|Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits|
I tried to cook grits long ago, when I married a man from Texas whose mother grew up in Mississippi. It wasn’t just that my husband, Mr. Rabbit Catcher, liked grits. It just seemed a proper thing to be able to do. After all I had married a somewhat Southern man, or so I thought. Growing up in Illinois, grits were not on any menu that my eyes had ever set upon. Nor was red eyed gravy or ham steaks or biscuits or black eyed peas.
The closest thing to grits that had ever been on my plate was corn meal mush and that was during a driving trip to Florida with my family when I think I was 11. We passed through Tennessee and if memory serves me right we ate at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. My father was showing us how to blow the paper wrappers off of straws and during the demonstration his blown paper ended up in the middle of another patron’s breakfast. It was a good blow, so to speak. My brother and I immediately doubled over, filled with laughter. My dad didn’t show us much when it came to sports and such, so this was good stuff. So good, I still remember it.
Whether I ate corn meal mush at this meal I can’t tell you. And why I remember this I really don’t know. And have I ever had corn meal mush since-not that I recall. But sometimes when I go to the grocery I still see that mush in blocks in the refrigerator case and think it must have my name on it. One day I’ll buy it and try it and remember that straw. But what does this have to do with grits? Well, both are made from corn, as is polenta. I like polenta now, but thirty years ago I don’t recall that polenta was on the menu many places. I did try to make grits early in the marriage, but didn’t know about polenta. Anyway the grits were awful. Gluey and sticky, full of clumps and tasted like paste. Not something I’d want to eat again. My husband just laughed. He never asked for them again. Wise decision on his part.
And so it is that a few months ago he brought me home a cookbook from the bargain bin of our local grocery. I think it cost a full $2.99. I’m sure he didn’t realize that he bought me the bible of American regional cooking. He bought me Patrick O’Connell’s “Refined American Cuisine”. Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington fame. Patrick O’Connell who Patricia Wells identifies as ” a rare chef with sense of near-perfect taste, like a musician with perfect pitch.” Yeah, that Patrick O’Connell. It was printed in 2004. He got me this book because he liked the pictures. And of course, he was hoping to be the beneficiary of some of them.
So fast forward to the 4th recipe in the book. So far, I haven’t been able to make it past this which means I am missing out on bourbon pecan waffles, wild mushroom napoleans, lemon and black pepper risotto, pecan crusted softshell crab tempura, a crab cake sandwich with fried green tomatoes and frozen eggnog souffle. My heart flutters. There is so much more to go and I am stuck at Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits. I’ve been stuck here at least 4 times because that is how many times I’ve made this since he has bought it. And after eating these grits, well shoot, just bury me in them. They are worthy. VERY WORTHY!
And so it is that I give you this oh so rich, to die for recipe, courtesy of Mr. Patrick O’Connell. Last night I served it to Mr. Rabbit Catcher after he came in from chasing what he feels is the last rabbit to elude him. “It was clawing its way up the fence to find a way to escape”, he tells me proudly. And then after sitting down and eyeing dinner he says to me, “I love this dish. This is the best polenta I’ve ever had!” Ugh. Doesn’t a southerner know grits when he sees them?
Swanky and Cheesy Shrimp and Grits (serves 2-3)
adapted from Mr. Patrick O’Connell
Cheesy Rich Grits
4 c chicken broth
1 c grits (quick cooking variety)
1 1/2 T cream cheese or mascarpone
1/4-1/3 c heavy cream
3 cloves roasted garlic or garlic powder
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
2-3 T freshly grated parmesan
In a 2 qt sauce pan bring stock to boiling. Whisk in grits slowly until soft and creamy. This doesn’t take long. Do not let stick to bottom of pan. Stir in cream cheese or mascarpone, heavy cream, roasted garlic or some garlic powder, pinch of sugar, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. Add more cream as needed to keep from getting to thick. Consistency should be like thick frosting. Keep warm over low heat while making shrimp.
Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic
1 small container of red baby grape tomatoes
2 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper and salt
8 cloves of unpeeled garlic or shallots
I use my small convection toaster oven preheated to 350. Put in foil lined pan and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Tuck in a few bay leaves and fresh basil leaves if you have it. Roast until golden about 30-45 minutes.
Place garlic or shallots in aluminum foil and drizzle with oil. Seal packet and roast in oven with tomatoes.
When tomatoes are roasted and garlic is soft, place tomatoes and 6 garlic cloves freed of their peel into a deep glass bowl or measuring cup. I use an immersion blender to blend them into a coarsely chopped puree. Use reserved garlic cloves to stir into grits.
1 T olive oil
18 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3/4 lb)
1/2 t minced garlic
1/4 dry white wine or vermouth
Roasted Tomatoes and Shallots or Garlic from above recipe
2 T chopped scallions
1 T butter
In large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add shrimp and saute for three minutes or until they just turn pink. Do not overcook. Add garlic and saute for a few seconds more. Add wine or vermouth, roasted tomato mixture and scallions. Cook down until liquid has almost disappeared without overcooking shrimp. Stir in butter.
Serve over polenta. Make that grits!
Other fun dishes to try:
Mexican Garlic Lime Shrimp
Kale Salad with Cherries, Almonds and Feta
Frozen Cheese Souffle
German Apple Pancake
Green Chile Scrambled Egg Souffle
Hashbrown Spud Cups
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail