Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The first and only time that I have ever tried shrimp and grits was 2 years and 4 months ago. It must've made an impression if I can remember the specifics, right? We were living in Atlanta, Georgia and my husband's company put on a fancy, catered, family picnic. It was October, and the lawn of the historic mansion where the event was hosted was beautifully decorated with pumpkins, mums, and scarecrows. It was certainly picturesque. However, as a woman nearing the end of my second trimester of pregnancy, I was not distracted by the decor nor the kiddie games that my 3 year old was begging me to play with her. I didn't even care to take a horse drawn hayride. No ma'am! My focus was solely on the fragrant and steaming chafing dishes and bowls of salad, (not to mention the wide assortment of desserts), lined up under the billowing white tent at the center of the lawn.
The food was incredible that day. But the dish that is forevermore burned into my memory was the savory, succulent shrimp served over cheesy grits. I sent my husband up for seconds so that I wouldn't look like a total pig in front of his colleagues. Luckily, my social graces kicked in and told me to not go for a third helping. See, I do have some restraint. On the way to the parking lot that day, I bumped into the chef. I praised his dishes and gushed over the shrimp n' grits and asked for the recipe. He seemed hesitant to give it out. Not one to take "no" for an answer and hungry for more shrimp and grits, I offered the chef my email, elbowing my husband and then waiting awkwardly while my beloved fumbled for a pen so that I could scratch my email down on his card. My husband is well aware that it's not in anyone's best interest to argue with a pregnant woman on a mission for a craving. Looking back, I may have badgered the man a bit. Oops. Not surprisingly, the recipe never showed up in my inbox. But that doesn't mean that I'd forgotten about shrimp n' cheesy grits.
Today was about as far from that hot, Southern, October day at the picnic as I could get. I woke up to this snowy late-January day, wiped the sleep from my eyes, and trudged down to the kitchen to serve up a hot breakfast. My oldest's favorite, Coco Wheats. While my kiddos happily shovelled the chocolate gruel into their mouths, I reviewed my long to-do list, looking up as needed to answer questions, wipe little chocolate faces, and observe the snow flying outside of our frosty Northeastern Ohio window. Half an hour later, with one kid at pre-K and then other intensely occupied with Melissa & Doug Abby & Emma Deluxe Magnetic Dress-Updolls.(My kids love these!),I set about all of the tasks that had been neglected during the holiday season. I scrubbed grout, I organized closets and the toy room, I re-arranged furniture, sucked up dust and cobwebs with that handy attachment on my vaccuum, and I made about 20 trips up and down the basement stairs. It was time to re-claim my home! By the time that 5 o'clock rolled around, I felt that I might collapse into a gelatinous pool of goo. Instead, I whipped up shrimp and cheesy grits. I'd been looking forward to it all day. I can't remember the exact flavors of the shrimp and grits from that picnic over two years ago, but I was certainly not disappointed by the flavors offered by the recipes that I chose for tonight's dinner. This dish was just what the doctor ordered after a day of intense cleaning and organization. Hearty, creamy, a hint of heat, and full out dee-licious! Best of all, it really wasn't that complicated to make.
To begin, you want to fry up a couple of strips of bacon until they're nice and crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on a paper towel. Save about a teaspoon of the bacon drippings in the skillet for later. Discard the rest.
While the bacon fries, peel and de-vein a pound of shrimp. FYI: If you've got an ALDI nearby, you can snag a 1 lb. bag of this shrimp in the freezer section for a mere $3.99/lb. Not too shabby.
Let's go ahead and get those cheesy grits started. Bring 2 tablespoons of butter, 4 1/2 cups each of water and milk, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot), and a pressed clove of garlic to a boil. Then, gradually stir in 2 cups of white grits. You'll bring this back to a boil and then reduce the heat and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes until the grits are thickened. This is the first time that I've made grits. Polenta and/or mush, yes. But grits, no. It's pretty much all the same.
Now back to the shrimp portion of this dish. Add about a cup of sliced mushrooms to the bacon drippings in the skillet and 2 teaspoons of oil. Saute until tender. Then, add in 1/2 cup sliced green onions, and sauté 2 minutes more.
While my mushrooms and green onions sauteed, I dredged the shrimp in flour, salt, and pepper. Add the shrimp to the skillet with a couple cloves of minced garlic and cook until the shrimp are lightly browned.
By the time my shrimp were cooking, the grits were ready, so I stirred in some more butter and some cheddar. The recipe called for 10 oz. of white cheddar. I only had about 2 oz. of white cheddar leftover from Friday night's Bacon, Onion, and Mushroom Pizza, so I shredded the white cheddar and added in 8 oz. of store brand mild shredded cheddar. Cook and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted.
Back to the shrimp, it's time to stir in a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce.
Cook and stir for a few minutes, letting the flavors all simmer together and the sauce thicken.
Serve the shrimp over those creamy, cheesy grits. Crumble the bacon that you browned at the very beginning and sprinkle it over the shrimp. If you think you don't like grits, I'd encourage you to give this a try. It's nothing short of wonderful.
Shrimp and Grits adapted by me from Southern Living
*The original recipe is from Bill Smith, executive chef at Crook's Corner, the landmark Southern restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2 bacon slices
1 pound unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1. Cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 1 tsp. drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon.
2. Peel shrimp; devein, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper; dredge in flour.
3. Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings with oil in skillet 5 minutes or until tender. Add green onions, and sauté 2 minutes. Add shrimp and garlic, and sauté until shrimp are lightly browned. Stir in chicken broth and hot sauce, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Spoon shrimp mixture over hot Cheese Grits; sprinkle with crumbled bacon.
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Creamy Cheddar Cheese Grits from Southern Living May 2009
4 tablespoons butter
5 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 1/2 cups uncooked stone-ground white grits
1 (10-oz.) block sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated
1. Bring 2 Tbsp. butter, next 4 ingredients, and 5 cups water to a boil in a medium-size Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 1/2 hours or until thickened. Stir in cheese and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter until melted. Serve immediately.
Quick-Cooking Creamy Cheddar Cheese Grits: Substitute 2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits for stone-ground grits. Decrease water and milk to 4 1/2 cups each. Prepare recipe as directed, cooking grits 10 to 15 minutes or until thickened.
Yield: Makes 8 1/2 cups
Notes: I used the quick cooking version of this recipe. I also used bagged, shredded yellow cheddar cheese with only 2 oz. freshly grated white cheddar. This recipe makes more than enough grits for the 1 lb. of shrimp that I prepared. Next time I'll cut the grits recipe in half.
To download or print this recipe click here!