There’s nothing like a ending a weekend with an indulgent brunch, be it sweet French toast, savory quiche, or a simple yet hearty meal of scrambled eggs and bacon (and mimosas, of course). A Southern gal by birth, I have to say my all-time favorite go-to for brunch is shrimp and grits. I’ll take them any which way you serve ’em — with a creamy gravy, Creole-style or even in casserole form — and at any time of the day.
Living deep in the heart of Texas, where breakfast tacos and scrambled egg migas reign supreme, I rarely see this dish on restaurant menus, so I end up having to make it myself. If you’ve read any of my recipes, you know that I have a penchant for taking standard dishes and putting my own spin on them. So when I recently had a craving for shrimp and grits, I wanted to include another favorite ingredient of mine: barbecue sauce. (Trust me, it works.)
Hence, I ended up with this smoky, spicy and slightly sweet Texas twist on shrimp and grits. The sweet and spicy barbecue sauce — in this case, Stubb’s Sweet Heat — adds an added layer of flavor that takes the dish to the next level, and it’s further enhanced by the addition of the smoked cheese, Serrano pepper and smoked paprika. For an added Texas influence, replace the shrimp with smoked brisket or pulled pork. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can always make a batch of your own ’cue sauce.
So the next time you’re in a brunching mood — whether it be noon on Sunday or 7 p.m. on a Tuesday — whip up this satisfying, simple-to-prepare dish. It’s written for two but can easily be multiplied to feed 20, and you may want to make extra because I guarantee you’ll want a second helping.
Spicy, Smoky Shrimp and Grits
Makes 2 servings (for more servings, multiply ingredients accordingly)
16 ounces (2 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
A dash of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup stoneground yellow grits/cornmeal
1/2 cup grated smoked cheese (I used smoked Provolone, but a smoked Cheddar or Gouda also works well)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup smoked sausage, diced (I used Kielbasa, but Andouille would taste great, too)
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil (if needed)
3-4 small sweet peppers or 1 large bell pepper, small diced
1/2 yellow onion, small diced
1 Serrano pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
2 ounces dry, light white wine (Albariño, Pinot Gris, Viognier, etc.)
1/2 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup sweet and spicy barbecue sauce (I used Stubb’s Sweet Heat)
A few pinches of smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1. Bring the chicken broth and salt to a boil in a sauce pan, whisk in grits, then set the heat to low. Cover the pot and allow the grits to simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes. If the grits are too thick before end of cooking time, add more broth 1/4 cup at a time.
2. While the grits cook, heat a large pan to medium-high heat and cook the sausage until it’s browned and crispy, reserving the rendered fat in the pan. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
3. Lower the heat to medium, add the bell pepper, onion and Serrano (add oil if pan is too dry), and saute until soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and pepper flakes. When the garlic just starts to brown, add the chicken broth and wine to pan. When the liquid starts to simmer, add the shrimp and butter and cook for about 2 minutes, until the shrimp is firm and pink.
4. When the grits are cooked and creamy, stir in cheese, butter and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon warm grits into bowls, top with shrimp and its sauce. To finish, drizzle the barbecue sauce over the dish, sprinkle with smoked paprika and chopped cilantro, and serve. Optional: top each serving with a fried egg.
(Top photo by yours truly; Sweet Heat photo courtesy of Stubb’s)