A lot of my cooking is dictated by a craving, something to satisfy myself or maybe to simply make a deposit
in my creative bank account. Either way, it means trying something totally new or pulling out an old favorite that will fulfill said craving while honing my culinary skills. This weekend brought more of a need to experiment with a new procedure than anything else. After record-breaking temperatures on Friday, things changed rapidly, dropping 30 degrees and winds howling at 40-50mph gusts. I thought this would be the perfect time to try out grits in a slow-cooker. A perfect comfort food for a chilly February day off.
For anyone not familiar, grits are a type of corn meal generally made into a breakfast cereal or porage, it's a southern thing. I didn't grow up with them, I didn't even taste them for the first time until just a few years ago, probably at a Cracker Barrel & those memories aside, I didn't give up on this wonderful staple. You see, corn is another one of my favorite ingredients. I absolutely love it, fresh, grilled, popped, in tamales, chowders, polenta. I could go on and on. In fact, I think I could open a restaurant or cafe & call it simply "Kernel". Grits are one of the latest additional to my ingredient palette but, they are escalating up the list fast. Now I'm just not into them as a breakfast side even if you do blitz em with cheese. No, it's star billing all the way. For breakfast I will lace them with pork, whatever your favorite morning meat happens to be. If I have some leftover greens hangin around, they'll go in. Season with salt and plenty of cracked pepper, then top with a poached or soft-boiled egg. With this pot in front of me, it's got me looking around for a rainbow. Yeah, I know. This time however, I'm thinking later in the day and a little more coastal, a little more upscale. Shrimp & Grits, a Charlotte, NC favorite and one of mine too. The perfect dish to try out some new grits that were just delivered a couple weeks ago from Anson Mills. This is an heirloom corn & I have been hearing about their products from chefs around the country. They are pricey however, and when you add shipping well, not quite white caviar but, not even close to that tube of Quaker 5 minute though. Not only do they tax your wallet, they tax your time as well, you see they take at least an hour to cook on the stove top. And that's when they have been soaked overnight. I will try the slow-cooker method, recommended by the Anson web site to be simple and ultimately the best way to go, but it's gonna take over 2 hours, yikes! Which ever brand or method you use, this recipe will turn you into a grits lover.
Shrimp and Grits... (serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
For the grits:
1 C. grits with enough water as per instructions(according to brand)
1/2 lb. smoked sausage- sliced
5-8 oz. frozen collard greens or spinach
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsn. butter
For the shrimp:
3/4 lb. 16-20 shrimp- shells removed, devained & seasoned with salt & pepper
1 Tbsn. olive oil
2 cloves garlic- minced
3 scallions- minced, keeping white & green parts separated
1/2 C. tomato- diced
1/4 C. bourbon
1/2 C chicken broth or water
2 Tbsn butter
Cook grits according to directions with sausage & greens. season & stir in butter. Keep warm while preparing shrimp.
Heat oil in saute pan til med hot. Add shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes each side. Remove from pan & keep warm. Add garlic & scallion whites to pan and Cook for a minute or two then add tomato & cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add bourbon(be careful over open flames), reduce by half then add chicken broth & reduce till thick, lower heat & add butter & shrimp back to pan & stir until butter is melted. Portion grits into serving bowls, arrange shrimp on top, spoon sauce over & garnish with scallion greens.
As for my expensive, slow-cooking variety...well, the jury is still out. I need to test & taste some more. They were very creamy and had a wonderful corn taste, just don't know if they're Worth the price yet. In the mean time I'll keep an eye out for them at the market, that way I can eliminate the shipping at least.