• Yield: Makes 6 servings

  • Time: 25 minutes cooking

Lots of Southern shrimp and grits recipes call for the addition of bacon, but we like the aromatic smell and taste of Louisiana Tasso, a Creole ham that you’ll find as the foundation (along with the Holy Trinity of sautéed onions, peppers, and celery) of any respectable gumbo or jambalaya. This recipe is actually a riff on redeye gravy, an old Southern gravy using coffee and country ham. We serve these to thousands of guests each Derby at Churchill Downs.



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  • 2 cups water

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 cup stone-ground white grits, such as Louismill

  • 8 ounces grated white cheddar (2 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper

Tasso Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/2 pound Tasso ham, diced

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 dashes Tabasco

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Bourbon Country Cookbook book cover Bourbon Country Cookbook by David Danielson and Tim Laird


To make the shrimp, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they are pink. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

To make the grits, in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the water, milk, and salt, and bring the mixture to a boil. Slowly add the grits, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent the grits from sticking, for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until smooth. Season with the white pepper and more salt as needed.

To make the gravy, in a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the Tasso ham and sauté until the ham is just browned. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is lightly browned. Whisk in the coffee, broth, and Tabasco and let simmer. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens and becomes smooth, about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper as needed.

To serve, place the grits on a large platter. Place the shrimp on top of the grits and ladle on the Tasso gravy. Garnish with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Reprinted with permission from The Bourbon Country Cookbook by David Danielson and Tim Laird, Agate Surrey, 2018.