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$500 Savory Winner

Kathy Kahn | Deep East Texas EC

“I had cheesy grits with a gastrique at a cooking demonstration, and I wanted to try it at home, so I started playing around with the flavors,” Kahn says. “I added the shrimp because my mother-in-law always made beer-battered shrimp, and we loved it. Once I tried the bacon, I knew that was it.”


2 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup instant grits
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small purple onion, finely diced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese


1 pound medium shrimp
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 can beer
1 quart canola oil
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper


4 strips bacon
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon water, or more as needed
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1. Grits: In a 2-quart saucepan, bring half-and-half and chicken broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add grits, butter, garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir until grits are fully cooked and mixture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Fold in shredded cheese and season to taste. Remove pan from heat, cover and set aside.

2. Shrimp: Peel, devein and clean shrimp. In a bowl, toss shrimp with Creole seasoning. Set aside 15–30 minutes in the refrigerator. Pour beer into a separate bowl and stir about 2 minutes to make it go flat, then set aside. Pour oil into a deep-sided 5-quart frying pan or Dutch oven and heat to 375 degrees.

3. In a bowl, stir together flour, salt and pepper. Add flattened beer to flour mixture a little at a time to make a slightly runny batter. Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator and dip into the batter, shaking the excess off. Fry shrimp in oil, 2–3 minutes, or until golden brown. Set cooked shrimp on a rack lined with paper towels to drain.

4. Gastrique: Cook bacon, crumble finely and set aside, reserving bacon fat. Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed, 2-quart saucepan and add enough water to make a mixture resembling wet sand. (The tip of a spoon pulled through the mixture should leave a trail.) Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and bubbles form, swirling the pan gently instead of stirring to cook the sugar evenly. Continue cooking, watching closely as the sugar mixture darkens, about 5 minutes.

5. When mixture is golden brown, add balsamic vinegar all at once. Pour carefully, as it might spatter. The mixture will harden, but keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it liquefies again. Add the bacon fat and bacon, reduce heat and continue stirring. Once the sauce thickens slightly, remove from heat.

6. Serve the shrimp atop the grits with the gastrique drizzled over the top.

Serves 8–10.