Recipe courtesy of Darin Sehnert

Shrimp in Red Eye Gravy

Red Eye Gravy is traditionally prepared after frying slices of country ham. The ham is removed from the pan and the cooked-on bits in the pan are deglazed with cold black coffee. The coffee adds a pleasant note of bitterness and a nice deep dark flavor. I have taken some liberties and embellished it a bit. I use smoked bacon instead of country ham and then caramelize aromatic vegetables in the bacon grease for added color and depth of flavor in the finished dish. DO NOT become impatient, the key to the deep rich flavor of this dish is the caramelization of the peppers, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms.
  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 15 min
  • Prep: 25 min
  • Cook: 50 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
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4 strips smoked bacon, cut cross-wise into thin strips

4 to 6 branches fresh thyme

1 cup finely diced yellow onion

1 cup finely diced green bell pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sliced mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

1/2 cup cold black coffee

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1/4 cup Madeira wine or sherry or brandy

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 pound large 16-20 count uncooked shrimp, peeled

Creamy grits, for serving


  1. Place bacon in large saute or braising pan and cook over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered. Meanwhile, bruise the whole thyme sprigs by lightly pounding with the side of the wide end of a chef's knife. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place on a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Leave the bacon grease in the pan for cooking the vegetables.
  2. Add the bruised thyme, onions and bell peppers to the bacon grease. Sprinkle liberally with salt and black pepper. Stir to coat with the bacon grease and spread the vegetables evenly across the bottom of the pan. Cook until the peppers and onions are nicely browned. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes and reserved bacon and another sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Cook until the mushrooms and tomatoes have cooked down and given off their juices.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the coffee and stir to scrape up cooked-on bits. Allow the coffee to cook down until reduced by half, and then add the chicken broth and hot pepper sauce. While the chicken broth is coming to a simmer, begin pulling the thyme sprigs from the pan, scraping the stems with the edge of a spoon to remove the leaves that haven't yet fallen off. Discard the stems.
  4. When the mixture comes to a simmer, mix together the Madeira and cornstarch, and then add into the pan. Cook until thickened to a sauce-like consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, black pepper or hot pepper sauce. Stir in the peeled shrimp and cook until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes. Serve over creamy grits.