Cooking at Home: Shrimp & Grits with Tasso Gravy, by request


Last week I received an email from a reader who wanted to know how to make the tasso gravy we use in our shrimp and grits, as he has a nice chunk of tasso in his refrigerator and thought of our tasso gravy as a great thing to do with it. It’s really easy. This recipe has appeared in print a few times, but here it is for the record on the Big Jones Blog.

I’ve always felt tasso is best as a seasoning, however delicious it is sliced and served as a ham in itself. Some tassos come literally encased in a thick spice paste, others have hardly any spice coating at all, deferring instead to the high-octane power of cayenne and garlic to give it some kick. So, the results of this recipe will vary depending on the maker of your tasso. Our home made tasso falls in between on the spice front, with a fairly thick coating of about 1/8″. Some folks wash off the spice coating before using, I think that is a sacrilege, but if you have a very heavily coated tasso, you may opt to set some of the spice aside to add back in later if you want more kick.

A final quick note: Your tasso gravy will be delicious, but it won’t taste just like ours without our Worcestershire sauce. If you’re feeling daring (it’s actually easy but just takes some time) the recipe for that appears in an earlier blog post on cassoulet.

Makes about a quart

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, or 1/2 cup
  • 1/2 cup tasso, diced small, about 1/8″
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cupĀ  celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 3 cups good strong chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Melt the butter over medium low heat and add the diced tasso. Fry the tasso in the butter over medium heat until lightly browned and aromatic, about 4-6 minutes. Remove the tasso with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is lightly browned and relaxed. Being careful of splatter, add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic to the roux and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for several minutes until the vegetables are well sweated and the roux is once again relaxed. Add the mushrooms and saute to sweat. Stirring constantly, ad the chicken stock a little at a time and gradually increase heat to high. Bring to a boil while stirring regularly. Add the tasso back in, plus the remaining ingredients. Reduce to a simmer. Correct seasoning.

At this point, you can cook up to four pounds of shrimp in the gravy, so this is a shrimp party. We just poach the shrimp in the gravy until they’re done, so if you want to refrigerate or freeze your gravy in 1/2 pint containers, you can reheat it in smaller batches to a boil and cook a serving or two of shrimp in it as needed. It’s really easy.

This gravy’s also good with biscuits and ham, on mashed potatoes, or anywhere else you’d need gravy.

In case you’re curious about our cheese grits recipe, this one serves eight:

  • 2 quarts skim milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 small hot red chile, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups coarse ground hominy grits
  • 4 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 ounces butter

In a 4-quart saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat just to a boil, stirring often. Add salt and chili pepper, then add the grits in a steady stream, stirring constantly. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens. Continue to stir often as grits cook, 20-40 minutes depending on the thickness of the grind. The grits are done when the largest pieces are al dente but with a creamy center, not hard and starchy. Stir in the cheese and then the butter. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve at once.