January 13, 2014

divinely delicious shrimp and grits

You know that meal that you make when you want to serve something impressive, memorable, and divinely delicious for special occasions? Well, this is mine. Shrimp and Grits. (appropriately spoken shrimp'n grits) Oh yes, there are beautiful racks of lambs and dishes that have loads of fancy ingredients that look like a magazine photo. But when it comes to delivering a dish that is pleasing to the eye, stickin' to the bone, and leaves a lasting impression - this is it. This. Is. It. 

I have served shrimp'n grits for many major life-eating events like my husband's 40th birthday party, super special weekend company, dinner parties with my fanciest friends, and even Christmas day. And y'all, I'm tellin you straight...there is moaning. There, I said it. Moaning

It's so good that there are mutterings of "Oh my gosh" across the table as folks take their bites.
It's so good that I caught a gal licking her bowl. 
It's so good that my well-traveled friends said it was better than any they'd had in restaurants.
It's so good that men hug my neck and their wives ask for the recipe. 

Beyond flavor, this recipe is a one-dish wonder! Ladle the shrimp and sauce over a shallow bowl of creamy grits and lay a piece of warm, buttered crusty bread right on top! No need for forks, knives, or plates...just a spoon and a bowl.  Refined southern goodness, y'all.

 {feeds about 7-10 people, depending on your people}

-for the shrimp and sauce-
6 slices of thick-cut hickory bacon, cut into pieces
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2  tablespoons of Creole seasoning, like Tony Chachere's
1 cup of dry white wine {or chicken stock, but it's a richer flavor with wine}
1 pound large fresh or frozen shrimp (thawed) peeled, deveined, tail-on
the juice of one lemon
2-3 tablespoons chopped scallions, green parts only
 crumbled goat cheese, optional

Before we start, there's a method to cooking this dish so it's all ready at the right time to serve hot and at its best. Be sure to have all of your peppers, onions, garlic chopped and ready to go; and also have the shrimp thawed and patted dry. You may wish to remove the tails, but I think it's pretty to leave them on. Ready?! Go!

In a large skillet/braiser/saucepan {choose one that has a lid because you'll need it later} over medium-high heat, cook bacon pieces, stirring until crisp and nicely browned. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, spoon out the bacon pieces and drain/cool on a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the bacon grease in the skillet. Turn off the burner, and sit tight.

Next, prepare the grits recipe below. Stirring and adding milk as you need to make sure they're creamy and delicious. Cover and let sit over low heat, stirring occasionally, as you prepare the shrimp sauce.

-for the grits-

10-12 oz. Mild Mexican Velveeta, cubed
1 tsp. salt
1 cup uncooked instant grits
2 cups of water
2 cups of milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp garlic powder (not salt!)
2-3 rings of jarred jalapeno slices and juice, optional

 In a medium-large pot, bring water, milk, butter and salt to a slow boil and whisk in grits, whisking constantly so they do not clump.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook-n-stir grits until they've expanded and gotten creamy about 7-8 minutes or so. Over low heat, stir in cheese and garlic powder. Stir until cheese is melted and grits are smooth. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of jarred jalapeno juice if you'd like (we do!). Taste as you go! Add more milk a little at a time, stirring over low heat til the grits are creamy, creamy, creamy. 

Now that the grits are made, it's time to tend to the shrimp sauce. And when I say tend, I mean you're about to stand over your skillet/saucepan working quickly and stirring quite a bit for the next 10-12 minutes. But then you're ready to plate and serve! 

Heat the bacon grease over medium heat, and add the peppers and onions, sauteing for 5-6 minutes until they are soft. Add the chopped garlic and stir constantly for one minute to be sure it doesn't burn...and it will burn on you fast. Add the white wine and creole seasoning and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in the shrimp, adding more wine or chicken stock for more sauce if needed, and bring to a little simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid for 2-3 minutes to cook the shrimp. This is a good time to stir your grits and see how they're looking. Remove the lid from the shrimp sauce, and stir in lemon juice. Taste the sauce, adding more creole seasoning, more lemon, or more wine/stock if you prefer. 

Spoon a shallow bowl with your creamy jalapeno cheese grits, and ladle the shrimp and sauce on top. Then garnish with crumbled bacon, chopped green scallions, and a crumble of goat cheese if you'd like. I like to lay a rustic hunk of buttered crusty bread on the side of the bowl which is just right for moppin the last little bit of grits and sauce from the bowl.

The end.