Friday, 24 May 2013
Shrimp & Grits & bonus leftovers
I found grits! As I mentioned, I was having a bit of a hard time tracking down grits for less than an exorbitant price. Even Whole Foods let me down. In the end I found a box of old-fashioned hominy grits at a South African market stall in the next town over for less than the price of an arm and a leg.
I was ready to continue on my journey into the food of the Southern states of America.
The problem for an outsider, of course, is that shrimp & grits doesn't really exist. There are dozens if not hundreds of recipes out there, but no two are the same. The shrimp might be cooked in a gloopy dark roux, like for gumbo, poached in butter, boiled in beer, sauteed with garlic, bacon and lemon juice or done in a smoky sausage and tomato sauce. But the grits are generally creamy, cheesy or both.
I didn't want to make a separate vegetable dish, so I decided that the shrimp had to have enough greens to make the meal.
I peeled and deveined some enormous raw prawns and put the shells in a pot with a bit of water and simmered it to make a prawn stock.
I sauteed a couple of slices of smoked bacon, cut into strips, then added a huge pile of the holy trinity (two green peppers, two onions, three sticks of celery) and several cloves of garlic. When the vegetables had softened, I added the prawns and some of the prawn stock. At this point I realised that I wanted a bit of wine in it, but didn't have any, so I added a little gin and then cooked it just until the prawns were opaque and pink.
I served the shrimp on top of the grits, which I had cooked slowly in vegetable stock and then stirred in a couple of handfuls of sliced spring onions and a small tub of mascarpone. And of course drizzled each portion with hot sauce.
It was delicious. The grits were coarser than any polenta I have had, so the creaminess was interspersed with grains that were a bit more al dente. The prawns were firm and bouncy and the whole thing was lovely and harmonious. Paul, who doesn't like polenta so I was really apprehensive about serving him this (not apprehensive enough not to do it, though) said it was one of my most successful recent experiments and he would be happy to eat it again. Maybe twice a year.
I made loads more than we could eat (it was a large bag of prawns), and had a good cupful of prawn stock spare, so the next day we had to address what to do with the leftovers.
I had the last portion of grits with some of the vegetables reheated for lunch. This was a good opportunity to have a proper think about the grits. I decided that they tasted somehow more like sweetcorn than polenta does, and that I preferred the texture. The mascarpone added a subtle cheesiness and tang that worked very well.
My thought on the leftover prawns had been to boil some corn and potato in a bit of stock, give it a rough going over with a stick blender and then add in the prawns and remaining prawn stock for a quick chowder. Paul decided that he wanted to cook though. A sort of jambalaya concoction, Camargue red rice, chunks of smoked Polish sausage and the prawns added for the last five minutes. Because the prawns had been so lightly cooked before, they kept their springy texture, which went very nicely with the nutty red rice and snappy chunks of sausage.