Grits a Ya Ya

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!
The Fish House's famous Grits a Ya Ya recipe
Grits a Ya Ya
cheesy gouda grits topped with a savory spinach sauce and perfectly seasoned shrimp
[serves two]

2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup evaporated milk [or regular milk]
1 cup of old fashioned grits
4 TBSP unsalted butter
1/4 lb gouda cheese, freshly grated

for the sauce:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 TBSP butter
3 TBSP minced onion
1/2 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:
1/2 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

Adapted from Chef Jim Shirley

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!
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!

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!

get cooking!

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, 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.
Grits a Ya Ya

so… how was it!?

Holy cheese grits, batman!  I actually had to walk away from the pot because I nearly downed half of it while standing and stirring.  If you’ve never had cheese grits before [they're a staple here in the South!], these taste sort of like a hearty whipped macaroni and cheese.  It’s delightful and indulgent and oh look!  Veggies!  There’s green on the plate so it must be good for you, right?

The finished product was as fabulous as the original!  It was also super filling.  File this baby under flavorful, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food!

more sassy seafood:


  1. Julie says

    Holy cow I love grits!!!!! My momma is the only southern girl I know that doesn’t like them, but my grandmother overruled this and taught me proper things, like eating grits. And this looks wonderful. It’s a must-try!!

  2. Kadee Cramer says

    I have to confess.. I’ve never had grits!! I’m not opposed to them; I’ve just never went there. This definitely makes me want them though!!

  3. Tiffany F. says

    I half expected that story about Paul to be another sleep-talking / sleep-walking / sleep-eating (?) episode.

  4. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets says

    You had me at It’s a “gooooood-a.”
    I asked the Hubby to grab some more wood for the fire, and he predictably said I’ve got some wood right here for you. Men. Ha.

  5. Stephie (eat your heart out) says

    Oh, honey. I can’t even handle this. I have to walk away from my screen right now before I do something inappropriate.

  6. says

    Hey Kim! I’ve made it a few times and have only used 2 cups each time. The mixture gets pretty dry and fluffy as the grits absorb all the moisture and the milk, butter, and cheese all help moisten it up a bit once they’re added. For the most part, they’re thicker/fluffier than the typical restaurant pot-o-grits which tend to be a bit more runny! If you like them with more broth feel free to add a little more to taste!

  7. Anonymous says

    I second what Kim said. Old-fashioned (stoneground) grits usually call for a lot more liquid per cup of grits than this ratio. Did you use stoneground grits or 5-minute grits for the 1:2 ratio?

    • says

      I ran down to the pantry to double check. I used the Quaker “Old-Fashioned” standard grits, not the 5 minute or instant variety. Maybe certain brands are a bit drier? I haven’t tried Bob’s stoneground or Dixie’s grits yet [popular brands] so there’s a chance they may require more liquid? Between the milk [1/2 cup total] the broth [2 cups] and the butter [1/4 cup] I found it to be enough liquid. Every once in a while I’ll add a little extra broth or dairy to make them runnier but the idea is to fluff them up [almost like mashed potatoes!] and let them suck up all the liquid as well as the gouda and then the sauce that you top the grits with give it that extra creaminess. I know some people swear by saucier grits and I totally support doing what you love with your food, so I don’t doubt the recipe would be great with more liquid too. I think it just comes down to texture preference. I’ve had it both ways and adore it all the same =) Hope that helps! xoxo

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