Sunday, April 26, 2009

Eat This and You Will be an Honorary Southerner - Shrimp & Grits

And friends, you will thank me because your stummy will be in 7th heaven. I'm not even going to pretend this is low calorie or good for you, though there are vegetables involved. Because let's face it, the low calorie meals are not the most exciting, and this... this is exciting. I wish I had pictures to share, but frankly, my mouth was watering so much when it was done, there was no question of waiting for pictures. Just imagine a large, shallow bowl with a generous helping of creamy grits, tinted a beautiful warm ochre color by cheeeeese and cayenne pepper, topped with a mouth-watering mix of earthy mushrooms, bright green-greens and rosy, succulent shrimp. Ready?

Shrimp and Grits
(that title is a little blah, it really doesn't reflect the gloriousness that is this dish. How about....)

Splendarific Shrimp and Glorious Grits
This serves 4 - so cut in half if for 2.

For the Glorious Grits
4 cups water
1 cup grits
1/2 teaspoon salt to taste (*I probably use closer to a teaspoon full myself)
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
a pinch each of black pepper and cayenne pepper

For the Splendarific Shrimp
6 slices of bacon cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Peanut or canola oil (not olive, the heat is too high for olive oil - it would smoke)
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced Shallots ( I like shallots for this because they're a milder onion flavor - you don't want anything too strong)
4 large leaves of Swiss Chard, washed well, stems removed and shredded (it helps to cut the leaves in half lengthwise and then lay all on top of each other and shred with a sharp knife. Don't be afraid of Swiss Chard, it is a very mild green, but very tasty and very good for you.)
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice - or the juice of one whole lemon
*Optional, hot pepper sauce, chopped fresh parsley

Start the grits first. Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly stir in the grits and reduce the heat to medium low. Add the salt and both peppers and stir very well with either a whisk or a fork to break up any lumps. The grits will need to cook about 20 minutes - stir often during that time to keep them from sticking. Also, the more you stir the more starch will be released and the creamier the grits will become. At the end of the 20 minutes add in both cheeses and the butter and stir well. Give the grits a taste at this point and see if they need more salt. I truly think you need to give grits a generous amount of salt in the beginning, so I actually use quite a bit of salt - otherwise they can taste bland. But if you are more comfortable with the 1/2 teaspoon, go with that, but taste before you serve in case you need to add more. If your grits are ready before your shrimp just turn the heat down as low as it will go and give it a stir once in a while. If it starts to get too dry then just add a tablespoon full of hot water and stir till it's incorporated and creamy looking again.

In the meantime in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the bacon until crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on a napkin covered plate to absorb some of the grease. Leave the bacon drippings in the pan and supplement with a splash of peanut or canola oil. This will keep the bacon grease from burning. Add in the onion and sauté until soft, then add in the garlic and sauté for a moment longer until you can smell the garlic - 1-2 minutes. Then add in the mushrooms and the chard, making sure all is well coated in the oil. Add the salt. Sauté until the chard is wilted, then add in the shrimp and put the bacon back in the pan. If you want this dish to be extra spicy, (and why wouldn't you?!) add in some hot sauce in the form of Tabasco, Louisiana Hot Sauce, or I used a tablespoon of Thai garlic chili paste. Sautee until the shrimp just become pink, then add the lemon juice and parsley.

Serve in a shallow bowl with a ladle full of grits topped with the shrimp mixture. If you really want to be southern about it, biscuits go really well with this. Sis has a really easy recipe here, or you can buy the frozen Pillsbury biscuits - those are great too.

Eat this and you will become an honorary southerner. And then you can start saying "y'all" 'n stuff & we won't look at you sideways. If you read this and said "Ewww, grits!" well, then you can just kiss mine, because grits are pretty much the same thing as your precious polenta, just not as finely ground. Give it a shot, I swear you'll like it.