For someone that’s hopelessly forgetful, I have a tendency to hold on to the most random of memories. One that always cracks me up involves walking in on Paul laser-focused on a wedge of gouda, meticulously slicing paper-thin slices of cheese and popping them in his mouth.
“Jenny, what kind of cheese is this again? Gouda? It’s so gooooood-a!”
It honestly doesn’t get any cheesier than that. His dorkery had me giggling as I was tinkering with this restaurant copycat. The Fish House in Pensacola, Florida is positively famous for their decadent Grits a Ya Ya. It pairs perfectly seasoned shrimp with a creamy spinach sauce atop a fluffy, cheesy mountain of grits. Gouda grits. It’s a magical experience.
Let’s take that magic to the kitchen!
Grits a Ya Ya
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup evaporated milk [or regular milk]
- 1 cup of old fashioned grits
- 4 TBSP unsalted butter
- ¼ lb gouda cheese, freshly grated
- for the sauce:
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup evaporated milk
- 2 TBSP butter
- 3 TBSP minced onion
- ½ tbsp minced garlic [approx. 2 cloves]
- 1 cup spinach, chopped or torn
- 1 cup portobello mushroom, chopped or sliced
- 2 TBSP green onion, chopped
- salt, pepper, and hot sauce to taste
- a drizzle of oil, for sauteing
- for the shrimp:
- ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined [tail on or off - up to you!]
- cayenne pepper
- garlic powder
- salt, to taste
- Top with extra chopped green onion and a pinch of red pepper flakes
- quick note: I typically use a mix of heavy cream and evaporated milk to make an ultra thick half-and-half to use as the cream bases for the sauce and grits, feel free to use regular half and half or full heavy cream, depending on preference and availability! xo
- As a quick note before you start: having everything prepped and ready to toss together ahead of time will save time. You can also multitask by starting the grits first and, while they cook, whip up the sauce and shrimp. This way they'll all be done around the same time so you can plate it all up and dig in!
- First bring vegetable broth to a boil in medium-sized pot.
- At a rolling boil, add in grits and stir constantly [this doubles as an arm workout - score!]
- Reduce heat to lowest setting and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the grits start to soak up the broth, add in the evaporated milk and stir.
- Once their time is just about up, fold in the butter and heavy cream.
- Lastly add the grated gouda and stir thoroughly until smooth and creamy.
- While the grits are simmering away, bring a large non-stick pan to medium heat and saute the white/yellow onion and garlic in a teeny drizzle of your favorite healthy oil, taking care not to burn the garlic.
- Once tender, add in butter, mushrooms, and shrimp and saute until the shrimp are just barely opaque before scooping out the shrimp and setting them aside. This way when you add the shrimp back to the pan they can continue cooking without overcooking. You can also choose to simply saute the shrimp at the very end, if desired!
- After removing the shrimp, add spinach, green onion, milk, and heavy cream and allow it to simmer while you stir to reduce the sauce.
- Once it reaches desired thickness, season with a pinch of salt and pepper and a dash of hot sauce, to taste.
- Pour sauce into a bowl and add a drizzle of oil to your now-empty pan.
- Turn up the heat and finish cooking the shrimp, seasoning it with garlic powder, cayenne, parsley and salt, if desired.
- Ready to eat? Spoon the sauce and shrimp onto heaping mounds of the cheese grits and top with chopped green onion and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Make token "MMMmmMMmm!" sounds as you shove heaping spoonfuls into your face.
brontosaurus chefs feel free to add grilled or sauteed portobello mushroom slices in place of the shrimp or simply whip up a heaping pile of the gouda grits as a side dish!
t-rex chefs feel free to use chicken broth and add in some crispy crumbled applewood smoked bacon to the mix – the original has both and it’s simply divine!
substitution shenanigans for the dairy in the grits, feel free to sub half and half or make your own using a combination of cream and milk. You can even use all cream for richer results or plain milk for a lighter recipe. I used fresh gouda but if you’re a sucker for smoky flavor, grab a wedge of smoked gouda and get grating!
Some of my grit-lovin’ readers mentioned they’re used to saucier/runnier grits and by all means, if you know exactly how you like your grits, feel free to add more broth and/or dairy to make them less fluffy and more creamy. The recipe is forgiving and flexible and pretty fantastic both ways! I actually make this one a lot so sometimes I keep them uber thick and fluffy [almost like mashed potatoes, yum!] and other times I’ll add more liquid and get saucy!
so… how was it!?
The finished product was as fabulous and plate-licking good as the original! It was also super filling. File this baby under flavorful, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food!