Shrimp and Grits Festival

Sep 3, 2009 at 4:12 p.m. ET

Does even the thought of a warm, steamy bowl of cheesy grits topped with spicy sauteed shrimp have you salivating? The ever so Southern dish Shrimp and Grits has gained quite the following, popping up on restaurant menus around the country and intriguing chefs to keep improving on an already hearty and delicious comfort food. Nowhere is Shrimp and Grits more celebrated than on Jekyll Island, Georgia. This fall, bring your family, bring your comfort food hunger, and take a bite out of the 4th annual Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival.

Shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits is an iconic Southern dish with a delicious history. Just the name has a warm and cozy appeal, and grits alone have been an American favorite for decades.

Grits truly were one of the first American foods. Even before the settlers' arrival, the Native Americans dined on softened, mashed corn. The dish was very similar to the grits we enjoy today, though without the large amounts of cream, butter, flavored stock and seasonings that make grits characteristically modern and quintessentially southern.

Historically, the closest recipe relative to Shrimp and Grits as we know it was served as a simple fisherman's breakfast in South Carolina's Low Country. Known as "breakfast shrimp," the recipe was made with shrimp cooked in a bit of butter or bacon grease and poured on top of creamy, cooked grits. What a tasty way to start the day!

Grits is far from being merely a breakfast dish. In 1985, Craig Claiborne wrote an article for the New York Times to launch the official "coming out party" of Shrimp and Grits. Since then, the finest chefs have fought to make the dish their own by adding andouille sausage, scallions, spices, a variety of cheeses and serving it throughout the day.

Celebrate Shrimp and Grits at The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival

This year marks the 4th annual Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival on Jekyll Island, Georgia, celebrating coastal cooking, southern hospitality, and, of course, the comfort food classic Shrimp and Grits.

The weekend long shrimp-centric festival kicks off on Friday, September 18, 2009, with a $3 "Shrimp Sample Night" which will feature local Island restaurants like Halyards, Tramici, Southern Soul BBQ, and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel serving up their own signature version of Shrimp and Grits.

Highlights of the Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival include amateur and professional cooking competitions, shrimp boat excursions, shrimp eating contests, cookbook signings, and cooking demonstrations. And this year's winner could be as lucky as last year's Shrimp and Grits ace: Professional chef winner Joe Barnett has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and even won the Shrimp and Grits cook off on Food Network's Throw Down with Bobby Flay. The family-friendly festival is completed with live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, and a kids' fun zone!

Fun for the whole family

If sampling true Southern Shrimp and Grits isn't enough, there are plenty of other festival activities to enjoy. The sea-worthy festival features live entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, kids' fun zone, VIP Packages, a Shrimp & Grits Consumer Choice Panel, BMX Bike Show, and Frisbee Dog Show.

On Saturday there will also be an Amateur Shrimp & Grits Contest as well as cooking demonstrations by Chef Joe Randall from Savannah and the Winn-Dixie Chef, Chef Robert, from Jacksonville.

The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival ends on a high point with a Professional Cooking Competition when caterers and restaurants alike, including Southern Soul BBQ, Purple Sage, Blackwater Grill and others, will be competing for the grand prize. The competition takes place on Sunday at 11:30 am featuring entertainment by the popular "Big Dawg and Paul Show."

The Jekyll Island Authority and the Georgia Tourism Foundation invite you and your Shrimp and Grits loving family to commemorate the flavorful history that the iconic Southern dish represents and enjoy the Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival.

For more information, visit

Shrimp and Grits

Serves 4 to 6

If jet setting to Georgia for the festival isn't an option, sink your teeth into this succulent Shrimp and Grits recipe, courtesy of Chef Abigail Hutchinson of The Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

Garlic butter (recipe below)
1 bundle green onions, diced (green and white parts)
1/2 pound Andouille sausage or any other spicy sausage you like
1 pound fresh Georgia White shrimp peeled and deveined
White wine to taste
Juice from one half of a lemon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Old Bay seasoning to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour as needed
3 to 4 cups hot, cooked cornmeal (grits)
Shredded medium sharp cheddar cheese to taste

1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt 4 to 5 tablespoons of garlic butter. Add sausage and onions and cook, stirring often, until sausage is browned and onions are soft.

2. Add shrimp, cream, wine and lemon juice, stirring to combine, and cook for 3 minutes. Season with Old Bay, salt and pepper to taste.

3. Let simmer for a few minutes then sprinkle flour on top and stir in. Continue doing this until it reaches a thickened consistency. Let it simmer a little while longer to cook out the flour taste.

4. Right as grits are done, stir in cheddar cheese. Divide cheese grits into 4 to 6 serving bowls and top with shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.

Garlic butter: To make garlic butter, soften 1 pound unsalted butter, 6 ounces bacon fat, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon each of chopped thyme, parsley, and oregano. Mix all ingredients together. This amount of garlic butter is good for two to three batches of Shrimp and Grits.

Note: Grits is nothing more than cooked cornmeal (Italians call it polenta). Use chicken stock or fish stock in place of water to add more flavor.

More recipes with shrimp or grits