If there is anything better than cheesy grits covered with a savory sauce and perfectly cooked shrimp, will someone please tell me what it is? I mean really! I truly believe grits are manna from heaven.  And then when you doctor them with some butter and a wee bit of sharp cheddar cheese, well who in their right mind can resist? And Creole seasoning? Whoever invented this combination of herbs and spices should be canonized. And I’m not even catholic! But I would vote to make this person a saint in the time it takes roux to go from caramel colored to burnt! And believe me, that’s only a matter of seconds!

I have actually been trying to perfect a saucy, semi-spicy shrimp over grits dish for quite some time now. I have pages of recipes copied off the internet and have made several attempts to make the perfect sauce (poor Mr. C.).  Some sauces call for the addition of andouille sausage, which by itself I love. But I don’t particularly care for the combination, so I checked that duo off my list. Finally, last evening, I prepared a sauce I can truly say is delicious. It includes simple ingredients, but I must confess it will never be featured on 30 Minute Meals. It does take time to prepare, but I am telling you, it is worth the time and effort. Actually next time I make it, I am going to double the recipe and put half in the freezer. And I know, it looks like there will be a lot of sauce, but not the case. The amount of sauce is perfect for 3 healthy adult servings.

So if you like Cajun or Creole food, give this recipe a try. And in case you are worried about the spice level, don’t. The sauce is not overly spicy nor does the flavor overwhelm the delicate flavor of the shrimp. And for those who like their food spicier, there is always hot sauce!

  • 1 lb. unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp (26/30 count)
  • 3 c. water
  • 5 T. vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery plus leaves, chopped
  • 1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. lobster base – Better Than Bouillon or Knorr (more expensive, but worth it)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T. Creole seasoning, divided (I use Emeril’s Essence – see recipe below)
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, opt.
  • 2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley, opt.
  • hot sauce, opt.

Peel shrimp, reserving shells; devein shrimp. Set aside. Bring shells and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes. Pour shrimp broth through a colander over a large bowl, pressing shells with back of a spoon; discard shells. Reserve the shrimp broth.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; stir in flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until flour is caramel colored (about 15 minutes). Add onion, celery, green pepper and cook, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and thyme; cook until you can smell the garlic, about 1 minute. Stir in the shrimp broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, 2 teaspoons of the Creole seasoning, salt, couple grinds of pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Meanwhile pour the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium size fry pan. Season the shrimp lightly with salt, pepper, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of Creole seasoning. Add shrimp to hot oil and cook only until done. Do not over-cook. Set aside. After the sauce has burbled away for 45 minutes or so, stir in the heavy cream. If sauce is too thick add a bit of water. Add the cooked shrimp and adjust seasoning. When ready to serve, spoon Cheese Grits (see recipe below) into the bottom of a shallow soup bowl. Ladle the shrimp and sauce on top. Serve with green onions, chopped parsley, and hot sauce available on the table. Cornbread and a nice hearty beer or merlot are great accompaniments.

Cheese Grits:

  • 1½ c. milk
  • 1½ c. water
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¾ c. quick-cooking grits
  • 1 T. butter
  • ¾ c. sharp cheddar, grated

Bring milk, water, and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Adjust seasoning. If you like thinner grits, add a little more milk before adding the butter and cheese.

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning:

  • 2½ T. paprika
  • 2 T. salt
  • 2 T. garlic powder or granulated garlic
  • 1 T. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. cayenne
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container.