Thursday, January 8, 2015

Shrimp and Grits

Ok, full disclosure, This is really Shrimp and Polenta not real grits. I just think yellow cornmeal tastes better than grits. Gasp! I know. But you can make this recipe with grits just the same.

Now that's out of the way, we can get on with the recipe. 

This is actually more of a Gulf Coast/Creole/Cajun recipe vs a "deep south" dish. I really prefer these flavors in this application as it's super bold and eats really well. It's kind of an étouffée because it's base is a light roux. 

Shrimp and Grits
(adapted from Deep South Dish, here and Alton Brown, here)

Shrimp Stock:
The shells of 2 pounds of shrimp, heads too, if they came on.
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
handful of parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme)
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of canola oil
1 cup of andouille or other spicy smoked sausage
2 pounds of small to medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons of canola oil
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of chopped onion
1/4 cup of chopped green bell pepper
1/8 cup of chopped celery
3 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (I use Emeril's Essence)
1-1/2 cups of shrimp stock or chicken broth
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes, optional
Sliced green onion, for garnish

Cheese Grits...err Polenta:
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal (polenta)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded


Grab up your shrimp - 2 pounds. 

Start peeling.

I'm not sure as to all the different varieties of of shell-on shrimp out there, but I got the the "easy-peel" kind, which are deveined, headless with a slit down the back and are actually really "easy" to peel.

Whatever variety you have, just separate the shells from the shrimp and put the shells into a medium pot.

Put the shrimp in a medium bowl.

Seems like it's not a lot of shells but it'll work. If you have the heads, this'll be a lot more rich - but if not, don't fret, it's still very good!

Anyhoo, grab up your aromatics for the shrimp stock:

2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
handful of parsley

Add in 2 bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme), and some salt and pepper

Fill the pot to cover or to max fill if using a pressure cooker.

In my case, using a pressure cooker, I cooked for 20 minutes at full pressure. If using a regular pot let this go for 2 hours or so at a simmer.


Strain the solids off.

Nice bright shells:

I always use a paper towel for my final strain.

Since this is almost fat-less, it strains down very well.

Not too much grime left.

Nice rich, clean shrimp stock.


Meanwhile, season your shimp with 3 teaspoons of Cajun seasoning (I use Emeril's Essence) and a shake of salt.

Give it a good stir.

Cover and let sit (in the fridge) until you're ready to cook. It'll be fine for a while.


When you're ready to cook, gather up some andouille sausage - 1 cup's worth, give or take. I just used 2 links.

Dice them up.

Add to a pan with a bit of canola oil or butter over medium heat. 

While that renders a bit, prep your Trinity - 2 ribs of celery, one green bell pepper and an onion.

Dice them.

After about 5 minutes, remove the sausage.

Mine wasn't super fat heavy so there wasn't a lot of fat in the pan.

If it's a bit dry, add some more oil or butter (maybe a teaspoon or more) to lube it up.

Add the trinity and a generous shake of salt and pepper.

Stir well and let sweat for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to get the fond from the sausage off the bottom of the pan.


At the same time, start your roux for the shrimp.

In a small sauce pan, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat.

Once melted, add a tablespoon of flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring quite frequently. 

We're not going for a dark roux or anything, just a nice blonde one.

Your trinity should be broken down nicely by now.

Add the roux to your veggies.

Stir well - it'll tighten up quickly. Less than a minute.

Slowly add 1 1/2 cups of your shrimp stock to the pan.

Stir well and retain the medium heat.


For the grits/polenta, I didn't have any whole milk, but I had heavy cream so I decided to water it down a bit.

Instead of 2 cups of water and 2 cups of milk, I went with 3 cups of water and 1 cup of heavy cream.

Still 4 cups total, so we're all good.

Add the milk to another small sauce pan and season with 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper - maybe 1/4 teaspoon.

Grate your cheese - 4 oz sharp cheddar.

I recommend doing this over wax paper for easy weighing and transferring.

BTW, the cheese from a block is far superior to the pre-shredded variety. That stuff is coated with a powder that helps it to remain clump free in the package, but doesn't melt as well.

Just get a block and grate it.

Measure out a cup of polenta.

When your milk/salt mixture comes to a boil, slowly add the polenta. 

Stir quickly and constantly to avoid lumps.

It'll tighten up very quickly.

Add a little shrimp stock to loosen it up if it gets tight on you. This also adds a nice complimentary flavor to the polenta. 

When the texture in nice and smooth without being to tight, kill the heat and add 4 tablespoons of butter along with 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

Add the 4 oz of cheese and mix well to combine. (Sorry I missed the cheese shot!)


Meanwhile, to finish your shrimp, add the marinated shrimp directly to your sauce.

Go ahead and add the sausage now, too. (I missed this picture, too!)

Stir well to heat through. 

It'll only take about 4-5 minutes, max, to cook the shrimp though. The more you cook it, the tougher they'll get and the more watery the sauce will be. Check after 3 minutes and be vigilant. 


Serve the shrimp over the polenta and garnish with some scallions or chives.


Overall, the grits (polenta) were amazing. The shrimp was also great but the polenta really stood out to me. Creamy, salty, sweet, and rich. Just awesome.

The shrimp, cooked well and seasoned with Creole spices really added a great texture and brininess to balance everything out on the plate.

This turned out to be a really nice plate of food.

If you have a hankering for a plate of the South, give it a try!


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