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Festive Charleston Shrimp and Grits

December 14, 2016


Shrimp and grits might be the most versatile dish ever—an anytime meal perfect for breakfast, lunch, brunch, or dinner. In fact, the venerable old cookbook, Charleston Receipts, called it Breakfast Shrimp in one of the oldest known recipes. Today, no reputable brunch menu would be without shrimp & grits. And it’s just as likely to be served for supper, especially here at Barkley’s Mill.

Our Charleston Shrimp & Grits recipe is tailored for entertaining—especially during the holidays when so many plans are in play. Not only is it simple to make, it’s also a little bit special. Logistically speaking, the components can be prepared ahead then finished in a few quick minutes just before serving. Add no-fuss crockpot grits to the plan and you’re on track for a no stress gathering.  
        Charleston Shrimp and Grits is an impressive and satisfying meal on its own, but feel free to embellish with a side or two—just keep them simple. A crisp salad with a tart dressing, or marinated veggies, like green beans or asparagus, are great make-aheads. A warm option could be some sort of braised greens—collard, turnip, mustard, even cabbage. Again, totally make ahead and stress free! This meal definitely should be on your shortlist of entertaining go-tos.

Makes 4 servings  |  Cooking time: about 1 hour, including cooking the grits 



  • 1½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Creole seasoning, such as Old Bay
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • 5–6 slices bacon
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • ¼ cup finely diced bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock (you may need a bit more)
  • ¾ cup (divided) sliced scallions, white and green parts
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • Lemon wedges



Make the grits. Follow the recipe for Basic Crock Pot Grits, which can be started from 4 to 8 hours ahead and kept warm in the slow cooker. Or follow the recipe for  Creamy Country Grits, starting them at least 30 minutes ahead of the shrimp. For either recipe, we recommend a 50/50 blend of milk with chicken or vegetable stock for the cooking liquid.

Season the shrimp. In a mixing bowl, dab the shrimp dry with paper towels. Add the lemon juice, Creole seasoning, salt, pepper, pepper sauce, and cayenne pepper. Toss to combine and set the shrimp aside. You can do this up to 1 hour ahead.

Prepare the bacon. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, fry the bacon until crisp—5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Pour the pan drippings into a heat proof container and reserve. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, break the slices into pieces. Set the bacon aside.

Make the sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent and begin to color, 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and sauté until the flour begins to brown—about 5 minutes more. Add the chicken stock and the crumbled bacon to the pan and stir until the sauce is smooth. Simmer the sauce for about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in ½ cup of the scallions.

Hold until ready to serve. At this point you can wait until everyone and everything is assembled for the meal. When you’re about 10 minutes away from serving, go to the next step.

Finish the Shrimp and Grits. With the skillet over medium-high heat, return the sauce to a full boil. Add the shrimp, along with any liquid that’s accumulated, and cook until the shrimp are opaque—usually 5 to 8 minutes, depending on size. If the sauce seems dry, add a splash of broth. Do not overcook the shrimp! Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the butter.

Serve Charleston Shrimp and Grits. Ladle grits onto plates or into bowls. Top with the shrimp and its sauce. Sprinkle the remaining scallions over top and serve with lemon wedges. Be sure to set out a bottle of pepper sauce for the ones who like it spicy!