A few days ago, food writer Angela Davis, from the popular blog The Kitchenista Diaries, posted an image of her breakfast grits on Instagram. Something started to tug at me. The seed had been planted for this Jerk Shrimp and Cheesy PAN Harina Grits.
I haven’t had grits in YEARS. Not since I lived in the United Arab Emirates and I miraculously happened upon it while strolling through a supermarket aisle, as I typically do, binge eyeing every product on the shelf I didn’t go to buy and dreaming of all the recipes I will create with them in the future. When I saw the grits, I stopped and grabbed it. That was the first time I would be cooking grits myself.
I first had grits when I went to the Turks and Caicos Islands to work as an Under (Deputy) Permanent Secretary create a Public Relations Unit for the TCI Public Service (Government). I think I owe a lot to my sojourn in the remote island of Grand Turk, which was where the Head of the Public Service, to whom I reported, was stationed. Being alone in Grand Turk at 27 years old offered my very little to do with LOTS of time to do it. Food, an occasional passion until then, became a bit of an obsession. I packed on 20lbs in a year and the rest is history. But not so fast.
While I cooked A LOT in TCI and started reading food blogs like The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen whose, completely wowed me then with this ground-breaking use of technology with their food blogs, I also happily feasted on local fare as much as I could. Since I was single and too fabulous to make breakfast, that and lunch were meals I would often buy from small vendors and restaurants. Grits with corn beef was a TCI breakfast favourite. I don’t think I enjoyed grits the first bite but it grew on me… in more ways than one. It’s sufficient to say that I became a lover of grits. Fast forward 11 years to last week on IG when The Kitchenista posted her bowl of grits
I started salivating.
Days later I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I do not have grits in my pantry and Aruba is not grits country so… I had to figure out a way to replicate it.- without actually having it. Plus there is another challenge I give myself when developing recipes. I use what I have. So there would be no shopping for the things I didn’t have. I would simply have to find substitutes in my own kitchen. And that is why my blog has stood the test of 10 years. I am about teaching people to cook. Period.
So the grits. I had none. But I had PAN harina. Also not an ingredient I usually buy but like I have done for over 2 decades, as I was strolling through yet another supermarket bingeing on things I could buy and what I could create with them, I had picked up this pack a few weeks ago. And here it was in my kitchen. I did some research.
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What is grits?
Grits literallly means coarsely ground grain eaten by Native Americans as maize (corn) was the staple of Native peoples all along throughout the Caribbean from North, Central to South. Grits is both the grain and the dish. According to The Spruce Eats: “Grits are made from a less sweet, starchy variety of corn, such as dent corn. The corn goes through a type of processing that soaks the dried grains in lye or another alkali for several days, which removes the hard hull; the resulting grain is referred to as hominy. When purchasing grits, you will find hominy as well as white and yellow corn varieties.”
Ground corn in native dishes
Ground corn is a staple in native cuisines all over the world because corn was one of the first plants to be cultivated. African countries to the south of Africa have sadza or mealy, Italy has polenta, Barbados has coo coo. Jamaica has turn cornmeal, the Mexicans have tamales, tacos and corn chips Venezuelans have arepas. Ground corn is not only used in savory dishes, but in many countries from the Southern region of the USA to the Caribbean even have made it into a common dessert called Cornmeal pone. Jamaica also has a sweet tamale-banana leaf wrapped dessert called Blue Drawers or Dukunu as well as the infamous cornmeal porridge, which is either much loved or much despised depending on the cooking skills of the person making it.
Pan Harina White Maiz
It turns out they seemed to have been made with the same process, and that the only difference was that the grits was a thicker grind for a “grittier” texture (hence the name grits)? PAN harina is finely ground pre-cooked cornmeal and I used the white one, made from white corn, instead of yellow corn.
I searched online and came across Immaculate Bites Southern Cheesy Grits recipe and I decided on that one. Hers used quick grits which is similar in texture to the PAN Harina.
I would make two major substitutions-PAN harina for grits and instead of sharp cheddar, I would use mozarella. I would also add some pecorino Romano cheese at the end for added flavour since fresh mozaralla is such a mildly flavour Ed cheese. I wanted Jerk Shrimp and Cheesy PAN Harina Grits.❤️
Jerk Shrimp and Cheesy PAN Harina Grits.
Here you have it – a recipe you can find nowhere else, My Jerk Shrimp and PAN Harina Grits. A mash up fusion dish of sorts. The mozarella makes a creamy stretchy grits that tastes almost pasta like. It must be served piping hot so it’s great that I am using shrimp, which could in three minutes. I used my own recipe for Jerk Seasoning, which is a boss recipe you should make and keep in your fridge anyway.
Jerk Shrimp and Cheesy PAN Harina Grits
This takes a traditional grits recip and makes a cheesy, stretchy, light, fluffy and smooth grits that will make you feel like you have won the taste lottery.
- 1 cup PAN Harina Blanco
- 2 Cups Water
- 3 Cups Milk
- 4 ounces Mozarella bites or mozarella cut into pieces
- ½ tsp Himalayan Pink Salt substitute with whatever salt you have
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 lb Prawns, deveined sand shelled
- 4 tbsp Jerk Seasoning (from my recipe)
- 3 tbsp Avocado oil
- salt to taste
- 4 dashes Highnoon Spice Scotch Bonnet Seasoning
- scallions to garnish
Add the jerk seasoning, pinches of salt and Scotch Bonnet Pepper Seasoning and set aside.
Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the oil. Then sear shrimp on each side for 1 1/2 minutes each side.
Pour out the shrimp and oil in a bowl
Add water, milk, salt and bay leaf to a medium pot and bring to a boil.
While whisking briskly, slowly pour the PAN Harina in the mils and water mixture.
Turn heat down immediately to very very low, whisking to avoid any lumps. Cook for 15 minutes until s the grits thickens and reduces. Add cheese and continue to whisk.
Reduce heat and cook grits at a bare simmer, covered, stirring frequently, until water is fully absorbed and grits thickened. This will take you about 15 minutes. Add cheeses. Then serve straight from stove into shallow pasta/soup bowls and top with shrimp and garnish each bowl with scallions.