shrimp and creamy grits

I love grits, as you may remember from this post. Every now and then I get a craving for them, and the grits craving hit me very hard just recently. I must have seen something or read something about shrimp and grits because, for a solid week, I could not get them off my mind.

shrimp and grits

For the grits, I adapted my favorite recipe from Gourmet. Instead of whole milk and heavy cream, I lightened things up a bit with low-fat milk and half-and-half. Honestly, I’m not sure I would notice the difference. Okay, maybe I would. But, in the name of Eating Healthier, I’m sticking with my lower-fat version. Also, I don’t add cheese to my grits, but you could if cheese grits float your boat.

cooking bacon


The shrimp were local, caught in the Atlantic off the St. Augustine coast and sold by our local fish market. After shelling and deveining them, the shrimp were sauteed in rendered bacon fat and other goodness.

shrimp and grits

The cooked bacon crumbles and some sliced green onions were sprinkled on the top of the dish prior to serving. The combination of the creamy grits, the tender shrimp, and the smokiness of the bacon was just mouthwatering.

shrimp and grits

Yield: Serves 4.

Shrimp and Grits


Ingredients for the grits:

2 cups water
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 cup white stone-ground grits
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for the shrimp:

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2- inch pieces
2 tablespoons pure olive oil
3/4 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish


Prepare the grits:

Bring water and milk just to a simmer in a 4- to 5- quart heavy saucepan. Meanwhile, cover grits with water in a large bowl and whisk vigorously. Let the grits stand for 30 minutes then skim off any chaff that has floated to the top. Drain grits well in a fine-mesh sieve and whisk into the simmering milk mixture.

Reduce heat to low and simmer grits, partially covered, stirring often with a heatproof rubber spatula until the grits are tender and thickened to the consistency of loose oatmeal, approximately 1 1/4 hours. Stir more towards the end of cooking. If the grits thicken before they are tender and creamy, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup hot water to thin the grits.

Stir in cream, butter, and salt. Remove from heat and keep warm, covered, until ready to serve.

Prepare the shrimp:

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and crisp and the fat has rendered. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet and place back on heat. Add olive oil and increase the heat to high. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to the pan with garlic, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Saute until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove shrimp to a plate. Pour the garlic oil from the skillet through a fine-mesh strainer, and reserve the oil to drizzle over the finished dish.

Divide the grits among 4 bowls and top each with some of the shrimp. Drizzle the top with the reserved bacon-garlic oil, and sprinkle some of the cooked bacon bits and sliced green onion over the top.

The grits were adapted from this recipe in Gourmet and the shrimp recipe was adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe here.

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21 Responses to “st. augustine, florida: salt water cowboys”

  1. 1
    Liren — August 18, 2010 @ 10:59 pm

    What a peaceful looking place! It sounds like a perfect spot to unwind after a Disney trip. As much as I love Disney, it does seem to require a vacation after the vacation! It’s so nice that your parents can meet you and enjoy tasty meals (and fun drinks)! I love Jane and Michael Stern, too; their finds and the stories always make me smile. Sounds like you all found a true gem 🙂

  2. 2
    Gail — August 18, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    In the words of the inimitable Tina Fey, “I want to go to there.”

  3. 3
    Eileen — August 18, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

    OMG… I love Salt Water Cowboys! My husband and I eat there every time we go to the St. Augustine area (which happens to be one of our favorite places to visit). Great food, fun atmosphere – I miss that place…

  4. 4
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 19, 2010 @ 7:13 am

    Those drinks look incredible – i would have been right there with you. And that stuffed shrimp – YUM!

  5. 5
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 19, 2010 @ 7:19 am

    I would be right there with you drinking one of those… nothing to be ashamed of! 😉 And that food looks incredible.

  6. 6
    RavieNomNoms — August 19, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    ooooo looks like so much fun! And those drinks?! They look so cute 🙂

  7. 7
    Jason Phelps — August 19, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    Definitely one of those places that gets talked about for all the right reasons.

    Thank You


  8. 8
    Just Food Snobs — August 19, 2010 @ 9:45 am

    What a beautiful restaurant and beautiful food! Thanks for sharing!

  9. 9
    Kath — August 19, 2010 @ 10:40 am

    @Gail 🙂 lol I want to go to there, too!

  10. 10
    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — August 19, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    Even though you’re in Florida, these pictures and the foods are so reminiscent of when I lived in NC and we would vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC. I want that shrimp dish, it looks divine but more than that, I want to be there with that view eating that dish.

    I miss the Carolinas; even more so after seeing your posts about your vacation; maybe it’s time to consider revisiting a place where I left so much of my heart when I moved to Colorado.

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — August 19th, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

      Barb – Sounds like you need to plan a vacation. 🙂

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  12. 11
    Leigh — August 19, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

    You really have a gift for photography, MJ. I’ve heard amazing things about SWC, but I’ve never been. I don’t eat seafood so we normally opt for Cuban or Spanish in St. Aug. I think next time we go I’ll have to give it a look. I’m sure they have steak, yeah?

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — August 19th, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

      Leigh – You are SO sweet. They have barbecue and probably some form of beef. You could always go for the gator tail or frog legs. 😉

  13. 12
    Velva — August 20, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

    You are right, the view from the restaurant is stunning. The food is intended to be fun and it shows. Nice. I would not have resisted the drinks either. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. 13
    Monica — August 21, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

    darn–we were just there. Next trip to see the family I am suggesting this place! Cracker Coolade and a gator growl…might be mixing those up come football season!

    • merrygourmet

      merrygourmet replied: — August 22nd, 2010 @ 8:42 am

      Monica – Next time you definitely need to make the trip there. You – and the kids – would LOVE it.

  16. 14
    Claudia McCants — May 20, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    Their salad is a family favorite that you can easily recreate at home when you’re nostalgic for Florida and Salt Water Cowboys. We make it with mixed greens, a sliced Granny Smith apple, walnuts, sliced red onions and Honey Mustard Dressing (store bought or homemade).

  17. 15
    Cristy — September 26, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

    Fabulous Food!

    Great experience!

    Joey was a great waiter!

    Highly recommend.

  18. 16
    Ron — May 25, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    I have been to saltwater cowboys many times and usually have a good experience. On my most recent visit they had yellow fin tuna, mahi mahi and red snapper as the fish of the day. I went with the mahi mahi. Everything served was fine except the mahi mahi. I eat a lot of fish and I do not believe I was served mahi mahi. I believe I was served tilapia. In fact, I believe I was served soggy tilapia. It was rather disappointing, but my wife didn’t want to complain so we wrote it off. $44 for two soggy tilapias, 2 excellent baked potatoes, bread and salad may have been a bit more than it was worth.

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