Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shrimp and Grits

My adventure into the previously unknown continued last week with my first shot at grits. The first time I had grits I thought they were nasty (and in retrospect, whoever made them made them taste like paste). The second time my friend Catherine made them (with shrimp) and I loved them. So I had a 50/50 chance with this meal succeeding. Why not?

Grits are a pretty simple concept, just like polenta. Coarse ground corn and water makes yummy food. Well, at least that’s where you start. In the interest of time/my first time I used quick grits instead of the fancy stone ground ones. Next time I think I will try the latter, mainly for their texture and more than likely better flavor. But for anyone making this dish in a pinch quick grits work just fine. Time investment in this meal clocks in at less than 30 minutes.

This recipe is open to interpretation, it really is. That is the beauty of southern food, everyone makes it differently. I like that about some dishes because they really take on a life of their own. For example, instead of water for the grits, I added the intended amount of water into a pot, added the shrimp shells, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme, and salt and then let it simmer for about 15 minutes to make a quick shrimp stock. Nifty.

Shrimp and Grits

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T paprika
½ t cayenne
½ t dried thyme
½ t dried oregano
¼ t cumin
2 t salt
½ t pepper
1 T flour
¼ cup chicken (or shrimp) stock
2 T parsley
2 T lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices bacon, chopped


½ cup quick grits
2 C water
3 oz cheddar cheese
½ t garlic powder
1 t salt
1 t pepper

For the shrimp, combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl and mix well, coating shrimp with spice mixture. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet or pot over medium heat and add bacon, cooking until browned. Remove bacon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Add the onion and pepper, cooking them both in the bacon drippings about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with flour and mix until absorbed. Add the chicken stock and cook until a thick sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley and lemon juice, season with salt, pepper, and cayenne for spice. Add the bacon back into the mix in the end.

For the grits, heat the water (or stock) over medium heat until boiling. Add grits and salt, whisk, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally until grits are creamy and plump, about 5-7 minutes. Taste the grits to check their consistency, they should be smooth. If gritty, add a bit more water or stock and whisk in. Add the garlic powder, pepper, and cheese, whisking until the cheese is melted.


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