Paige Travis C. credits her two grandmothers for inspiring these zesty fried cakes, which serve as a warm-up to the family Thanksgiving. "The grits are from my father's mother, Bootsy, who was a wonderful East Texas cook, and the shrimp are straight from my mom's mom, Anna, who is Louisiana French," says Paige. When the family moved to Fredericksburg, Texas, last year, they added locally made jalapeño jelly to the mix.
Finely chop the scallions (the bottom part only) and set them aside. Lightly butter a 13- by 18-inch baking pan with sides.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly sprinkle in the grits, stirring with a whisk all the while. Then reduce the heat to medium and stir for 5 to 7 minutes, until thick. Remove the pan of grits from the heat and stir in the cheese, spices (you can reduce the amount of cayenne, if you like), salt and pepper, and scallions.
Spoon the mixture into the baking pan (it should be about 1/2 inch deep) and smooth the top. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter (or a drinking glass), mark out circles in the grits, then press a shrimp half into the middle of each circle. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until it's time to fry the cakes.
Combine the flour and cornmeal in a pie pan. Then use the cookie cutter to cut out the grit circles (leftover scraps can be fried up or frozen). Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add oil until it is 1/2 inch deep. Coat both sides of each grit cake with the flour mixture, and then fry the cakes until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Place the cooked grits cakes on paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve hot with jalapeño jelly. Yields 2 dozen 3-inch grits cakes.