Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby land on the same day this year, which apparently only happens every seven years. So because of this very special occasion, I think it’s important, no necessary, for us to celebrate accordingly. It’s our civic duty. Whether you want to call it Cinco de Derby or Mexi-Derby Day, it doesn’t really matter because the one important thing I do know is that you need to make this Tex-Mex Shrimp and Grits on Saturday. It’s the Southern classic, shrimp and grits, with a Southwestern twist. Taco meets grits and you’re going to love it. All you need now is a bourbon margarita to really tie in that Derby Cinco de Mayo mash-up. Don’t let the over-the-top look of the dish fool you, it’s super easy to make.
Start by browning the chicken sausage in a tiny bit of olive oil until golden brown and crispy. Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage and keep stirring every now and then for even browning. Then add the onion and diced jalapeño.
**Note: I’m using chicken sausage here because I like the flavor of the chicken with the Southwestern flavors, but feel free to use spicy or sweet Italian sausage if you’d like!**
Add the shrimp and season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne pepper. Give it a stir and cook until until the shrimp are pink and no longer gray.
**Note: I’m using large peeled, deveined shrimp with the tails on. For shrimp and grits I like leaving the tails on because I feel like it elevates the dish for some reason. However, if you don’t want to deal with the tails while you’re eating, then you can peel the shrimp completely.**
Halfway through the shrimp cooking, gently stir in the drained and rinsed black beans. I say stir gently because if you stir aggressively the beans will begin to break up and get mushy.
That’s all. You can lower the flame to as low as it’ll go and keep it warm until ready to serve. All the spices that go into this filling can be swapped out for about 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning mix.
To make the grits, bring milk and water with some salt to a simmer and then slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Cook, stirring often until the grits have softened. Then stir in some salt, pepper, cayenne, butter, and Pepper Jack cheese until well combined and melted through.
**Tip: Feel free to use whatever kind of cheese you have on hand. I like the Pepper Jack because it gives the grits a nice kick. But if all you have is Cheddar, that would be okay too. Also, if you want to make it even spicier, try adding chopped jalapeño to them as well.**
While the grits and shrimp topping is cooking, you can prepare the guacamole and pico de gallo for the toppings. These are pretty basic recipes. For the guacamole: mashed avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. For the pico de gallo: tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, salt and pepper.
**Tip: It takes no time at all to make these toppings from scratch and they’re always 100% tastier, BUT if you don’t have the time and need it quick, then you can definitely use store-bought. I won’t tell anyone.**
To assemble the shrimp and grits, divide the cheesy grits among four large bowls. Top with the sausage and shrimp mixture. Then dollop with some of the guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija cheese, and fresh cilantro. Basically all of your favorite taco toppings.
This is best eaten right away because you want the grits to be as creamy as possible. The longer they sit, the chances are higher for the grits to dry out and firm up.
Play around with your favorite taco toppings. Grilled corn or pickled jalapeños would be a delicious topping as well. I don’t really need an excuse to eat tortilla chips and so of course, I would say that this would be great with some chips on the side.
If you find that your grits are drying out and firming up too much before you assemble your bowls, you can stir in some warm water, just a little splash at at time, and stir until they loosen up. You should be good to go.
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day this Saturday as deliciously as possible. This Southern classic/Tex-Mex mash-up is the way to go. Don’t forget the beer or margaritas! If you’re feeling very festive, try mashing up a bourbon mint julep with a margarita! You’ll get a julep-rita and you’d be a star.
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound chicken sausage
- 1 large yellow onion, diced and divided
- 2 jalapeños, diced and divided
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails on
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 large avocados
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced and divided
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
- 2 limes, juiced
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup crumbled cotija cheese
- To make the grits, combine the water, milk and salt in a medium pot. Set over moderate heat and bring up to a low simmer. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the grits have softened, about 20 minutes. Season with black pepper, a bit more salt (if needed), and cayenne pepper. Stir in the butter and cheese until melted through. Lower the flame and keep warm.
- In the meantime, set a large skillet over medium-high heat with the oil. Once hot, add the sausage, removed from it's casing, and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon until golden and crispy, about 10 to 12 minutes. Stir half of the onion, and half of the jalapeño and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and beans, and cook until the shrimp is pink and no longer gray, about 15 to 18 minutes. Season with a big pinch of salt and pepper, and the rest of the spices. Keep warm over low heat.
- To make the guacamole, in a medium bowl, mash the avocado with a fork until somewhat chunky. Stir in half of the remaining onion, half of the remaining jalapeño, half of the tomatoes, half of the cilantro, half of the lime juice, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Mix until well incorporated. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
- To make the pico de gallo, in a medium bowl, combine the remaining onion, tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Toss until evenly combined.
- To assemble the shrimp and grits, divide the grits among 4 large bowl, and top with the sausage and shrimp mixture. Top each with a scoop of guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija and cilantro. Serve immediately. Enjoy!