SHRIMP AND GRITS

They say you should never try out a new recipe when you’re having guests. I say horseshit. I love trying out new recipes when friends are coming over for dinner. In fact, I rarely try something new just for myself. My diet on a weekly basis can get pretty boring, so when I’m having company I like to fancy things up a bit. There’s a method to my madness. I swear.

Last week I had a few friends over for dinner and decided to try my hand at shrimp and grits. I had never made grits before but figured it couldn’t be too hard. And I guess it wasn’t, but the entire time I was making this recipe, I was paranoid that I was doing something wrong or that it wouldn’t come out right. The recipe was a little out of my comfort zone so as I got more into it, the more I doubted myself. I was beginning to panic that I had no back up plan and we’d have to order a pizza.

But in the end, everything came out just fine. My grits were slightly on the thicker side, but they still tasted amazing and my guests said how much they enjoyed the food. In addition to the shrimp and grits, I served a little appetizer, which I will feature here. It was extremely easy but super yummy.

CILANTRO CAPRESE CRACKERS

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of cilantro pesto (I bought mine pre-made at whole foods)
  • 1-2 cups of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Crackers (whatever kind you like. I used water crackers with pepper)

Directions:

Top a cracker with mozzarella, followed by a dab of pesto, and then topped with a tomato slice. You can put the cilantro and the tomatoes on top of the mozzarella in advance, but wait to put on your crackers until right before serving so that the crackers do not get soggy.

SHRIMP AND GRITS

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coarsely ground grits
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 pounds uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • salt to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used veggie sausage. it was apple and maple flavored. it was a huge hit. I can’t remember the brand, but I got it at whole foods. Smart Sausages is a great brand too.)
  • 5 slices bacon
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (I HATE green peppers, so I didn’t use them)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • fresh oregano or parsley for garnish

Directions:

Bring water, grits, and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan with a lid. Stir in half-and-half and simmer until grits are thickened and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

Sprinkle shrimp with salt and cayenne pepper; drizzle with lemon juice. Set aside in a bowl in the refrigerator.

Place sausage slices in a large skillet over medium heat; fry sausage until browned.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Retain bacon drippings in skillet. Transfer bacon slices to paper towels, let cool, and crumble. Because I do not eat bacon, I skipped this step. I did have bacon for my guests though. I made it in the oven and did not reserve the bacon drippings or cook my vegetables in them (see next step)! If you make the bacon in the oven, simply heat the oven to 350 or 400 degrees. Place the slices on a grill pan. And bake them for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through.

Cook peppers, onion, and garlic in the bacon drippings until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Or in olive oil, if not using bacon drippings.

Stir shrimp and cooked vegetables into the skillet with the sausage and mix to combine.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; stir in flour to make a smooth paste. Turn heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is medium brown in color, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully, mixture burns easily.

Pour the butter-flour mixture into the skillet with sausage, shrimp, and vegetables. Place the skillet over medium heat and pour in chicken broth, and Worcestershire sauce, cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens and the shrimp become opaque and bright pink, about 8 minutes. Keep warm until serving, otherwise the sauce gets thick and weird.

Just before serving, mix sharp Cheddar cheese into grits until melted and grits are creamy and light yellow. Serve shrimp mixture over cheese grits with bacon crumbles and oregano garnish on top (bacon and garnish optional).

Recipe adapted from: allrecipes.com

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