Friday, November 21, 2014

Shrimp and Grits

I'm a huge fan of shrimp and grits, and this dish hits the spot with some added veggies.  The recipe comes together surprisingly quickly.  The trick is to cook the grits in a pot with non-stick coating so that you don't have to stir constantly and can prepare the shrimp and vegetables while the grits bubble on the stove.  I've found that a non-stick pot plus a vigorous whisk every few minutes will result in smooth, delicious grits without having to stand over the pot the entire time.  Just make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk so that you don't destroy the coating on the pot and get non-stick flakes in your food (ew).  These grits are enriched with Monterey Jack cheese and scallions, which makes them even more tasty than usual.  On top are shrimp sauteed with peppers, onions, fennel, and tomatoes, which makes for a great combination.  I went with small shrimp to save money, but of course you can use larger shrimp if you're serving this for company or in the mood for a splurge.

Shrimp and Grits (adapted from Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown)
Serves 4

For the grits
1 cup grits or polenta
4-1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 scallions, white and light green parts chopped

For the shrimp
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
1 bell pepper, trimmed and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 chili, minced (choose something hotter or milder depending on your taste, or add a pinch of chili flakes)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped

1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium non-stick pot, and whisk in the cornmeal while stirring constantly.  Turn the heat down to low, and continue to whisk vigorously every couple of minutes or so while you work on the rest of the dish and let the grits bubble away.  The grits should take about 15-30 minutes total...they're flexible.
2. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. 
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil.  When it's hot, add the shrimp in a single layer.  Cook just a minute or so on each side, trying to get a little color on the shrimp.  Then transfer to a plate and set aside.
4. Add the onion, fennel, and bell pepper to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium.  Add a bit more oil if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking.  Saute until the vegetables are just starting to soften 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili, and cook for another couple of minutes.  Add the tomatoes, and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes release their juices and the vegetable mixture is looking saucy.  Season generously with salt.  
5. When the grits are looking just about ready, whisk vigorously and then whisk in the cheese and scallions along with a bit of salt.  Let cook another couple of minutes to melt the cheese and soften the scallions.
6. Stir the shrimp into the vegetable sauce, and cook until they are hot and cooked through.
7. Serve the shrimp and vegetables over the grits.

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