Bobby Flay is a city boy by birth — New York City, to be exact, where he launched his restaurant career by opening the legendary Mesa Grill as a grizzled industry veteran all of 25 years old. As the name of his first restaurant indicates, Flay’s never been one to let his city roots stand in the way of embracing regional foods. While his first love was Southwestern cuisine, he’s subsequently made a name for himself by embracing many types of "down-home" cooking. While he may be best known for barbecue, Flay’s also unafraid to throw down over other Southern comfort foods, including fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. It should come as no surprise, then, to realize that he also has his own version of that low-country classic, shrimp and grits.
While we’d never go mano a mano with the notoriously hot-tempered Bobby, Mashed realizes that even his recipes can come in for a little tinkering. We asked healthy eating advocate Sher Castellano to see if she could give Flay’s recipe a makeover, so she came up with a few tweaks to improve its nutritional profile in her Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist.
What did we change with Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist?
Flay’s shrimp and grits recipe, the one that was used by the chefs at his Bar Americain, was a rather hearty dish that was also high in fat. It called for half a pound of bacon, and as it was supposed to serve four, this would come out to two ounces per serving. That’s a lot, so Castellano went ahead and left the bacon out. What you lose in flavor, you gain in cardiovascular health, after all!
Castellano also swapped in half a cup of Parmesan for the cup of grated cheddar Flay’s recipe uses, something she said would "reduce the fat a little." Castellano did leave out the scallions Flay used as a garnish, but in their place, she flavored the grits with sautéed onions and used chopped parsley for a little pop of color.
Understand the different types of cornmeal for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
One thing you may notice and be slightly confused by as you read over the recipe for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist is the fact that the title says grits but the recipe itself calls for stone-ground cornmeal, as does Flay’s. So is it cornmeal you want, or grits, or what? Relax — The Spruce Eats says the difference really isn’t all that crucial. Grits are a type of coarse-ground cornmeal which may or may not be made from hominy (corn treated with lime), and can come in several different colors: white, yellow, and blue. Flay’s recipe and Castellano’s both call for the yellow kind, but you can use whichever one you please.
The one thing you should not do, however, is use either instant grits or the type of fine-ground cornmeal that is used for baking, as neither of these will have the right texture needed to stand up to the shrimp. As long as you see the words "stone-ground" on the package, though, you should be good to go whether the product calls itself cornmeal or grits. Oh, and if you want an extra pro tip, The Kitchn recommends you soak your grits overnight before cooking them to cut down on the overall cooking time.
Get your ingredients ready to make Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist is a rather quick-cooking dish once you get started, so it’s best to start off with everything in place. You’re not going to have any long stretches of time while something is resting or chilling or baking in which to do any forgotten prep work.
In addition to the cornmeal, the previously-discussed Parmesan cheese, and, of course, the shrimp, you’ll also need olive oil, salt, pepper, butter, lemon juice, chopped parsley, and minced onion. Might as well get the onion mincing out of the way ASAP, that way you can wipe the tears from your eyes (and wash the smell off your hands) before you get on with the cooking.
Caramelize (or sauté) the onions for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
Once the onions are all sliced and diced, you can then caramelize them. The key when it comes to caramelizing onions is to cook them low and slow. First, add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then heat it up over a low flame. Once it’s hot (but not too hot), add the onions and sauté them until they are just beginning to caramelize. This may take longer than you expect ˆ in fact, Bon Appétit suggests that truly caramelized onions can take 45 minutes are more.
Castellano says that if you mince the onions finely enough, they should caramelize more quickly, perhaps as quickly as five minutes. Even if they’re not quite caramelized at this point, you can still go ahead and add them for a delicious sautéed flavor, but if you prefer, you can always keep cooking them until they reach the desired degree of doneness.
Cook the grits for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
Once the onions are done to your satisfaction, be they truly caramelized or just sautéed, add the water, salt, and pepper to the pan. Turn up the heat and bring the water to a boil, then stir in the cornmeal. Cook the grits until they absorb all of the water, which should take some 20 to 25 minutes. You won’t be able to use this time for any additional prep work or preparing sides, however (nor should you be checking your social media! Instagram can get by without you for a few more minutes), since you’ll need to keep stirring the pot to make sure the grits don’t stick or burn.
Once all of the water is absorbed and the grits are tender, take the pot off the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan. Scoop this mixture into a bowl and set it to the side.
Cooking the shrimp for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
Wipe out the pan — there’s no need to dirty a second one to make Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist, after all — and pour in the remaining olive oil. Warm the oil over medium-low heat, then add the shrimp and cook them just until they turn pink. At this point, stir in the lemon juice and the parsley, then cook the shrimp for one minute longer.
Spoon the shrimp over the grits — you may either serve the shrimp and grits up family-style or else portion the grits out into four separate bowls before topping each serving with a quarter of the shrimp. If desired, garnish the dish with a sprinkling of black pepper and a little more chopped parsley.
Decide on your sides for Bobby Flay’s shrimp and grits with a twist
Shrimp and grits is one of those one-pot meals in and of itself, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it even better with the right side dish. If you plan to serve it for brunch, as is frequently done, then a sweet bread side might be nice.
As a lunch or dinner dish, shrimp and grits could pair nicely with vegetables like okra, collard greens, or fried green tomatoes. And of course, a green salad complements just about any main dish. If you want to keep with a classic southern theme, you could also serve a dessert such as banana pudding or peach cobbler. Bon appétit, y’all!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- ½ cup minced onion
- 4 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan and sauté onions on low until just about caramelized. (This could take up to 45 minutes, but you can just sauté for 5 minutes if you prefer.)
- Add the water, salt, and pepper to the pan and bring to a boil. Then add in cornmeal and cook, stirring frequently, until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter and Parmesan, then pour into bowl and set aside.
- Wipe out the pan and then heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Add lemon juice and parsley and cook shrimp 1 minute longer.
- Spoon the shrimp over the grits and garnish with black pepper and additional chopped parsley, if desired.