Southern Comfort: Creamy Cheddar Grits with Shrimp...
Leftovers…yeah, I know -- the word conjures up negative thoughts and bad memories! But, sometimes leftovers can inspire you to amazing culinary heights. We had family over for dinner on Sunday night. Because it was a cool evening, I made Ina Garten’s creamy cheddar grits for one of the sides. These grits are off the hook…I’m a native Texan, but I didn’t grow up eating grits. Truthfully, I always found them bland and didn’t care for the texture. But? Add some butter, half and half, and cheese to them? Yes, please!! I’ve tried several recipes for cheese grits, but these are hands-down THE best grits I’ve ever put in my mouth. They simmer with a good dose of half and half until they become super creamy -- not at all gritty. Stir in some good-quality cheddar and sliced green onions in the end, and you’re in business!
Best of all? This recipe makes a ton of grits, so you’re likely to have plenty leftover after eating your fill. Thanks to the half and half, the leftover grits stay creamy instead of firming up, and the flavor's even better after spending overnight in the fridge! But…what to do with them? I’ve always been intrigued by shrimp and grits, but have never actually made them. I decided to remedy that situation last night! I found a spicy Louisiana shrimp sauté at Food & Wine magazine's website. I tweaked the recipe a bit and added the half and half left in my fridge from making the grits. In no time, I had a fantastic dinner ready! All I had to do was add a smidge of chicken broth and reheat the grits on med-low heat, and they came out perfectly smooth and creamy.
The shrimp and grits were a little spicy, a little luscious…and downright yummy! It was perfect comfort food on a cool Texas evening. Really…it was in the 60s by the time we ate dinner last night!! Next time I make Ina’s cheddar grits (trust me, there WILL be a next time!!), this is what I’ll do with the extra grits…leftovers have never been so good! Of course, you can prepare the grits and the shrimp sauce at the same meal. The grits have to simmer for 40-45 minutes, so that gives you a pocket of time to whip up the shrimp sauce. But, I really liked the idea of enjoying these grits two evenings in a row…when something tastes this good, you actually look forward to eating it again the next night!
Cheddar Grits with Shrimp Adapted from Ina Garten and Food & Wine
Creamy Cheddar Grits: Step 1: Bring 4 cups of water + 2 tsp. kosher salt to boil in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Slow pour in 1 cup of quick cooking grits (NOT instant!), whisking the entire time to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the grits thicken.
Step 2: Add 1 ¼ cups half and half and 2 tbs. butter to the grits and stir to combine. They’ll look pretty thin, but don’t worry – they’ll thicken up nicely as they continue to cook! Bring the grits back to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 40-45 minutes, until they’re very creamy. Give the grits a stir every 5 minutes or so.
NOTE: This is where you want to prepare the shrimp if you’re not working with leftover cheddar grits! If you are working with leftover grits, add them to a saucepan with about ½ cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine and reheat on med-low heat until they’re smooth…this took about 10 minutes last night
Step 3: Off the heat, add 1 ½ cups of good-quality shredded cheddar and 4 sliced green onions. I used Tillamook sharp cheddar because it melts great and has a wonderful, rich taste. When your recipe has only a few ingredients, it's vital to make sure they're top-notch...better ingredients make better food!
Spicy Shrimp Sauce:
Step 1: Peel and devein 1 lb. medium shrimp (20-30/lb). Sprinkle with 2 tbs. Cajun spice of your choice and stir to combine. I used Chef Paul Seafood Magic, but any good Cajun spice will work. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Step 2: Heat 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil in a skillet. Add one finely diced shallot, one finely diced celery stalk, two sliced green onions, one finely minced garlic clove, 1 tbs. chopped parsley, and the leaves from three or four sprigs of thyme. Sauté this mixture for about 2 minutes, until the shallots are soft.
Step 3: Take the skillet off the heat and add the juice of one lemon, 1 tbs. Dijon mustard, 1 tbs. Worcestershire sauce, and four or five shakes of hot sauce. I used Crystal, but Tabasco will work too. Stir to combine and put back on the heat.
Step 4: Add ½ cup half and half to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the sauce thickens and reduces – about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to med-low and add the reserved shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are pink and coated in the sauce.
When you’re ready to serve, scoop some of the cheddar grits into a bowl. Spoon some of the shrimp and sauce over the grits. Sprinkle with some chopped parsley and dig in!
I know a recipe’s a hit when Michael cleans his plate (or bowl in this case...) and then asks if there’s anymore left for seconds! This shrimp sauce is spicy, but the creamy sauce keeps it from being scorching hot. You can adjust the heat to your taste by using more or less of the hot sauce and/or Cajun seasoning. I think that this versatile shrimp sauce would be equally delicious served over rice or pasta.