Butter-Poached shrimp and grits from Ruhlman's Twenty/photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Just the name is inspiring: butter-poached shrimp.  Butter-poached shrimp and grits. Mmmm.

Butter-poached lobster, not uncommon in French haute cuisine, was popularized in America by Thomas Keller in The French Laundry Cookbook and at that restaurant. “Lobster loves gentle heat,” he told me then. It’s not much of a leap for the thrifty-minded cook to reason that shrimp, too, love gentle heat. That’s why, in the butter chapter of my new book, I showed how to use butter as a cooking medium (one of the many amazing ways butter can be used as a tool). This dish is absolutely killer. The shrimp stay very tender, rich and tasty with the butter; the grits are then enriched with the shrimp butter. Leftover butter can be used to saute shrimp and garlic for a shrimp stir-fry, use it to scramble eggs and serve with cured salmon, or enrich a shellfish sauce (save your shrimp shells).

Want the recipe for butter-poached shrimp and grits? It’s here, on the Splendid Table site. The awesome Lynne Rossetto Kasper interviews me about the book and about one of her favorite ingredients, butter. I adore National Public Media’s Splendid Table and it’s host, who is extremely knowledgable, a genuine pro.  She has her own new book out now, How To Eat Weekends coauthored with Sally Swift.  All of Lynne’s work is first rate and I highly recommend her books. You can listen to us talk butter (and hear so much more) on your local NPR station or download Lynne’s podcasts.

Want to have a look at my wife Donna’s great process shots? Scroll down. One of the best parts of the book is the photography. Our goal was to show how food is supposed to look like, can look like, in your kitchen, rather present than heavily worked over studio food photography. We couldn’t do if we tried—or we could but it’s just not what we do. I like to look at food porn, but not make it. We’re after information, visual information in this case. But looking at that lead photo, well, it’s looking pretty damn good. I think I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow.

Sidenote: Today I’ll be at the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland, 3:15 on the Celebration Stage (with my sous chef Mac Dalton, my partner in Dalton-Ruhlman tools).  On Tuesday, November 15 I’ll be in Washington, DC, at the National Press Club 34th Annual Book Fair & Authors Night.  My assistant Emilia, my Robin, insists that I ask you to follow me on Twitter and on Facebook. Which I hope you do—I try to answer all questions.

How to butter poach shrimp from Ruhlman’s Twenty, photography by Donna Turner Ruhlman:

Making beurre monté: start butter in a tablespoon of water over medim heat.

Add a few chunks at a time, swirling continuously until it's all melted.

Finished beurre monté at perfect poaching temperature 160-180˚ F.

Add shrimp and stir to gently cook them.

Cut one open to make sure they're coked through.

Add shrimpy butter to finish the grits and serve with a squeeze of lemon and fresh black pepper.

If you liked this post on shrimp and grits, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved



16 Wonderful responses to “Butter-Poached Shrimp and Grits”

  • Nick (Macheesmo)

    Awesome post Michael. Thanks for sharing the beurre monte technique.

    One question… could you make the sauce over a double boiler or does it need direct heat? I just always worry about burning the butter for something like this.

    Is that not something i should worry about?

  • Brad McNeal

    I first came across a guy named Micheal Ruhlman on The Splendid Table, years back, talking about stocks. That led me The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America, and, now all of your works. My 40 years in the food biz has been enhanced by your contributions. My all-time favorite, however, remains Walk on Water: The Miracle of Saving Children’s Lives .

  • Taylor

    Who knew grits could be sexy?

    BTW, I commented on your Yogurt post a few weeks back. I know you don’t check every comment nor do you really care, but I essentially reblogged your yogurt recipe. I obviously gave you credit and appreciation. http://desastresastre.blogspot.com/2011/11/yogurt-redux-from-scratch.html

    I 100% don’t expect you to visit my blog, but being new to the blogosphere, I’m not always 100% sure of the reblogging rules. I just want you do know it’s out there. I did poke a little fun at your expense, but I’m sure you don’t mind.

  • CopyKat Recipes

    I had a similar dish when in New Orleans recently. I never thought shrimp and grits would go together so well, but they do, they are heavenly together. Thank you for sharing your technique I will be trying these soon.

  • Mike D

    I’m thinking of Sous Vide Grits using the last of my Corn Stock.
    Any comments Michael?

  • Mark

    Typo “Cut one open to make sure they’re coked through.”

    Nice recipe though…

  • Kelly

    If anything could make me cheat on Bill Neal’s fabulous shrimp & grits recipe – this might be it!

  • Michelle

    Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve been here … and now I’ve got some catching up to do. I do appreciate these inside tricks that you give us. It only confirms what I always new about cooking, and why I enjoy it so much. In high school, when my favorite Home-Ec teacher threw butter, sugar, flour, and eggs together and came up with pat a choux, I thought it was magic. So you are like a magician, giving us all the magic tricks. Just this weekend I prepared shrimp (which I loathe, by the way) for my family, and although they said it was excellent, I can only imagine how good it would have been if I had known this technique. Also, saw you on Martha last week. What’s up with that double dipping? Do all chefs do that? Please let me know.

  • JBL

    “Cut one open to make sure they’re coked through.” So THAT’S the secret ingredient!

  • Aaron

    I make some quick overnight spicy pickled shallot to put on top. The vinegar and spice cut through the rich flavor and add a great taste, toss on a little cilantro if you want and go to town!

    • Rich


      I was thinking the same thing — it needs a little acid. I wonder if instead of the beurre fondue that Michael is using, you could use a lemon-based beurre blanc as the poaching medium? It would double as a sauce. You might end up being too harsh — I’ll have to try it.


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