Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shrimp and Grits

As you know from previous posts, I am a person who likes routine.  When cooking for myself, I typically choose from one of five or six healthy, quick and easy-to-make dishes.  One reason I adore having company is that I get to explore and make dishes that I thoughtfully dog-eared in cookbooks or magazines or found on….I really do cook to show others that I love them!  

It was M.’s turn to cook on Wednesday and she made Shrimp and Grits.  As difficult as this may be to imagine, I never had Shrimp and Grits before Wednesday.  That routine thing.  I know, I know, I should be embarrassed by this fact, and I am. But I’m more disappointed because I’ve been missing out on 50+ years of spicy, creamy goodness.  

The South is often called the “Grits Belt."  Grits come to us by way of the Muskogee Tribe — from the Southeastern Woodlands — who would grind corn to a “gritty” texture. This technique was adopted by the American settlers who would often give food allowances, including grits, to their enslaved people.  Wanting to make the most of their local resources, the enslaved people would prepare the grits with shrimp and other fish abundant on the Gulf Coast.  Fast forward 120+ years, in the early 1980’s, a ritzy restauranteur in North Carolina kicked simple Shrimp and Grits up a notch by introducing cheese, bacon and other spices.  Following a visit from the New York Time’s Craig Clairborne, the Shrimp and Grits craze we know today took off.

To add a bit of kick to this dish, M. used “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun spice…a spice — according to the label — that “gives you a loving slap on your back, followed by a ‘fiery’ kiss on the cheek and a desperate plea for water!”  

Before dinner, we nibbled on cheese and sipped wine by the fire.  It was lovely.  

Shrimp and Grits
Adapted from Bobby Flay

2 cups water
2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup of cream
Salt and pepper
A pinch or two of spicy seasoning
1 cup stone-ground grits
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of spicy seasoning 
A big splash or two of vermouth, white wine or beer (enough to deglaze, complement the flavors and create a sauce)
Fresh tarragon, chopped (to taste)

Bring water, broth and cream to a boil. Add salt, pepper and spicy seasoning. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the vermouth to create a sauce.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Top with the shrimp mixture and sprinkle tarragon on top.  Serve immediately.

For dessert, A. brought a citrus-glazed polenta cake…more on that later.

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