Portage House tweaks the local classic dish as shrimp and polenta.

Cook it at home: Shrimp and grits!

Who doesn’t miss pulling your chair up to a table at a favorite Louisville restaurant and ordering a dish that you love? I sure do!

Of course there’s always takeout, ideally with no-touch curbside delivery, as an alternative way to let the chef show her skills. But here’s another alternite: Why not try your hand at whipping up a restaurant dish at home? This option kills time as we sit in social isolation, and it makes dinner a lot more special than a burger or PB&J.

Shrimp and grits is a local favorite, and justly so. Originated as a simple, everyday dish in South Carolina’s coastal Low Country, it became a Louisville favorite after Chef Shawn Ward introduced it at Jack Fry’s during the 1990s. It became an instant hit, and before long, just about every with-it bistro added a version, no two quite alike but each bearing its chef’s own personal stamp (like the shrimp-and-polenta from Portage House, pictured above).

Want to make your own? Summon Kroger Pickup (formerly ClickList) and summon any ingredients you need. Or come up with your own variation if you have shrimp on hand and a box of grits. (I love Weisenberger Mill, usually available at Lotsa Pasta, but go with what you’ve got.)

Here’s a recipe I fashioned for my old Wine Advisor FoodLetter back in the autumn of 2004. I eat a lot less bacon than I did back then, and shrimp too, for that matter. But this dish still sounds mighty good.

If you try it, or a variation, drop by the HotBytes Forum and tell us how it went.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1/2 cup white hominy grits
2 cups water
?1/4 teaspoon salt
4 strips bacon
Half of a medium yellow or white onion
2 cloves garlic
8 oz. shelled, cooked shrimp (15 to 20 extra large)
?2 oz. heavy cream or crème fraiche
?2 oz sharp Cheddar
Dash hot sauce


  1. Stir the grits and salt into 2 cups cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. The grits will start to thicken as soon as the water boils. Reduce heat to very low, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Avoid instant grits, which lack the flavor and texture of the real thing, cost more and don’t really save much time or effort.
  2. Chop the onion coarsely and mince the garlic fine. Grate the cheese. (I used a sharp white Canadian Cheddar with the idea of keeping the grits an attractive white color, but the sunny yellow that regular Cheddar imparts is an appetizing option, too.)
  3. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-low heat until it’s crisp and brown. Drain the bacon on paper towels, then crumble it and set aside.
  4. Pour off most of the bacon drippings, leaving just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Put it over medium heat and cook the onions and garlic until they’re soft, aromatic and starting to brown. The grits should be about ready at this point and we’ll be ready to assemble, so put the shrimp in the skillet with the cooked onions and garlic, tossing them once or twice, then reduce heat to very low so the shrimp will just warm through. (You can start with raw shrimp, if you prefer, and cook them with the onions and garlic – either way, take care not to overcook.)
  5. Stir the cream or crème fraiche and the cheese into the grits, adding a dash of hot sauce if you like (or pass it at the table). Stir until the cheese melts and the grits become rich and creamy. Spoon onto plates or bowls and top with the shrimp and onions. Garnish with crumbled bacon and serve.