Texas-Style Shrimp and Cheese Grits are probably one of the most popular dishes in my household. The savory cheese grits, the giant flavor of the trinity, and the crisp, clean bite of jumbo-sized Gulf shrimp are incomparable.
The smoky flavor of the poblano takes the traditional to a whole new level. Top it with some Texas-Style Chiltepin Sauce, and you might just have perfection.
What Makes This Texas Style
There really isn’t much difference between this version of shrimp and grits and what you’d find in a bowl of Louisiana-style shrimp and grits.
What is a little different than the traditional is the addition of a poblano pepper to the trinity.
In Louisiana, the Cajun and Creole holy trinity is equal parts onions, bell peppers, and celery. However, I like the smoky flavor that the poblano pepper gives the trinity, so I always add it to mine.
If you want the traditional Cajun style of shrimp and grits, take out the poblano and add another bell pepper. Make sure that you add a green bell pepper to the red one that’s already included in the ingredients. You eat with your eyes first. It’ll help dress things up.
Cooking Shrimp and Grits Takes Time
This recipe takes some time. You have to simmer both your grits and your trinity very slowly. Don’t try to speed up the process.
You want your grits creamy. The only way to do that properly is to give them plenty of time to absorb the liquid. Don’t forget to whisk them thoroughly every five minutes or so. You don’t want them to settle and get clumpy.
With the trinity, your goal is to reduce it to the point that it’s almost gravy-like. You don’t want the texture of the vegetables competing with the shrimp or the creaminess of the grits. You’re aiming for flavor here.
The two things that really help the trinity break down are:
- Dice your vegetable very finely. I like to dice them no bigger than 1/4-inch. With the peppers, it helps to cut them into thin strips, then finely chop the strips.
- There are a couple of points during the cooking process that you add a little chicken broth, then reduce it. This not only helps to concentrate the richness of the chicken broth, but also to soften the vegetables.
Not All Grits Are Created Equal
It’s essential to understand that to make a good bowl of grits; you have to start with good grits.
None of that instant stuff. That’s just nasty.
Use real, stone-ground grits.
Cheap grits are generally old and ground with a high-speed milling process generates a lot of heat. As a result, it destroys the sweetness and natural taste of the corn.
Grinding the grits slowly with a stone wheel keeps them cool throughout the process and preserves the flavor.
We use Palmetto Farms Fine Ground Grits. They’re much higher quality than I’ve been able to find at my local grocery store.
Additionally, I store unused grits in my freezer to help maintain their freshness.
Texas-Style Shrimp and Cheese Grits
- 1/2 lb. bacon - 1/4-inch dice
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion - diced
- 1 large red bell pepper - finely diced
- 1 poblano - finely diced
- 2 large stalks of celery - finely diced
- 1 bunch green onions - finely chopped, dark green parts reserved for garnish
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 lb. jumbo shrimp - shelled, de-veined, and tails removed
Cooking Your Trinity and Shrimp
- Preheat a dry pan over medium heat and cook the bacon until the fat is rendered and its crisp. Remove the bacon pieces to a paper-towel-lined plat and set aside.
- Pour off all but 2 tbsp. of the bacon grease. Turn up the heat to medium-high, add the butter. Once the butter stops foaming, add the onion. Cook it becomes translucent and begins to brown. About 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth and reduce until almost dry, stirring and scraping up any stuck on bits with a wooden spatula.
- Add the remaining vegetables (excluding the dark green parts of the green onions). Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and browned. About 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth and reduce until almost dry, stirring and scraping up any stuck on bits with a wooden spatula.
- Add the garlic and seasonings and saute an additional minute, stirring constantly.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, and add the remaining 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
- Uncover and increase the heat to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced by 2/3. Add the shrimp and reserved bacon and stir in, then cook until the shrimp just turn pink (they should curl to a "C" shape, not an "O" shape).
- Begin about halfway through cooking your trinity.
- Bring the broth, milk, and salt to a low boil. Thoroughly whisk in the grits, then lower the heat and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, thoroughly whisking every 5 minutes. When whisking, work to make sure that any grits that have settled on the bottom are broken up and whisked back into the liquid.
- Stir in the cheese and keep warm until ready to serve.
- To serve, add a generous helping of grits to the bottom of a bowl, top with trinity and shrimp, then garnish with the reserved green onions.