Recipe Time: Shrimp and Grits

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe, but I’ll make up for lost time with a good one: shrimp and grits.  It makes a nice presentation for company.

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Add a nice salad and some crusty bread — you can’t have too many starches — and you have a great meal.

This is one dish where, for me, at least, using the best ingredients coincides with the most convenient shopping.  The best place in Washington to get seafood is Pescadeli in Bethesda, MD, at the end of Bethesda Avenue next to the crab place.  Right across the street is Butcher’s Alley, where you can get Stakowski’s andouille without having to find a parking space in Georgetown.  Right down the street is Fresh Baguette, which, true to its name, cooks fresh batches of baguettes throughout the day.  You want a good loaf of bread to go with your shrimp and grits, and pretty much anything else.  For the salad, I prefer local arugula from the extensive gardens here in the south forty of Stately Tanner Manor (the front yard of our semi-detached).  That acreage also provides jalapeño and other peppers in season.

None of that does you much good unless you live in my corner of Washington.  The andouille at Whole Foods is pretty good, but if you plan ahead, you can send off for some Conecuh Sausage.  I hope you can do better than their baguettes.

Everyone can, however, send off and get the grits I use: Red Mule Grits, from the Mills Farm in Clarke County, Georgia.  Luke, the eponymous red mule, powers the mill that grinds the corn into either grits, corn meal, Polenta de Georgia, or English porridge, depending on Luke’s mood.  Luke usually feels like grinding  grits.  Stone ground grits of any sort will be good.  I shouldn’t have to tell you, but never, ever get instant grits.  Your Mama would be so ashamed.

Here we go.

For the Shrimp:   You’ll need:

About 1 1/2 pounds of unpeeled  shrimp.

Reserved shrimp shells, placed in a small sauce pan with water to cover.

2 cloves of garlic minced, and 1-2 T olive oil.

1 T or so of a mixture of red and black pepper and paprika, or some Tony Chachere’s or Emeril’s.

4 strips of wood-smoked cured bacon, chopped, which has never been in the vicinity of any form of sugar.  Note: most recipes call for 5-8 strips of bacon, but you really don’t need that much and Sam Heldman commented adversely (and, I guess, justly) on the amount of meat in my red beans and rice recipe.

Probably some more bacon drippings.

1/2 pound good andouille or Conecuh Sausage, sliced in 1/4″ or so rounds.

1 yellow onion chopped fine – about a cup.

1 medium jalapeño, seeds and core carelessly removed, chopped fine.

1/2 cup or so each, finely chopped red and green bell peppers.

2 more cloves of garlic, minced.

Butter 1/2 the size of an egg or so.

1/2 cup of chopped green onions, both white and green parts.

Peel and devein the shrimp and place them in a bowl with the garlic, olive oil, and spices.  Mix well and set aside.  Place the reserved shrimp shells in the  small pot, compress them, and add water to cover.  Cook on a low boil to reduce the water and make 1/2 cup of  shrimp stock.

Cook the chopped bacon in a skillet until cooked through but not crisp.  Set the bacon aside to drain on a paper towel.  Pour off and reserve the bacon drippings.  Sauté the andouille until just cooked through.  Set aside on a paper towel.  Add a little of the reserved bacon drippings and cook the shrimp until it just barely starts to turn pink here and there.  Return the shrimp to its bowl.

Sauté the onion and peppers in bacon drippings over a medium low heat for a few minutes, then add the second round of minced garlic.  Cook until almost soft.  Drain the shrimp stock you just made — it should be about 1/2 cup.  Add the andouille, then add the shrimp, and add the bacon.    Cook over medium heat until the shrimp is pink.  Add the butter and stir until butter is melted and incorporated.  Plate — as you can see, I like to spread the shrimp mixture around the grits — sprinkle the green onions and serve.

Note:  you can skip some of these steps, for example, by throwing the onion and peppers in with the andouille and then adding the shrimp.  It’s better when the shrimp get that first bit of cooking in the bacon and andouille drippings, and the vegetables get a bit of everything.  If you take the shortcut, though, it will still be very good.  And I just like the lack of clarity in the “butter the size of an egg” measure.  Pick any kind of egg you like, short of an ostrich egg.

For the Grits:

6 cups water

salt and pepper

1 1/2 cup grits

butter 1/2 the size of an egg or so

1 T bacon drippings

2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar

1 medium jalapeño, seeds and core carelessly removed, chopped fine.

Bring the water to a boil.  Add more salt than you think you should, and some pepper.  Add the grits and cook, stirring occasionally for somewhere in the vicinity of 25 minutes.  (Reading the directions on the package is okay.)  Stir the butter and bacon drippings into the grits.  Stir the cheese into the grits.  Stir the jalapeño into the grits.  Remove from the heat when the liquid is absorbed and the texture suits your taste.   Plate and serve.

Bask in the applause.

Of course, you can vary the ingredients.   Some people like a little celery in with the other vegetables, but I don’t think it adds much here.  You can skip the jalapeños or core them with care to make it less hot.  You can use other smoked sausages than andouille — Conecuh sausage is always spectacular, if you can get it — and Italian sausage can work fairly well, maybe with some crushed tomato added.   Mixing shrimp and scallops works nicely.

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Give it a try.

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