liquid from the soaked grits, bring it back to a simmer and then whisk the grits back into the liquid once it comes back to a simmer. I find this helps the grits cook more quickly and need less attention. Once the liquid has simmered and you have added the grits back in, turn the heat to low and stir every minute or two to keep them from sticking to the bottom. As they thicken, you may need to stir a little more often. Once the grits have started to thicken, taste them and season lightly with salt and pepper. If they have a little crunch to them, they need a little more liquid. Once they have a slight bite — not a crunch — they are ready to go. Turn off the heat. They can sit for 30 to 40 minutes on the stove if needed, until the rest of your food is ready. Just add in a small amount of liquid and reheat over medium heat. Make sure to add cheese, then butter off the heat, so the fat does not separate. If you happen to have any leftover grits, they store well. Make sure to cool them completely uncovered in the refrigerator before covering them. Cooked grits keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, but after that should be frozen. They reheat well in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove.


A 4- to 6-ounce portion is great per person, the size will depend on your preference. Larger shrimp are great for a smaller group for a plated dinner. Smaller shrimp would work better for a larger group where you’re not keeping track of how many shrimp are going on each plate. The shrimp can be cooked toward the end in the liquid or sautéed separately. Keep a close eye on the shrimp; they can easily overcook if left in too long. You just want to see them turn from white to pink. If you need to, you can cut into a larger one to check and make sure it is cooked all the way through.


The dish is shrimp and grits, but there are so many other items that make the dish. If you can find some good andouille sausage or tasso ham, it will add a tremendous amount of flavor. Bacon, ham, Canadian bacon or spicy sausage can work as a substitute. I like to brown the meat, add in the onions until the edges start to brown, then remove them all and reserve till the end. After that, you can add all of the liquid and other aromatics to reduce the sauce. Aromatics include, but are not limited to, garlic, tomatoes, white wine, lemon juice, pepper flakes, onions and herbs. After the sauce’s flavors have had time to meld, the meat and onions can be added back in the pan along with the shrimp. A generous amount of butter can be whisked in once the shrimp are cooked. Toss in the chopped parsley and season to taste. Spoon out a portion of grits onto each plate and top with a heap of the shrimp with sauce. The combination of the creamy grits and the spicy shrimp are worth the wait.

Shrimp and Grits

Makes 4 Servings


1 cup real stone ground grits
5 cups milk or other liquid
2 to 3 ounces shredded cheddar
1 to 2 ounces butter

Place your grits inside a tall container, bring liquid to a simmer separately with a heavy pinch of salt. Pour it liquid over dry grits. Stir vigorously with a spoon and watch pieces of chaff start floating to the top. Use a small strainer or perforated spoon to scrape off the floating chaff from the liquid. Repeat the process of stirring and scraping off the chaff another 3 or 4 times. Place the container in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4 to 5 hours to soak. Stur once more the next day and remove any floating chaff. Strain liquid again and bring to simmer, add in soaked grits and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes until grits are tender, stirring frequently and adding more liquid if needed. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in cheese and butter and season with salt and pepper. Grits can sit if needed for 30 to 45 minutes until the rest of your dish is ready. Re-heat over medium heat with frequent stirring, add more liquid if needed.


1 to 1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled or 1 ½ to 2 pounds un-peeled
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 to 6 ounces Andouille sausage, small diced (or another spiced sausage)
3 to 4 ounces Tasso Ham, small diced (or an other spiced ham)
1 Onion, small diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup water
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp pepper flakes (optional, leave out for milder dish)
4 Tablespoons minced parsley
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp butter, diced

In a large saute pan, cook diced andouille and tasso ham until lightly brown, add onion and cook until edges are starting to brown, and sausage and ham have started to develop crispy edges. Remove sausage, ham, and onion and reserve for later. Add garlic, tomatoes, water, wine, lemon juice, and pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the flavors have melded and the liquid has reduced by about half. Add sausage, ham, and onion back into the pan along with shrimp and sliced green onion. Cook until the shrimp has turned from white to pink all the way through (cut into one). Add in the parsley and turn off the heat. Add all of the butter at once and stir constantly until the butter has emulsified into the sauce. Season to taste and serve on top of grits in a bowl or on a plate.

Brook Harlan is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He is a culinary arts instructor at the Columbia Area Career Center.

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