Shrimp and Grits - Modernist Cuisine

Shrimp and Grits

Recipe • May 8, 2014

There is something deeply inviting about a dollop of fresh butter slowly melting on top of a warm bowl of grits. Indeed, magic can be found at the bottom of that bowl. For many of us who were raised in the south, grits are a reminder of home, of nourishing breakfasts that taught us to savor food, and of meals prepared with warmth and care. No matter your locale, a bowl of well-made grits is a comforting way to start the day, which is why this recipe for Shrimp and Grits seems especially fitting for Mother’s Day.

Beyond childhood breakfasts, grits have a long history of being prepared with soul. Hominy grits were developed by Native American tribes as a thick porridge from stone-milled corn. An offering of goodwill, this simple meal was shared with early colonists in Roanoke, North Carolina, and used to greet settlers of Jamestown, Virginia. Like masa harina, hominy grits underwent nixtamalization—they were softened, hulled, and then ground after being treated with an alkaline solution. Adopted by Southerners, grits were cheap and readily available, a tasty way of feeding hungry communities. The roots of shrimp and grits can be traced to the coast’s low country, where fishermen added freshly caught shrimp to create a humble, yet satisfying breakfast.


You can make grits from course-ground cornmeal from nearly any variety: white, yellow, and blue. The kind of corn and size of the grind affect the cooking time and the amount of water needed. Traditional methods of making good grits require attention—left unattended, the cooking corn meal will stick to the pot and develop lumps. Instant grits offer shorter cooking times but at the cost of blander flavors. Instead, use a pressure cooker and enjoy the real thing, quickly and without constant stirring.

Regional and subregional variations on this dish are abundant. We intensified our Shrimp and Grits by cooking course-ground grits in Pressure-Cooked Crustacean Stock, and the addition of Redeye Gravy adds even more flavor. The soft-cooked egg seems to melt over the finished bowl of warm grits. For a more traditional take, add prawns that have been seared or cooked sous vide.

Save room for something sweet: Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Holes pair well with morning coffee and are the perfect way to end an incredible tribute to the mothers in our lives.

Final Plate ups


Shrimp and Grits_MCAH

Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Holes_MCAH

Step 2 cook sous vide
Cook the eggs sous vide in their shells for 45 minutes. This yields poached eggs with a delicate, creamy texture. You can proceed with steps 3–9 while the eggs cook.
Place a metal rack or trivet in the base of a pressure cooker, add water to a depth of 2.5 cm / 1 in, and then place the filled jars on the trivet.
Sugar Balls
Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Holes. Leftover dough can be used to make our Neapolitan-Style Pizza Dough or freeze for up to 3 months.
Not Enough Flour
The finished dough should pull away from the sides, not the bottom, of the mixing bowl.

Tips & Substitutions

For the grits:
  • Cooking eggs sous vide for 2 minutes will yield a delicate, creamy texture. You can proceed with steps 3–9 while the eggs cook.
  • Always leave at least 1.3 cm / ½ in of headspace in canning jars when used in a pressure cooker. The jars should also never touch the bottom of the cooker. Set them on a metal rack or trivet—or, in a pinch, on crumpled sheets of aluminum foil. Add enough water to cover the rack so that the pressure cooker can build up steam.
  • Unscrewing canning lids by one-quarter turn is an essential step because it prevents pressure from building up in the jars, which may crack or blow their lids off while inside the cooker.
  • Start timing as soon as the cooker reaches your target gauge pressure. If your cooker has a spring-loaded pressure valve, the valve should pop up just to the line but not beyond it. The cooker should not hiss loudly. If you have a jiggling-weight pressure valve, the weight should move 3–5 times per minute; it shouldn’t dance around wildly.
  • The stock can be frozen for later use. Vacuum seal it with the grits in a bag rated for the higher temperatures of a pressure cooker.
  • If you decide to vacuum seal the grits in a bag, adjust your cook time in step 5. Grits will cook about 15 minutes faster this way.
  • Use canning tongs to remove your jars from the cooker, and let the contents cool slightly before opening them.
  • Be gentle as you peel your soft-cooked egg. Shelling can be greatly improved by making the eggshell brittle while firming up the egg white. Use either high heat from a blowtorch. If you decide to use a blowtorch, heat your egg for about 2 minutes and rotate it constantly while flashing it with the torch to thoroughly dry and heat the shell.
  • After using a canning jar for pressure-cooking, inspect the glass for cracks before using it again.
  • For a more traditional take on this dish, top your grits with prawns that have been seared or cooked sous vide.
  • Substitute milk, water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock for the crustacean stock.
  • You can find the full variation for our Cheese Grits in Chapter 21 of Modernist Cuisine at Home.
  • The Redeye Gravy and Pressure-Cooked Crustacean Stock are included in our Basics Chapter, available for download on
For the doughnuts:
  • Our Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnut Holes are a variation of our Neapolitan Pizza Dough—retain extra dough from your pizza for use in this recipe.
  • This recipe will yield 800 g of dough. Halve the recipe for a smaller batch.
  • Allow your dough to rest between kneads—relaxed gluten creates especially smooth, stretchy dough.
  • As you mix your dough, note the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl. As the dough comes together, it should pull away from the sides but not from the bottom of the mixing bowl. If the dough clings to the bowl’s sides, sprinkle a teaspoon of flour on top and continue mixing. Repeat as needed until the sides of the bowl are clean.
  • You can also knead the dough by hand. Use a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients together. Then knead the dough on a cool steel or marble surface (if possible) for about 7–8 minutes. The dough will stick to your hands, but try not to add extra flour. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, and then continue kneading for another 7–8 minutes. It should feel springy and smooth. If it is still sticky, sprinkle on top a teaspoon of flour and fully incorporate it.