Sunday, January 27, 2013
Recipe: Modified from "Shrimp and Grits" from Saveur.com
Status: Made once
We recently enjoyed a crawfish, pork belly, scallions, and cheesy grits dish which we had at a newly opened restaurant near where we live. What is especially liked about the dish is that they topped the grits with lots of liquid (it was essentially topped with a soup), and the grits, crawfish, and pork belly were very flavorful. We wanted to try out making our own version. William did most of the actual cooking; I did most of the prep work.
1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
3/4 cup grated white cheddar (about 0.2 lbs)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 cup bacon ends (smoked pork belly), or 4 slices bacon, chopped, or pork belly
1 lb. medium shrimp (about 30), peeled (save shells to make seafood broth)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups or more seafood broth
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in the grits*. Keep at a low simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the grits are tender and creamy. If the grits get too thick, then you can stir in more water. Stir in cheddar, Parmesan, and 1 Tbsp butter. Season with salt to taste (it will probably need a generous pinch). Since the toppings are simple, you want to be able to taste the cheese in the grits to give the dish more substance and complexity. Keep the grits warm and covered until you are going to serve them (stir occasionally), because they will firm into grit cakes if they cool.
Cut up the bacon ends into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in cast iron skillet on medium. Add bacon, and cook until crisp, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes). Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate using chopsticks or a slotted spoon, and set aside. Pour off the extra fat from the pan into a small bowl and save the bacon fat to use as your cooking oil for the remainder of this recipe. Also wipe out any burned or overly brown bits of bacon from the pan.
Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add enough bacon fat to the cast iron skillet to coat the pan and cook the shrimp. Lay the shrimp out on the pan, not touching each other and not overlapping (you may have to cook the shrimp in batches). Cook, turning once, until bright pink and cooked through. Transfer shrimp to a cutting board and cut into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
Lower heat to medium. Add 1 Tbsp of bacon fat to the pan and add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add broth, and raise heat to high. Scrape the bottom of the skillet, to loosen any flavor stuck to the pan. Taste the broth; it needs to be very flavorful, as flavorful as a soup. Thus, essentially you are making garlic flavored bacon oil, and then scrapping the pan drippings into the broth. If the broth is weak, then boil it on high until the broth reduces enough to be very flavorful. Season with salt to taste.
If the grits have been on low for a while, then increase heat to medium and gently cook while stirring until bubble start to form and pop, just to make sure that the grits are piping hot. To assemble, put some grits in a bowl, and then sprinkle on some bacon and shrimp pieces, pour several spoonfuls of broth over (the broth should be a few millimeters deep), and garnish with minced scallions.
Spread out any left over grits in a flat small container to make grit cakes, which can be reheated by pan frying in oil the following day (see here and here).
* We used stone ground white corn grits (grits differs from polenta in that grits are ground from hominy, and polenta is ground from dried corn). When we whisked the grit into the hot water, it formed some clumps. To avoid this, you can using the technique in this recipe, which is to whisk the grits with 1 cup of cold water in a bowl. In a separate pan, heat up only 3 cups of water, and once it is boiling, whisk in the grits in a slow stream stirring constantly, optionally you can pour the grits through a strainer into the boiling water to remove any remaining lumps.
We used good quality white cheddar (Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze). I really liked the tanginess of the cheddar that we used.
We used bacon ends (smoked pork belly), since we can buy them cheaply at a grocery store near us. William cooked the bacon, and then set the extra bacon fat aside, and used spoonfuls of the bacon fat to cook the rest of the ingredients (such as the shrimp, and also some garlic). We choose to keep the shrimp, and cooked pork belly separate from the broth, so that the shrimp wouldn't get over cooked and the bacon bits would stay crispy (William's idea; I probably would have kept the shrimp separate but would have flavored the broth with the bacon; however I ended up really liking his way, since the broth was already very flavorful and this kept the bacon crispy).
I recommend cutting the shrimp into bite sized pieces (rather than keeping them whole), because this makes it easier to get bits of shrimp in bacon in every bite of the grits.
We used some seafood stock that I made from some shrimp shells and the broth from the failed sake clams attempt which had too much sake. When you peel the shrimp, save the shrimp (and heads if you have them). If you make the broth with only shrimp shells, it will be quite week; if you want to use it in this dish you should add some aromatics, mirepoix vegetables (saute them briefly in some oil), and some white wine if you can, and you will probably want to reduce the stock after its done to concentrate its flavors. Make shrimp broth by covering all of your ingredients with cold water. Bringing to a low simmer, and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes. Then drain it in a fine mesh strainer. In general pressing stock ingredients will cloud the stock, so don't press the shells or other ingredients. You can freeze the strained stock for use later.
Since the broth was quite flavorful and already salty, it didn't need to be reduced. William simply sautéed some garlic in the rendered bacon fat (in the same pan that the bacon and shrimp was cooked in, though he cleaned out the burnt bits), and then deglazed the pan with the stock. We added about 1.5 cup of stock (much more than the recipe suggested), since I wanted the grits to be topped with a soup-like sauce, just like the restaurant had done.