Add some leafy greens to your shrimp and grits! This recipe for shrimp and grits and greens features delicate shrimp with lots of depth, toothsome, buttery stone ground grits, and dark leafy greens cooked until tender in a lightly sweet, wonderfully garlicky shrimp broth.
Like any other ingredient, vegetables should always be delicious. Salads and leafy greens have as much right to be perfectly seasoned and cooked in a flavorful fat as any protein or starch. One of my favorite ways to imbue vegetables with the deliciousness they deserve is to incorporate them into otherwise rich and carby dishes. Cheesy caramelized cabbage pasta, for instance. Or, here, shrimp and grits and greens.
Somewhere between greens in potlikker and traditional shrimp and grits, this take on shrimp and grits is layered and rich and garlicky and spicy. So while I work hard to make sure the recipes I share here make sense and are free of unnecessary steps or extra dishes, this recipe requires more hands-on prep and cook time than usual, but I think it’s worth it.
My shrimp and grits and greens has three main elements: creamy, slow-cooked white corn grits; a quick shrimp stock made from shrimp shells and kale stems; and garlicky sautéed shrimp tossed with tender greens.
This recipe calls for a bit of prep, but start to finish, everything comes together in about an hour.
You’ll want to start with shell-on shrimp. Frozen is great – just set them in a large bowl and run under a trickle of cold water for 20 minutes. While you wait, start the grits and prep the vegetables and greens. Once the shrimp are thawed enough to handle (after about 10 minutes), shell them and toss them in a pot with aromatics, herbs, and the greens stems. While that boils, devein the shrimp. Here’s a simple guide to deveining shrimp. At last, you’ll sauté the shrimp (just enough to develop flavor and pink it up), cook the greens in shrimp broth, and toss it all together.
The end result of all that prep is a one-bowl dinner that covers all the bases.
Shrimp and Grits and Greens: Endless Variations
Test runs of this dish included fresh chiles, sun-dried tomatoes, and lots of Tabasco. I look forward to trying it with a side of fresh tomatoes. As far as the greens go, I’ve tried kale, collards, and chard. I haven’t tried turnip, radish, or beet greens, but I bet they’d be good.
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup stone ground white grits
- 2 cups milk, plus up to 1/2 cup more as needed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup cheddar
- 2 pounds shell-on shrimp, frozen is fine
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 carrot, scrubbed with end trimmed
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled, divided
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed (and reserved)
- 4 sprigs thyme, divided
- 2 fresh Mediterranean bay leaves
- Sea salt
- 10 peppercorns
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Old Bay seasoning
- Ground pepper
- Tabasco sauce
Start with the grits. Bring a medium saucepan filled with 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Whisk in the sea salt and grits. When mixture just starts to simmer again, whisk in milk and butter. Turn heat to low and cover with the lid slightly askew. Cook, stirring often, for about an hour. (Grits tend to stick to the bottom of the pan in the beginning, so do check and stir often.) If more liquid is needed, add up to 1/2 cup more milk.
While grits cook, thaw shrimp in a large bowl under a trickle of cold running water. When they've thawed enough to handle (about 10 minutes), peel the shrimp, reserving the shells.
In a large saucepan, combine the shrimp shells, onion, carrot, 2 cloves garlic, kale stems, 2 sprigs thyme, bay leaves, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and peppercorns. Add just enough cold water to cover ingredients (about 1 quart) and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer until broth is needed for the greens.
If desired, devein the shrimp – here's a good guide.
Mince remaining 2 garlic cloves and set aside.
Set a 10-inch cast iron or other deep-sided, heavy skillet, over medium/medium-high heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons butter and half the shrimp. Sprinkle with sea salt, Old Bay, and fresh ground pepper. Cook just until shrimp are pink with golden edge, 1 - 2 minutes per side. Remove cooked shrimp to a large plate. Continue for remaining shrimp, adding additional pats of butter as needed.
Strain broth with a wire mesh strainer.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the same pan. Add minced garlic, cook 1 minute, and then add the greens. Add a small pinch sea salt and a few twists pepper. Sauté 5 minutes. Add 1 cup broth, stirring greens while broth reduces. Fold in shrimp, add salt, pepper, and Tabasco to taste.
Swirl cheese into grits. Taste and add sea salt as needed.
Spoon grits into shallow bowls and top with greens, shrimp, and a ladleful of broth. Garnish with remaining thyme sprigs. Serve immediately.