Shrimp and grits pâté part of new Thanksgiving tradition

place cardsLast year’s Gourmandistan Thanksgiving was a lovely gathering where everyone enjoyed themselves, including both Michelle and Steve. One reason, aside from some delightful company, was the decision to limit ourselves to simple, Southern-influenced items, many of which we could make ahead of the actual meal. Centered around country ham and roast chicken and featuring cornbread/biscuit stuffing, broccoli casserole, cranberry sauce and multiple pies, our dinner was such a lovely time we decided to do it again this year—and to share this simple Bill Neal recipe for shrimp and grits pâté with you, dear readers, as a post-Thanksgiving gift.

Shrimp and grits pâté

Neal, a talented, too-early-departed chef whose cookbooks see much use in our kitchen, basically brought shrimp and grits to national prominence, though in his 1991 Good Old Grits, Neal and his co-author David Perry gave credit to Craig Claiborne for the “second coming of grits.” This incredibly easy recipe offers little challenge above boiling grits and cleaning shrimp. (For Michelle, because grossness, cleaning shrimp is a challenge, actually.) A food processor and a few minutes turn out a creamy, light and pleasantly shrimpy pâté that keeps quite well overnight in the refrigerator, leaving hosts more time for socializing (which is the point of a gathering, we think). Our pâté was so well received that Steve’s 93-year-old mother demanded multiple slices of crostini slathered with it, some even after the main meal was served.

Steve's mom, Michelle's mom.

Steve’s mom, Michelle’s mom.

While we know not every one of our readers observes the American tradition of Thanksgiving, we do hope you might enjoy this delightful starter at your next family gathering. We know we certainly did, and that we hope to do it again next year.


  • Servings: about 3 cups
  • Print

(adapted from Bill Neal and David Perry’s Good Old Grits Cookbook)

  • 3/4 lb. shrimp, cooked and peeled
  •  Juice of one large lemon
  • 1 tsp. sherry
  • 1 or 2 tsp. mustard (some of it grainy)
  • 8 TB (one stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. cold boiled grits (can substitute white polenta)
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TB chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 c. minced scallions
  • Some snipped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash cayenne or hot sauce, to taste

Place shrimp, lemon juice, sherry, mustard, butter, cream cheese, grits and Parmesan in a food processor. Process until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides when necessary. Add remaining ingredients and process just enough to incorporate. Taste for seasoning.

Transfer the pâté to a bowl. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Serve with crostini, toast points or crackers.


  1. Yum! I’m saving this one for Christmas. While we all know that the holidays means there will be plenty to eat, it’s always nice to have some classy snacks to graze on in the time before the big feast. This one looks perfect!

  2. That looks delicious! I’ve just been eating amazing anchovie pate (I can’t find the accents on an iPod) from the Boqueria. I’m off out to Kentucky Bar shortly, an old fashioned hole in the wall, I remember drinking in on Thanksgiving in 1991!

  3. no thanksgiving tradition here, but certainly huge tradition for collecting great recipes for the upcoming holidays – this one sounds like a real winner! Merci beaucoup!

  4. Eha

    Sounds absolutely delightful as long as you will accept that Down Under it will be presented as a prawn and yellow polenta dish as ‘grits’ {Mr Google telling me ’tis made of cracked white corn] is an ingredient of which most of us have but heard . . . 🙂 !! Shall try this around Yuletide . . .

  5. In Zambia the staple food, nshima, is a kind of cornmeal. I’m going to try and make a ‘local’ version of this recipe. It sounds delicious … and right up my alley. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. It was my favorite American holiday when I lived there!

  6. I can imagine the raised eyebrows if I served grits of any kind at a family dinner, much less Thanksgiving. If I labelled the dish polenta, however, as I placed it upon the table, everyone would sing its praises. What’s in a name, anyway?
    This does look good, Michelle. Loved the picture of your mothers together. How very beautiful!

  7. Michelle and Steve, I just discovered this blog and the award you received (from the mention of your book in the C-J today. Nice! This looks yummy and I look forward to keeping up with your entries in the future. (I don’t cook much but am always thinking I will get around to it in my next life). Happy holidays!

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