I know this dish sounds like a joke, but before you dismiss it right away, let me try and convince you. This is actually a riff on a kale and grit taco I had recently at Bullhead Cantina in Chicago. The whole time I was devouring that taco, I wondered why it worked so well. Grits, after all, are made of corn, and so are corn tortillas. Yet the two play so well off each other, doubling down on the sweetness. And while the greens were great, the whole time I wanted to know how shrimp would perform.
Stunningly well, is the answer. The shrimp provide a pop of texture and juiciness to each bite, which helps cut through the cheesy grits. Instead of trying to create a separate salsa to add on at the end, I decided to combine the salsa and shrimp. I created a very simple tomato salsa using some sweet cherry tomatoes and spicy serranos, and then tossed the cooked shrimp in at the end. Like I said: I know this shouldn't work, but it does, and this won't be the last time I make this recipe.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup coarse ground grits
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 medium white onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (about 2 tablepsoons)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 1 quart)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed
- 2 limes, quartered
Bring water and milk to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Whisk in the grits and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook, stirring every other minute, until grits are creamy, 20 to 25 minutes.
When grits are done, turn off heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter and cheddar cheese. Season with lots of black pepper. Cover and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When butter stops foaming add shrimp. Cook until pink on the bottom, about 1 minute. Flip and cook until pink on the other side and firm, about 1 minute longer. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the onion, serranos, and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften, release their juice, and make a thick sauce, about 4 minutes. Add half of the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and stir the shrimp back in.
Smear some of the grits on a tortilla and top with shrimp and salsa mixture. Garnish with more cilantro. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve tacos with lime wedges.