Shrimp and Grits for a No-Hassle Brunch at Home

Shrimp and Grits for Brunch

Are you in the mood for brunch? Well get in line. I mean that literally. Big city brunches have changed in the decades since I moved to the big city. When I first came to Los Angeles brunch was a carefree, last-minute dining decision we made on any random weekend just because the sun was shining and A Flock of Seagulls inspired us all to “walk along the avenue”. There was a certain “New Wave” optimism running along that avenue and brunch was a part of the thrill. It was a time when colors were bright, hair was big, and punk was fun.

Well, call me a grump but it seems to me that 80’s joyful brunchtime camaraderie has been replaced by insane lines of proudly bedraggled grumpsters wearing sunglasses to hide their hangovers or anxious helicopter parents who insist on bringing screaming children into public places.

I should probably apologize for this unexpected rush of grumpy brunchtime nostalgia. It was brought on by Shrimp and Grits.

On its face Shrimp and Grits seems to have no relevance to brunch. However, I decided to put an egg on these Shrimp and Grits. Put an egg on anything and brunch comes to mind, right?

I know it sounds weird, but (for me) brunch in Los Angeles defined what it meant to be young and in charge of your own destiny. I’ll admit with some hindsight that my dining habits weren’t necessarily responsible choices. I can’t say exactly where I found the money in my young budget to pop into Tommy Tang’s, Angeli Caffé, and Trumps as often as I did. Of course there were cheap eats too. I remember pierogies at Gorky’s, gut-stuffing pancakes at Tick Tock, and the lingering vegetarian grooviness of The Source on Sunset. I loved the outdoorsy elegance (and blossoming romance between me and Ken) while brunching at Butterfield’s on the Sunset Strip, and of course egg-centric classics from Canter’s Deli and Duke’s Tropicana. Maybe there were lines at these places. I don’t remember. I had a music mix in my Walkman and the mood was bitchin’.

Brunch Mix Cassette/ ShutterstockIt didn’t seem to matter where we ate either. Life was rad and the big city seemed limitless. It was a time when all you needed was a pair of Wayfarers and the address of the latest hot spot! Maybe I’m romanticizing my youth (or Los Angeles) but the older I get the thought of knocking back bottomless mimosas makes me wonder: is brunch worth all the hassle?

It’s not that I don’t like brunch. Stick an egg on Shrimp and Grits and you’d be a brunch lover too. Serve these Shrimp and Grits with something bubbly and I wouldn’t complain. Just don’t make me wait in line to eat it. These days, when it comes to brunch, you know for sure that you’re gonna have to wait with puffy-vested-bearded-young-men who have no issues about vaping in your face.

As I say, brunch out in the big city seems to have changed. However, every time I think about giving up brunch for good I try to remember one truism about life: what goes around, comes around.


Maybe we didn’t wear fedoras and stare at our devices (instead of our friends), but we had loose, blousy Ton Sur Ton shirts and acid-washed jeans. I guess we were the annoying hipsters of our time, out to ruin Ozzy and Harriet’s quiet brunch with our fishnet stockings (for girls) and shocking blue eyeliner (for boys).

Which means I can live and let live when it comes to brunch. However, all the chipotle hollandaise in the world won’t make me stand along a congested avenue waiting for artisanal barnwood-smoked bacon. So I made Shrimp and Grits at home and put an egg on it for old time’s sake. GREG

Shrimp and Grits for BrunchStone Ground GritsShrimp and Grits for BrunchBrunch mix cassette Illustration courtesy of my editorial partnership with Shutterstock.

Shrimp and Grits 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from separate recipes by John Besh & Ginger MadsonPublished
Shrimp and Grits


  • ⅓ cup smoked paprika
  • 3 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper (plus more for seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 tablespoon kosher salt (plus more for grits and seasoning)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated onion
  • 4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 30 large shrimp (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 stalk celery (quartered)
  • 1 carrot (quartered)
  • ½ onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 6 clove garlic (peeled and lightly smashed)
  • 1 big sprig fresh thyme
  • 8 cup water (divided)
  • 1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
  • 5–6 tablespoon unsalted butter (divided)
  • ½ cup mascarpone cheese
  • 4 thick cut bacon strips (sliced crosswise into ½‑inch strips)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 tablespoon minced jalapeno (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (canned and drained or fresh)
  • 2 tablespoon fresh, minced chives
  • 6 large eggs (optional)
  • sliced sweet pepper (as garnish)


Make the Creole seasoning mix: In a medium bowl combine paprika, dried oregano, ground black pepper, dried basil, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, granulated onion, dried thyme, and granulated garlic. Stir to combine. This is much more seasoning than you need for this recipe, store the extra in an airtight container for up to three months. 

Make the shrimp stock: Rinse, dry and peel the shrimp, pinching and pulling gently on the tail section to remove the peel without breaking off the tail meat if possible. Place the shells into a medium sauce pan. Add celery, carrots, onion, smashed garlic and thyme. Pour in 4 cups water, and simmer for one hour over low heat, skimming the muck off the top as needed.

Strain, cool and reserve the stock. You should have a generous 2 cups, if not add a little water or clam juice. The stock may be made up to 3 days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make the grits: Bring 4 cups water to a rapid boil in a large saucepan; season generously with salt. Gradually whisk in grits, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring almost constantly, until grits begin to thicken; about 20 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter and mascarpone; season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Make the shrimp: Toss the peeled shrimp in a medium bowl with about 1 tablespoon prepared Creole mix. The shrimp should be uniformly seasoned but not heavily coated. 

Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add bacon; sauté until fat begins to render, about 3 minutes. Add minced jalapeno, minced garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; stir until butter melts. Raise the temperature to medium-high, then cook until the bacon begins to brown; about 2 more minutes. Add shrimp and sauté until they begin to brown and turn pink, but are not cooked all the way through. You want to color the shrimp not steam them, so work in batches for best results. Carefully remove the shrimp to a platter as they cook, leaving mostly everything else in the pan. Add the shrimp stock and 2 tablespoons butter. Lower the heat to medium and reduce, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat a spoon; about 6 to 8 minutes.

Return the shrimp as well as any bits and juices that accumulate on the platter to the skillet and simmer until shrimp is cooked through, no more than 1 to 2 minutes. Finish the dish by stirring in lemon juice, diced tomatoes and chopped chives.

Make the fried eggs (optional): Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to skillet; swirl to melt and cover bottom of pan. Crack eggs into pan and cook until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes. Work in batches if necessary.

To serve: Place 4 generous tablespoons of grits in the middle of each of 6 shallow bowls. Arrange 5 shrimp on top of each. Spoon over some of the sauce. Top with fried eggs (if using). Garnish with sliced sweet pepper and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.