Last week we had a monstrous hurricane bearing down on us and after getting the house and yard storm ready all I could think of was the enormous amount of beautiful dolphin, wild caught shrimp, grass-fed beef and organic chicken lounging in my freezer. We lose power in our house about the time a storm picks up off the coast of Africa. It takes nothing for us to lose power. I hate it. A car can drive by and all of a sudden, flicker-flicker, and flat silence descends. No sound, no light, no cooling ceiling fans and no AC. The worst! And then, of course, things start thawing and dripping in my freezer. Not knowing if we would get a direct hit from Hurricane Matthew, and I thank God everyday that we did not, I figured I’d cook up a large portion of my frozen treasures and we would eat like kings for a few days. Here in south Florida we are blessed with a type of shrimp called Key West Pinks, so sweet, succulent and, yes, pink. And although their season peaks in June, they’re still quite easy to find in seafood markets. I quickly steamed a few pounds in a spicy lemony broth and set them aside for us to enjoy cold with cocktail sauce. I had all kinds of food items in my refrigerator that I was loath to toss. Bacon, peppers, milk, cream, butter, cheese…what’s a girl to do?
Well, I’ll tell you what this girl did. I prepared for dinner the most luxurious, creamy dish of Shrimp and Grits this side of heaven. I always have grits on hand, good grits. Slow cooking, stone ground grits. Not that highly processed, quick or instant, grocery store mess. All watery and bland. No. I like coarsely ground grits, loaded with texture and full of corn flavor that easily stand alone on their own merit. In fact, these are the grits you almost want to eat without anything on top but then I think of the sweet Pinks. I daydream of the bacon seasoned sauce puddling on top of creamy, white grits and I’m back on board. Oh, and by the way, Trader Joe’s store brand grits are really super if you don’t have a grist mill down the street. The shrimp will be gone in two seconds flat but you’ll probably have some grits left over. It can be gently warmed again the following day and eaten as is with nothing added but a quick grind of black pepper. The grits will take about 30 minutes to prepare so don’t start cooking your shrimp until the grits are almost done. If the grits get too thick it can be thinned out with a little warmed milk, half and half or cream. Pork is usually included in the shrimp mixture. Bacon, andouille sausage and Tasso are typically put into service. My first choice is bacon as its saltiness really brings out the sweetness of the shrimp. Andouille is good but I find its taste completely overwhelms the delicate flavors of both the shrimp and grits. Tasso is wonderful but it’s also strong plus can be difficult to find. This, Gentle Reader, is comfort food at its best. As there is such a difference in wild caught shrimp versus farmed so is there a vast difference in stone ground grits as opposed to highly processed, quick or instant. Make the effort to find wild caught shrimp and stone ground grits. You’ll be positively delighted at the difference they make in your dishes. I hope you enjoy these two recipes as much as my entire family does. They’ll do ya proud!
Shrimp and Grits
- 1 3/4 cups stone ground grits
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- In a large, heavy pot bring the water and salt to a boil then reduce the heat to low.
- Using a whisk or large wooden spoon, stir the water in a circular motion while slowly pouring in grits and stirring constantly.
- When the grits begin to thicken add the milk, cream and butter. Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
- Cook over low heat for 30 minutes or until grits are tender, stirring often.
- Add the cream cheese and mix until the cheese has melted into the grits.
- Cover, set aside and keep warm on low.
- 5 slices thick sliced bacon, cut into matchstick size pieces
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced or grated
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 pounds wild caught uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1/4 cup cream or half and half
- salt and pepper to taste
- serve with Tabasco sauce or Crystal Hot sauce on the side, optional
- Place the bacon pieces in a medium size skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, 6-10 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside in a small bowl. Leave the bacon drippings in the pan.
- To the bacon drippings add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook over moderate heat until the onions are clear and soft but not brown, about 5 minutes or so.
- Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the shrimp, lemon juice and white wine. Stir well to cook evenly. Cook until shrimp just turn pink.
- Quickly add reserved bacon and stir well and remove from heat.
- Spoon warm grits in shallow soup bowls.
- Using a slotted spoon top grits with shrimp
- Pour remaining sauce evenly over shrimp and grits.
- Serve immediately.