Delicious Southern Shrimp & Grits Casserole
Since being founded in 1670, Charleston, SC has provided tolerance for those seeking religious and ethnic diversity, rebuilt itself after being war-torn during both the American Revolution and the Civil War, and has survived devastation brought on by Mother Nature in the form of hurricanes and tropical storms, but most notably Hurricane Hugo.
Today, it is a major tourist and art destination and is by far one of my most favorite places to visit in this surrounding area. My girlfriend Angela and I loaded up the convertible and headed to the low country for a girl's weekend during the Memorial Day holiday. It was only my second time there and I should probably mention that in addition to all of the other devastating acts that Charleston has survived, it is also still standing after the devastation of my own marriage to Captain Sturm. We were married on the balcony of the Palmer Home bed and breakfast in a very heart-felt ceremony nearly 5 years ago now. I won't deny that while planning and travelling, I was of the mind-set that this was going to be a hard trip for me but soon after arriving and partaking of all the excitement of the city, I was well on my way to making new memories and putting all the former sentiments on a back burner. A few sips of a delightful margarita while listening to the sounds of the ocean helped alot too!
Charleston undoubtedly has some of the finest cuisine you will find anywhere....frogmore stew, low country boils, she-crab soup, hoppin' john, and shrimp and grits. Even though Angela and I gorged ourselves for 3 days straight, I came home still yet with an insatiable craving for more low country cuisine.
Grits are met with mixed reviews outside of the southern most states but in the low country area, shrimp and grits has been considered a basic breakfast food for decades during the shrimp season running May through December. Simply called 'breakfast shrimp," the dish consisted of a pot of grits with shrimp cooked in a little bacon grease or butter. During the past decade, this dish has migrated from the home kitchen to the fanciest restaurants and is not just for breakfast anymore.
In 1976, South Carolina declared grits the official state food:
Whereas, throughout its history, the South has relished its grits, making them a symbol of its diet, its customs, its humor, and its hospitality, and whereas, every community in the State of south Carolina used to be the site of a grist mill and every local economy in the State used to be dependent on its product; and whereas, grits has been a part of the life of every South Carolinian of whatever race, background, gender, and income; and whereas, grits could very well play a vital role in the future of not only this State, but also the world, if as The Charleston News and Courier proclaimed in 1952: 'An inexpensive, simple, and thoroughly digestible food, [grits] should be made popular throughout the world. given enough of it, the inhabitants of planet Earth would have nothing to fight about. A man full of [grits] is a man of peace'.
Today, I'm declaring this zesty shrimp and grits recipe a real winner but with the addition of Rotel tomatoes, it is not the traditional shrimp and grits that you're likely to find on menus in Charleston. After one taste, though, I think you'll find it appearing on your own menu quite often.
Shrimp & Grits Casserole
inspired by Suzanne Butler
4 C Chicken broth
1/2 t Salt
1 C Grits (not instant)
1 C Sharp Cheddar Cheese - shredded
1 C Pepper Jack Cheese - shredded
2 T Butter
6 Green onions, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
1 Green or Red bell pepper, chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced
2 lbs Shrimp, shelled and cooked (reserve a few for garnishing your plated dish)
1 (10 oz) can Rotel, drained
1/4 t Pepper
1/2 lb bacon, cooked & coarsely chopped
Bring chicken broth to a boil and then add grits and cover until cooked. (Follow directions on bag of grits.)
Add 3/4 C of cheddar cheese and all of pepper jack cheese.
Saute green onion, green (or red) bell pepper, and garlic in butter.
Stir together green onion mixture, tomatoes, grits, shrimp, and the rest of the ingredients except for the remaining cheese.
Pour into 2 qt baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until bubbling. Once plated, garnish with reserved shrimp, chopped bacon, and remaining shredded cheese.