This past Monday was Linda’s birthday, so I made her dinner. Linda is second generation hillbilly, being from Tennessee, so I thought something Southern might be in order. I floated Shrimp and Grits to the birthday girl, and she agreed. I had never made Shrimp and Grits before – so I looked up a LOT of recipe possibilities. I settled on Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Shrimp and Grits recipe for a frame, but I made some changes. It turned out REALLY well. There was hardly any left, and it was enough for 6 people, and there were 4 of us. I think the key to making this dish well is to know that anyone who eats it will be at high risk of heart attack. That’s okay, it was a birthday treat, plus I had some ideas about cutting out some of the fat the next time I make it – mostly replacing the half and half in the grits with more chicken stock, pouring out the bacon fat instead of using it, and not adding any extra butter. Though, I can’t imagine what the fun in that would be.
3 cups milk
2 cups half and half
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups polenta
1 tsp salt and cracked black pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Put all the liquid in a big pot on medium high heat, and add the polenta. Let it cook for about 20 minutes, thickening slowly. Add the salt and pepper, and put the cheese in when it’s nearly done, but there’s a little liquid that hasn’t been incorporated yet. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.
5 strips of bacon
1 lb shrimp
1 big onion, diced finely
1 red bell pepper, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 tsp chipotle powder, or cayenne
1/2 cup white wine
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3-4 tbsp flour
1-2 cups chicken stock
flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper
pat of butter
Fry up the slices of bacon in a big nonstick skillet until they’re crispy, remove them from the pan and reserve them, chopping them roughly when they’ve cooled. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, and I usually drain at least some of the bacon fat in cases like this, but I went ahead and left all the fat in the pan. I’ve eaten nothing but arugula and plain oatmeal all this week to make up for it. On medium heat, dump the onion, red pepper, tomato and garlic into the bacon fat, and let it caramelize for probably 15 minutes. Then put in the wine and mustard, letting that cook down, probably a further 7 minutes or so. Next, sprinkle a few tbsp of flour onto the mixture, and cook it a few more minutes, maybe 3 or 4, until it looks brown and clumpy, like this:
When it looks like that, add in the chicken stock, whisking it as you go to get rid of the lumps. You’ve now made a roux! This can come to temperature for a few minutes, and at this point you’ll want to make sure your grits are done. Once the shrimp are in the pan, they cook in about 3 minutes, and you’ll want to serve them right away. The gravy can sit in the pan for a few extra minutes on lower heat if you need it to. When you’re ready- sprinkle a handful of flour over the shrimp, and put them in the pan.
This cooks about 3-4 minutes, move the shrimp around a bit as you go, flipping them over if you like. The shrimp will be pink when they’re done- when they aren’t quite done yet, turn the heat off and let them sit another minute or two. Stir in the pat of butter, parsley and chopped bacon, and serve over the grits.
I really think this was one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. The wine and mustard and tomato and bell pepper, which were not in the original recipe, really helped bring the gravy forward, rather than just being brown gravy. Also, the cheesiness of the grits matched the mustard/wine/tomato flavors and the brightness of the parsley SO well. It was rich, very rich, but there were 4 completely clean plates after dinner. Bacon? Good. Cheese? Good.