Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker
Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium non-stick sauce pan with a lid. Whisk in the grits - this avoids clumping. Stir in the salt and pepper. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and allow the water to absorb into the cornmeal. Cooking times for grits can vary depending on your type of cornmeal – refer to the instructions on the package if in doubt. Mine took approximately 20 minutes, but some can take as long as 40 minutes. When thickened, remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese and butter. Keep warm.
As your grits are cooking, get started on the shrimp. First, cook the bacon in your largest skillet until the fat it rendered and just crispy – be careful not to burn. Transfer the cooked bacon to a plate covered in paper towels to absorb the excess grease and keep warm. Crumble or chop the bacon into bite-size pieces once it’s cool enough to handle.
Drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the skillet, and return it to the burner over medium heat. Sprinkle the dried herbs and spices (through the cayenne pepper) into the bacon fat and fry for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium low and carefully pour the bourbon into the skillet, scraping the pan to loosen up the browned bits and spices. Allow the bourbon glaze to reduce for 3-5 minutes, but be careful not to let it burn.
Toss the shrimp in the salt and pepper, and then add them to the pan in an even layer. Stir to evenly coat the shrimp in spices and bourbon glaze, and cook until pink on both sides (about 4 minutes). Pour in the lemon juice, and scatter the crumbled bacon and scallions into the skillet, tossing to combine. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Taste, and add additional salt if necessary.
Divide the grits among your serving bowls, and spoon a generous helping of the shrimp mixture over each. Enjoy immediately with a glass of your favorite bourbon – straight or in a cocktail.
Making the Grits: If you want to skip or reduce the chicken broth for the grits, you can substitute up to an additional 2 cups water for the broth. What is important is to have 4 total cups of cooking liquid per 1 cup of cornmeal.
Time Management: In addition to thawing the shrimp the night before in the fridge (if frozen), make sure to give yourself ample time to remove the shells and clean the shrimp prior to cooking. Of course, this can be avoided if you purchase shell-less, pre-cleaned shrimp, but I personally hate the added expense so I rarely do. Nevertheless, I always forget how long and tedious this task can be, so I thought I'd mention it here.
To cut down dinner time prep, you can clean the raw shrimp, chop the scallions, and even pre-cook the bacon the night before if you’d like, and store the items in the fridge until ready to use. In that case, you can substitute 2 tablespoons vegetable oil for the bacon fat when you cook the spices and shrimp the following day. Keep in mind that if you use this method, you MUST cook the shrimp the next day. Raw, shelled shrimp can spoil after 1-2 days in the fridge.