leaving well enough alone

I can’t leave well enough alone.  I like to tinker.  And test.  And obsess over a single recipe for months on in, until I perfect it, and then I move on to agonizing over something else.

Shrimp and grits.  My grandfather is from Charleston, so I grew up assuming that everyone had some variation of grits, meat, and eggs for breakfast.  Fried fish, bacon, sausage, ham steak, pork chop, steak, shrimp, crab, whatever.  We had it for dinner Saturday night, and saw it again next to grits Sunday morning.  You can imagine my surprise during college, when I discovered more than half of my friends had no idea what grits were.  The horror!

On to brunch.  Inspired by some prodding and this post from Joy the Baker, I decided to make shrimp and grits this Sunday for brunch.  This is where I stop and make my pitch for sustainable seafood.  I will save the soapbox for later, but suffice to say, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium has a great guide to what you should and should not be buying.  So after two farmers markets and my second grocery store of the day,  I found some delightful Gulf shrimp, and brought a pound and a half home.  Coupled with some saffron (thanks to my sister, who brought it back from her trip to France), it made for an extra divine Sunday brunch.

This is a bit of a synthesis of 2 recipes, the aforementioned Joy the Baker, and this Grits casserole.  I made a version without pork, a version just vegetables, and another with all the bacon porky goodness I could muster.  I’m pleased for a first attempt, but there is work to be done here.

Shrimp and Grits, adapted from Joy the Baker and Serious Eats

2 cups of water
2 cups of whole milk
2 cups of grits
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup asiago cheese
1/4 cup cheddar cheese

4 bell peppers, minced
1.5 lbs shrimp, cleaned
1/4 cup champagne, cava, or prosecco
4-6 slices fresh bacon
salt
pepper
1 scallion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Combine the water and milk in a saucepan, bring to a simmer.  Whisk in grits, and cook, uncovered on low heat, until creamy, about 20 minutes.  Be sure to whisk often, as there is nothing worse than lumpy grits.  After the grits have finished cooking, throw in the cheeses and butter.  Salt to taste.  Keep warm on low heat (or in today’s case, a crockpot next to the dining table.)

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a pan until crispy.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  Drain off half the remaining fat and toss in the peppers and scallions, garlic, and spices.  Saute until soft, then add in bubbly and shrimp.  Cook on high heat until shrimp is done and wine has almost completely reduced.  Crumble bacon in with the shrimp, and serve over grits.

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