My youngest sister has been visiting this week, so there's been more cooking than usual around here. Last night I made shrimp and grits, which I discovered on my first trip to Charleston and Savannah a number of years ago. I love the versatility of this dish, that it can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It's also one of those dishes that inspire countless variations, each cook putting their own spin on it. This is my version, with a little tasso thrown in for Louisiana flavor. Outside of Louisiana, you can sometimes find tasso at better grocery stores. It can also be ordered online (and freezes well).
SHRIMP & GRITS:
Creamy White Grits
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups stone-ground grits
3 cups whole milk
Salt to taste
1. Bring butter, water, and chicken broth to a gentle boil in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Slowly pour in grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir so grits don’t settle to bottom and burn.
2. Continue to cook grits for about 20 min., stirring frequently. Grits should have absorbed all liquid and become soft. Stir in ½ cup of the milk and cook until absorbed. Continue adding ½ cup at a time, absorbing before each addition. Total cooking time for grits will be approximately an hour. Grits should be creamy like oatmeal (but not so soupy that they run on the plate). Season to taste with salt.
3. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. If grits become too thick, add more milk or chicken broth to thin them down.
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup tasso, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt and white pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add green pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add tasso and sauté for 1 more minute.
2. Make a roux by adding the flour and stirring until well combined. Continue to cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until roux develops a nutty aroma.
3. Turn heat up to medium and gradually add 2 cups of the chicken broth, stirring vigorously. Keep stirring until broth begins to thicken and is smooth. Gradually add remaining 2 cups of broth, stirring until broth thickens into gravy.
4. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes to cook out the starchy flavor. Add the chopped parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste with cayenne, salt, white pepper, and lemon juice.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 recipe Tasso gravy
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1. In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shrimp and sauté until they begin to turn pink, 1-2 minutes. Add to the tasso gravy. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add chopped parsley.
To serve: Divide grits onto warmed plates or shallow bowls. Spoon shrimp-tasso mixture over grits. Top with crisp, browned leeks, if desired.