Edna Lewis’ Shrimp and Grits

Edna Lewis’ Shrimp and Grits is the classic recipe from the Grand Dame of Southern cooking herself!

shrimp and grits and the legacy of Edna Lewis

Ms. Lewis was the antithesis of a trendy chef. She believed that great cooking took place in the family kitchen, not in fine restaurants, and her one mission in life was to keep the down-home Southern cooking she grew up with from slipping into obscurity. She was born in Freetown, Virginia, a small farming community settled by freed slaves, among them her own grandfather. She learned to cook over a wood fire, without special tools or equipment. Biscuit dough would be assembled using various sized coins to mete out small amounts of salt and baking powder, and ‘fistfuls’ to measure the flour. Ingredients were limited to what they could grow, raise, or hunt, and she carried this passion for the simple tastes and techniques she grew up with into her early career as a chef in New York.

She and her husband opened the successful Cafe Nicholson in Manhattan in 1948 at a time when women and blacks rarely rose out of the dish washing ranks. She went on to write four seminal cookbooks on Southern cuisine, the second of which is the classic The Taste of Country Cooking, which is part cookbook, part memoir. Her writings evoke an intense nostalgia for the way food was.

”As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.”     

Edna Lewis

shrimp and grits ~ the purist’s approach

Edna’s shrimp and grits is a good example of her purist traditional style. When asked about the iconic Southern dish, she would only say “People should leave grits alone”, meaning cook them in a little milk and water, mix in some cream and fresh butter, that’s it. I topped them with fresh caught Maine native shrimp sauteed in butter and a splash of sherry. I hope she’d approve.

what you’ll need for simple shrimp and grits

  • grits
  • milk and cream
  • butter
  • sherry
  • salt and pepper
Shrimp and Grits 1

more shrimp!

Print
5 from 10 votes

Edna Lewis’ Shrimp and Grits

Edna Lewis' Shrimp and Grits is the classic recipe from the Grand Dame of Southern cooking herself!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American Southern
Yield 4 servings
Calories 618kcal
Author Sue Moran

Ingredients

grits

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup stone-ground or regular grits
  • kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

shrimp

  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • splash of sherry
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Heat the 2 cups water and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan until just simmering.
  • While the milk is heating, put the stone-ground grits into a large mixing bowl and cover with cool water. Stir the grits assertively so that the chaff floats to the top. Skim the surface carefully and remove the chaff. Drain the grits in a fine strainer. (If you are using regular grits, skip this step.) Stir grits into the simmering water and milk. Cook, stirring often, until the grits are tender to the bite and have thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal. As the grits thicken, stir them more often to keep them from sticking and scorching. Regular grits are done in about 20 minutes, but stone-ground require an hour or a little more to cook, and you will have to add additional milk and water as needed.
  • Season the grits generously with salt and stir in the cream and butter. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, until serving.
  • Saute fresh peeled shrimp in good butter, add a splash of sherry and reduce the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve over grits.

Nutrition

Calories: 618kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 24g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 290mg | Sodium: 369mg | Potassium: 558mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1384IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 242mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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35 Comments

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  • Reply
    Diane Tindell
    March 4, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    I’m afraid this recipe is too bland for me! I would definitely have to add some cajun seasoning to the shrimp and probably the grits as well. Top with some thinly sliced green onion! yes, indeed!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      March 5, 2022 at 5:09 pm

      Her recipe is known for being bare bones…just focussing on the natural flavors of the ingredients. Cajun seasoning would be lovely, too.

  • Reply
    Nancy
    January 12, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    I just came across this post. I am from the South and even though I didn’t hear about shrimp & grits until I was an adult, it cracks me up reading all the comments (even if they are 5+ years old!) of people saying they’ve never heard of this dish, much less grits! Anyway, I just wondered if you have any experience with leftover grits. I am single and don’t want to make the full recipe but would love to have leftover grits but I’m thinking they will turn into polenta in the fridge! Do you know? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sue
      January 13, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      I think you can reheat them if you add a little liquid and stir well, Nancy.

  • Reply
    Teresa Davis
    February 9, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    I grew up in the south and love grits. Not the instant or quick cooking ones, but the ones that take an hour. I “import” the yellow grits from Carolina Rice Plantation. Have a bag of grits in the freezer along with some wild caught shrimp. I know what’s for dinner tomorrow night!

    • Reply
      Sue
      February 10, 2016 at 6:16 am

      Wow, I bet those grits are amazing!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    October 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    5 stars
    I made this last night, with shrimp, and can’t wait to make it again. Those were the best, smoothest, creamiest grits I’ve ever eaten.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    February 28, 2012 at 3:58 am

    5 stars
    Sue, Lovely post and great recipe! I love grits and am bookmarking this one. So sorry I missed Edna. I really enjoyed reading all the posts about her life.

  • Reply
    Sue/the view from great island
    February 27, 2012 at 1:33 am

    Thanks so much, Bailey!

  • Reply
    Bailey Barash
    February 27, 2012 at 12:27 am

    5 stars
    Hello –
    I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Edna Lewis. The film is called “Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie”. This dish is one of her best!

  • Reply
    Karen
    February 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    5 stars
    Having grown up in the south, I think Edna would have approved of the dish you prepared. The lovely Maine shrimp are always so tender and sweet…I’m sure the meal was delicious.

  • Reply
    BeetleBuggy
    February 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    I’m sure Edna would approve of this because it’s just the kind of food she was trying revive. Love the shrimp you’ve paired with the classic grits 🙂

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