I have to warn you. Things are about to get really controversial with these smoked gouda cheese grits, and I am not responsible for the outcome. But this melty, golden tidbit has to be shared…
Cheese grits- good cheese grits, cheese grits done right, specifically smoked gouda cheese grits- beat macaroni and cheese any day of the week. Hands down. No contest.
There. I said it. Gouda cheese grits are better than mac-n-cheese. And y’all, I’m completely serious.
Now, I realize that such rash proclamations have the potential to rend the South right in two (right up there with how to make pimento cheese and which mayonnaise is best), but throw some Creole barbeque shrimp on top, and smoked gouda cheese grits are irrevocably the best baked cheese dish this side of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Shrimp and grits harken back to the days of Gullah slaves living in the low country marshes along the American southern coastline. However, the dish as we know it didn’t become a southern staple until fairly recently. 1985 to be exact. When it was noticed in a North Carolina restaurant, and a recipe was printed in the New York Times. (history)
Now, shrimp and grits can be found just about anywhere. But my favorite place to have it is at home at a table packed with family and friends. There is just something about serving this comfort food family-style, probably the way is was originally meant to be over 100 years ago.
Not to mention, like most good comfort foods, we Southerners find any good excuse to serve it. Loaded up with creamy, cheesy goodness, smoked gouda cheese grits and bbq shrimp can be found all across the South on holiday tables, Sunday dinner tables, and (my personal favorite) brunch tables! Yep. So popular in fact, that sometimes it’s called “breakfast shrimp.”
(Let’s just let the clouds part and the angels sing for a minute.)
Brunch with cheese and shrimp! I am complete.
Now this little recipe for smoked gouda cheese grits is a true act of culinary love. It’s heart and soul. It takes pots and pans. So, if you are looking for insta-dinner, this is not your stop. But if you are looking for layers of rich, smoky flavor slow cooked and soulfully married to sharp cheesy goodness, then this, my friend, is where you need to be. So break out your cast iron and strap on your apron. We’ve got some southern cooking to do.
Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits & Creole BBQ Shrimp
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Ingredients (Cheese Grits)
- Quick Grits
- Chicken Broth
- Smoked Gouda (grated)
- Sharp Cheddar (grated)
- Half & Half
- Minced Garlic
- Salt & Pepper
I usually cook my shrimp and grits at the same time, starting with peeling my shrimp, seasoning them and setting the shells aside. This lets me start my bbq sauce at the same time I put my cheese grits in the oven to bake. But for the sake of this post, I have to talk about them one at a time.
To start your grits, bring chicken broth and garlic to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Whisk in the quick cook grits, making sure there are no lumps. Turn down your heat and let those grits simmer until nice and thick. This usually takes about 8-10 minutes.
Now it’s time to the salt and pepper, eggs, butter and all that indulgent cheese that will be so melty and delicious in less than an hour!
Look at these cheese grits! So rich and smoky with that earthy gouda and garlic, balanced just right against the sharp cheddar. You could just stop right here if you wanted. This is a perfect side dish for dinner instead of potatoes or could round out any brunch or hearty breakfast just like it is.
But why would we want to stop when we could add shrimp!
Ingredients (BBQ Shrimp)
- 2lbs large gulf shrimp, shells on
- Olive Oil
- Minced Garlic
- Bay Leaves
- Lemon Juice
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Half & Half
- Salt & Pepper
- Creole Seasoning
Now, I am from Louisiana but live close to Memphis and am married to a Texan. So you can see where ideas about barbecue have the potential to quickly get confusing. But when you hear barbeque shrimp, think smoky dry rub not sticky sweet and saucy.
This recipe uses some of Emeril’s signature DIY creole seasoning to create smoky heat and shrimp shells to create a thick gravy-like sauce. Shrimp shells have loads of rich locked-away flavor and are excellent for making stock, or in our case, a sauce base.
The hard work of peeling my shrimp is already done. I’ve saved my shrimp shells, seasoned my shrimp and set them aside to chill. To get my sauce started, I’ve got my cast iron skillet heating up with some olive oil so I can sauté some garlic. Next, Worcestershire, lemon juice, more creole seasoning, salt and pepper, bay leaves, and a little Chardonnay get to simmering in the same skillet. Things get serious when the shrimp shells get mixed in and that gorgeousness cooks down for 20-30 minutes. After simmering, drain off that wonderful stock you’ve been cooking. Just sit that strainer right on top of a small sauce pan. Make sure you get all that good stock. I even use a wooden spoon to press down a little on the shells to get every last bit of this rich base for our sauce. Now we just let that simmer again on low for about 10 minutes to reduce it further.
While our stock sauce is getting all thick and yummy, throw that shrimp that has been marinating in creole seasoning in the skillet for a quick sauté. This only takes about 2 minutes! By this time, if the yummy smells from your stock and your baking cheese grits and now the shrimp aren’t driving you crazy, well… then check your pulse… ’cause… seriously.
But let’s not linger because it’s time to finish! Stir in some melted butter, then pour cream and all the sauce base over the shrimp. Mix well and quickly not to overcook those shrimp! By this time, your grits should be ready too!
You can serve these dishes separately and let your guests spoon their own shrimp on top of their grits. But it’s also gorgeous to serve up individual portions garnished with some chopped chives. But get ready, you may never want macaroni and cheese again. But that’s ok because this lovely low country fare gathers the family and comforts the soul like nothing else.
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Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits & BBQ Shrimp
- 4 beaten eggs
- 1/2 C Half & Half
- 8 oz smoked gouda shredded
- 8 oz sharp cheddar shredded
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 C quick cook grits
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 stick butter
- 2 pounds large Gulf shrimp in their shells
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 1/2 TBSP minced garlic
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/4 C lemon juice
- 2 C water
- 1/2 C Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 C dry Chardonnay
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 TBSP butter melted
- 3 TBSP Creole Seasoning
- chopped chives for garnish optional
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Bring broth, garlic to a boil in medium saucepan. Whisk in the grits, making sure there are no lumps. Reduce to a simmer until the grits are thick, 8-10 minutes.
- Add shredded gouda, cheddar cheese and Half & Half, stirring after each ingredient. Add in beaten eggs, stirring combined.
- Pour cheese grits into 4 qt. casserole dish and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the middle is set.
- Peel the shrimp, setting shells and tails aside. Toss shrimp with 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning and chill while you make sauce.
- Heat 1 TBSP olive oil in cast iron skillet. Sauté garlic until lightly browned. Add 2 TBSP Creole seasoning, bay leaves, lemons, water, Worcestershire, wine, salt, and black pepper. Stir in shrimp shells and tails and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Using a colander, strain sauce from shells and bay leaves into a small saucepan.
- On high heat, bring to a boil, and reduce sauce for 8-10 minutes.
- Heat remaining 1 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sauté chilled shrimp. Add Half & Half, melted butter and sauce base. Stir well, coating all shrimp.
- Spoon over cheese grits and garnish with chopped chives.
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