Cajun Honey Butter Shrimp and Cheesy Cheddar Grits

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Whenever I eat shrimp and grits, I think of the first time I introduced my parents to my now-husband, George. We all met up for the big meet-the-parents at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, NC (where George and I were both in school). Crook’s is famed for being the inventors of the classic southern dish, Shrimp n Grits, where stone ground grits are topped with a saucy, tomato-y shrimp ragu of sorts.

Here, I’ve riffed on those flavors to make it an easy, quick dish. We lean on Cajun seasoning to pack a ton of flavor with minimal effort. That spicy, full Cajun flavor pairs perfectly with the creamy cheddar grits. I love Cajun flavors and enjoyed learning more about the French, Native American, and Black origins of the cuisine from this article in The Culture Trip.

Cajun Honey Butter Shrimp and Cheesy Cheddar Grits

Servings 4 to 6 people

Equipment

  • Large saucepan or pot
  • Large nonstick skillet

Ingredients

Cajun Honey Butter Shrimp

  • 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1 tsp  1 teaspoon seasoning 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp minced parsley leaves

Cheddar Corn Grits

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed (or 1 1/4 cups frozen corn kernels)
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Substitutions:

  • Shrimp—> mushrooms for a vegetarian version. You’ll need to saute them for a lot longer! Use 2 pounds and slice them thinly, they cook down a lot.
  • Cajun seasoning—> 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, pinch of cayenne. Not the same but it’ll do the trick!
  • Butter—> any alternative butter will work, but you need a creamy product here. Olive oil won’t do it.
  • Lemon—> lime juice!
  • Honey—> omit.
  • Parsley—> cilantro, basil, or oregano.
  • Grits—> polenta! Or, just saute some fresh corn and zucchini together for a yummy veggie base.
  • Corn—> omit, but I love the pops of fresh corn in the grits!
  • Cheddar cheese—> any cheese! Parmesan, gouda, anything goes!
  • Garlic powder—> 1 fresh garlic clove, grated. Or some onion powder. Or just omit it!

Instructions

  • Pat 1 pound peeled deveined shrimp dry with a clean paper towel and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons cajun seasoning. Set aside, at room temperature.
  • Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to low, add grits, and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Take a bite—if the grits are still hard, add another splash of water and keep cooking. Stir in the kernels from 2 ears of corn1 cup grated Cheddar cheese1 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and cook until cheese is melted. Turn heat off and cover with a lid until ready to serve. If your grits get too thick by the time you’re ready to serve, just stir in a splash of water over low heat!
  • While the grits are cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat for several minutes. Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the marinated shrimp in a single layer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until shrimp are opaque and the seasonings start to blacken. Flip and cook for one to two more minutes, until the second side is cooked, then remove skillet from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons butter, the juice of 1 lemon, and 1 tablespoon honey, scraping up any bits that are stuck to the pan. Stir until the shrimp are coated in Cajun honey butter.
  • Divide the grits between plates or shallow bowls. Top with shrimp and be sure to scrape all of the lemon-butter over the top. Garnish with parsley. Cut the remaining lemon half into wedges and serve alongside.

Cajun Honey Butter Shrimp

  • 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 1 tsp  1 teaspoon seasoning 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 4 tbsp minced parsley leaves

Cheddar Corn Grits

  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed (or 1 1/4 cups frozen corn kernels)
  • 4 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Substitutions:

  • Shrimp—> mushrooms for a vegetarian version. You’ll need to saute them for a lot longer! Use 2 pounds and slice them thinly, they cook down a lot.
  • Cajun seasoning—> 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, pinch of cayenne. Not the same but it’ll do the trick!
  • Butter—> any alternative butter will work, but you need a creamy product here. Olive oil won’t do it.
  • Lemon—> lime juice!
  • Honey—> omit.
  • Parsley—> cilantro, basil, or oregano.
  • Grits—> polenta! Or, just saute some fresh corn and zucchini together for a yummy veggie base.
  • Corn—> omit, but I love the pops of fresh corn in the grits!
  • Cheddar cheese—> any cheese! Parmesan, gouda, anything goes!
  • Garlic powder—> 1 fresh garlic clove, grated. Or some onion powder. Or just omit it!

Notes

Tips 
  • Make your grits more decadent by cooking them in whole milk instead of water, or swapping in 1/2 cup of heavy cream in place of 1/2 cup water.
  • Can’t find stone-ground grits? Use polenta instead! Polenta is coarser, but makes a great stand-in. 
  • Steamed broccoli, sauteed spinach, or buttery sauteed green beans would all make perfect side dishes. You could also saute spinach right in with the shrimp when you add the butter to make things easy!
  • Check out my vegetarian version, Shrooms n Grits, in my cookbook, “Just Married.
Author: Caroline Chambers

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