Friday, September 28, 2012
"Butter Poached Shrimp with Grits" from "Ruhlman's Twenty" by Michael Ruhlman (description and recipe).
The meat stand at the farmer's market was out of bacon when I went, so I bought kielbasa sausage instead. Instead of cooking the onion with the bacon, I first seared the entire uncut sausage first on one side and then the other until it browned (this took maybe 15 - 20 minutes). Since the sausage didn't give off much oil at first, I added a tiny bit of olive oil. As the sausage seared, it gave off enough oil to cook the diced onion. I added the diced onion to the pot with the sausage and cooked them together until the onion was softened. I removed the sausage and set it aside just before I added the grits. While the grits were cooking, I sliced the sausage on a diagonal, and just before I cooked the shrimp, I heated the sliced sausage and browned it a little. My sausage was pre-cooked, so I didn't need to worry about whether it was raw; if your sausage isn't precooked, then you should check that the slices are cooked through, and if not, keep sautéing them until they are. I followed the rest of the recipe as written, and topped the grits with a mixture of shrimp, sausage, a drizzle of butter, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The acidic lemon juice actually really makes this dish taste even better.
The grits do need a good pinch of salt added at the end of cooking. This post from Ruhlman suggests that you need "a teaspoon or more for a cup of grits, late in the cooking".
I liked the kielbasa sausage, perhaps even better then I would have liked the bacon. I think an Andouille sausage would have also been nice. The shrimp is Louisiana Gulf Shrimp.
Make "grit cakes" with the leftovers: Grits will firm into cakes when they get cold. Preferably your grits should be fairly thick before you firm them up; so if your grits have some extra water in them, heat them up and cook the water out before you let them cool. I spread my extra grits into a flat rectangular dish, and then stored it in the refrigerator. To eat, cut into squares (or whatever shape you wish), and then pan fry in butter until they are hot and the outsides have crisped and are slightly browned. They are especially nice if you sprinkle a few fresh rosemary leaves and a bit of salt on top of them before you pan fry them; the aroma of rosemary and corn go so well together.
I cooked the collard greens earlier in the day, using the recipe from "A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen" by Hugh Acheson.
Collard greens need to be washed really well. I found that for this large of a quantity of greens (3 - 4 pounds), it is easiest to soak and swish them in a sink-full of cold water for a few minutes, and then drain them by scooping up handfuls of the greens into a colander. I cut my greens first and then washed them, since the leaves were very large.
I think there is a mistake in the recipe; the recipe says to add 2 cups of chicken stock, but the ingredient list says 4 cups of chicken stock are needed. I think for this quantity of greens (3 - 4 pounds), 2 cups of liquid is way too little, so I suggest using at least 4 cups. I actually used water since I didn't have chicken stock and I think the smoked ham hock makes the broth flavorful enough (though I'm sure using homemade chicken stock would make the dish taste even better). I used 7 cups of water, since 1) I had a very large ham hock which I thought could flavor that much broth, 2) I wanted to add enough water to cover the ham hock so that all of it could flavor the water, and 3) I really like sipping the "potlikker" (the cooking liquid). I didn't increase any of amounts for the seasonings.
After the collard greens are done, I like to separate the meat from the bones, skin, fat, and cartilage in the ham hock and cut the meat up into pieces (some small and some large). I then add the meat back into the pot. I found that the potlikker got a lot saltier and more flavorful after the ham hock meat sat in the room temperature pot while I was cooking the grits. The collard greens weren't salty enough before this (and so I added an additional 1/2 tsp salt), but they had a nice saltiness after this, so I recommend salting after the meat has been in the liquid for a while.