So I added the chives on top for a little contrast, and to make this look a little less like dog food. It’s a little trick I use that decreases enhances my effectiveness as a food stylist. Food too beige? Prop a chive on it. Looks a little too much like dog food? Chives. Unattractive dessert? Chives. Kids aren’t cooperative for the family photo? Chives. I mean, come on, you can see the results here. I dare you to create an appetizing looking plate of shrimp and grits sans chives.
*I know it’s a serious condition, but is this or is this not a very funny word? Answer: Yes, it is.
You will never guess the explanation for this picture. Well, unless you read this post.
Normally, I don’t like grits. I don’t understand them, I think their texture is creepy, I have awful memories of my mom trying to make me eat farina, and I’ve definitely never understood them as a breakfast food. I don’t care how much butter and salt you add, or even cheese – which fixes a multitude of culinary sins – gruel is still gruel.*
Apparently, I’ve been approaching grits entirely the wrong way – cooking them with water or stock and adding some butter at the end, more polenta style. Apparently, when you cook them with milk and heavy cream and butter, grits are fantastic. Who knew? This is one of the two useful pieces of knowledge I’ve gleaned from Tyler Florence, and it’s what keeps me from permanently relegating him to the dungheap of chefs. Although he definitely lives in a shack very close to the dungheap. (In my mind, I mean. In real life, I bet he has a really nice apartment he doesn’t deserve.)
The picture above is of the milk and cream in a measuring cup. Note the fairly drastic color difference between yellow cream, which is practically butter, and the milk. I normally use equal parts milk and cream, but this cream was so thick – and barely pourable, so it took a long time to measure – that I had to dial it back to 2-to-1 (and probably could have gone to 3-to-1, to the delight of my HDL cholesterol levels**) . I whisked the grits in and left the pot to bubble while I made the shrimp. Note: Put this pot on the back burner, because the bubbles that erupt from this shit are like tiny volcanoes that will burn off the top layer of skin before you make it to the sink to wash it off. You’ve been warned.
*Although, if forced to make a choice, I suppose I would choose the cheesy gruel. But they probably didn’t give you that choice in 14th century dungeons or19th century British orphanages, which I assume are the most likely places one would be forced to eat gruel.
**That’s the bad one, right? I always mix them up. NB: If someone could figure out a way to make this meal so that it has a positive effect on my cholesterol, I would find a way to raise a million dollars and give it all to you.
The cook’s ABC.
Or GOO: Garlic, Onion, Olive oil. They are the start of shrimp and grits, as they are of all good things. Hey, maybe I could turn this into another Rachael Ray-like acronym! I’ve got FoPro, and now I’ve got GOO. Now I just need inappropriately tight high-wasted pants and a dog whistle-like giggle and I AM the Next Food Network Star. That’s how she shot to fame, right?
Here’s where things get good. Why do they get so good?
This is not your momma’s shrimp and grits. Or maybe they are. What do I know, I’m an Italian Yank? If these are your momma’s shrimp and grits you were one lucky bitch growing up.
These are not just shrimp cooked with the garlic and onion, maybe tossed with some lemon and cayenne and tossed on top of a pile of grits, not that I wouldn’t eat that if you gave it to me, assuming the grits follow the guidelines outlined above.
No, these shrimp are poached in a fantastic, rich, flavorful sauce made with stock and a touch of milk filled with spicy sausage and thickened by a roux made by the fat given off by the sausage. Think milk gravy that one might eat with sausage and biscuits, if that gravy had snorted a few lines of cocaine in the Ladies’ room after chugging a 2-liter Mountain Dew.* See how you can feel your arteries hardening already? But it feels SO GOOD? Yeah, I know it.
I cut a few links of spicy Italian pork sausage out of their casings – a good andouille would also be fantastic, nay, preferable here – and browned them with the onion and garlic. When the sausage was good and brown and had let off all the fat it was going to, I added a few teaspoons of flour and incorporated them to make a roux.
It scares me a little to admit this but this sausage was shockingly lean for sausage and I had to add a little extra fat to the pan – (NOT MORE BUTTER) butter – to get enough for a decent roux. I cooked it for a few minutes (You want to get rid of any raw floury taste. Unless you like that. In which case, ew.) and whisked in chicken stock and a little milk, stirring the roux in well. Once it came to a boil and the roux reached FULL THICKENING POWER!! I gauged the thickness of the sauce and thinned it out with a little more stock to get a good gravy-like (v. paste-like) consistency.
**This post is very aside-y. It’s been awhile! It feels good.
Arteries fully hardened. Name officially on heart transplant list.*
In the meantime, the grits finished up. I corrected the salt and pepper levels and stuck a pat of butter on top to keep them from forming a skin. Look, if there’d been any other way I would have done that, but I really had NO CHOICE but the butter,
*Do you think they would they make you sign a waver saying you wouldn’t eat this anymore once you got your new heart? Because I might have to think about that. I’m not saying I wouldn’t sign, but I might try to negotiate a little.
Watch the amazing transformation of the shrimp from slimy slug-like objects to MAGICALLY DELICIOUS!
Brian is the official animal-breaker-downer of our household, so he peeled and deveined the shrimp while I doctored the sauce – a bay leaf, some dried thyme, some snips of fresh chive, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and a pinch of cayenne (we like it spicy, especially since the grits are so batshit insanely rich). A shot of red wine vinegar also helps – a little acid keeps the flavors bright, because this whole dish could so easily get drug (dragged?) down into a TGIFridays-esque gutter of over-the-top heaviness.* A salt and pepper check, and we were ready to move.
Can I take a brief moment to wax rhapsodic about these shrimp? Brian was all like, “Why did you get these enormo shrimp?” And I was like, “Wild, Louisiana-caught, never-frozen freshly shrimp baby.” Because just saying “How do you like THEM shrimp?” seemed like it wouldn’t really get my point across. Anyway, they were plump, non-fishy-smelling, just perfect shrimp specimen. Well, except for their carbon footprint, since I don’t live in Lousiana (although it would have been worse, I could have picked the pathetic looking previously-frozen Thailand shrimp) and the shrimp didn’t teleport to my kitchen.
Which, to be candid, would have scared the living shit out of me. I like my shrimp to appear in the kitchen when I say so, not whenever the hell they damn well please. Shrimp don’t need that kind of power, which will only go straight to to their tiny, tiny heads. (You know they have the penultimate Napoleonic complex of the sea, plankton having the worst.)
I nestled the beautiful, beautiful shrimp down into the simmering, sausage-laden sauce and left them to poach for a few minutes, just until they turned that perfect shade of peachy-pink. While they cooked, I fetched my fool-proof chives.
*My criteria for a good dish: Is this something that Guy Fieri and his ill-advised hair**would try to sell me for $6.99 by yelling loudly about its in-your-face, bold flavors? If the answer is yes, that dish shall never again grace the kitchen.***
**Seriously, why would you trust someone above the age of 23 who still thinks that hair is a good idea? He’s married, right? Isn’t it part of any good partner’s job to tell the other person when they look like a jerkwad? Why won’t she speak up? Is she scared? WE WILL PROTECT YOU, MRS. FIERI.
***At the very least, it will not be cooked in the high-quality pots and pans.
SEE? See how the chives make things “pop”? If you don’t then I think that’s your problem, end of discussion.
Goddamn, these shrimp and grits are good. The grits are a creamy, buttery wonder that actually taste like something. The sauce is a spicy but balanced gravy; pronounced sausage, obviously, with a little more up-front spice from the additional chile, some background herbal notes and that bright ping of acid. Two or 3 minutes produce perfectly poached shrimp, and their delicate sweetness pairs beautifully with the sausage – another reason not to skimp on shrimp, they really need to stand up to the bold sauce. The sauce helps temper the grits, whose creamy sweetness echoes the shrimp; it’s like the Circle of Life that rules us all. Really, a surprisingly balanced dish for something with a lot of potential to go horribly, horribly awry.
There remains one way in which things can go horribly awry: during serving. I cannot emphasize enough: BE CONSERVATIVE IN YOUR PORTIONING. I never am, and you do NOT want to be like me. A dollop of grits, a few small ladlefuls of sausage and gravy, topped off with 4 or 5 shrimp = done; balance aside, this dish is distinctly heavy and fat-laden and is NOT meant to be eaten in mass quantities. It also happens to be great as leftovers to pawn off on your friends and family, because you really shouldn’t be eating this 2 days in a row.
Really, I feel almost irresponsible telling you about it. But I couldn’t not, because Holy Moses parting the Red Sea with his magical staff,* this shit is fucking good and I spend 364 days of the year waiting for the day when I I get to eat it again, and I don’t want you to not have that joy, that anticipatory delight in your lives.
*Whoa, that sounds off-color.
Shrimp and Grits of Beautiful Death
Serves 4 – NOT 2. I AM SERIOUS.
1 c. Stone-ground grits of your preference
3 c. total liquid of your choice – stock, milk, cream, accordingly to how deadly you want it to be. However, cream should definitely constitute part of this, probably 1/3
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 links hot Italian or andouille sausage, removed from their casing and broken into chunks
2 tsp.. AP flour
1-2 c. chicken stock
1/2 whole milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme, or a few sprigs of fresh
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of cayenne
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 pound of the freshest shrimp you can get your mitts on, peeled and deveined.
Make the grits: Bring the liquids to a simmer in a sauce pot. Slowly whisk in the grits. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the grits are nice and thick, 10-20 minutes depending on your grits. Season with salt and pepper. Put the butter on top to melt and keep a skin from forming; you’ll whisk it in later.
Make the shrimp: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5-7 minutes until translucent; a little color is okay, but not too much. Add the garlic and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add the sausage and cook until browned all the way through, breaking up the larger chunks with your cooking implement of choice as you go. At this point, you want about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan. If you don’t have that, add a little butter to get there.
Sprinkle the flour over and mix it into the sausage well, making sure it combines with the fat and there’s no raw flour lingering in the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes to get rid of the raw floury taste.
Whisk in a cup of stock and the whole milk, stirring constantly to incorporate the roux. Bring to a low boil and evaluate the thickness; use more stock to get the sauce to a gravy-like consistency. Add the bay, thyme, pepper and let simmer to combine the flavors.
Just before you’re ready to serve, add the vinegar, stir to combine and drop in the shrimp. Poach them in the gravy until they’re just cooked through. Meanwhile, whisk the butter into the grits; if they’ve gotten too thick, thin them out with a little more stock, milk or cream.
Put a (reasonable) pile of grits in your bowl, and add a ladle or two of gravy and sausage, making sure you get 4-7 shrimp (depending on their size). Add a chive if you require visual appeal. Eat, making sure you have a spoon to get all the gravy-soaked grits that will remain at the bottom of the bowl.
On HDL vs. LDL: The mnemonic I use is “H” for healthy, and “L” for lethal, so HDL is good, and LDL is a mad ninja waiting to kill ya.
I’m seriously glad you put the chives on, because otherwise the dish looks worse than dog food. It looks like somebody blew chunks.
I’m sure it was as delicious as you’ve rapturously described, though. I’ll never write like that. As much as I like food, my style is just too detached and clinical.
I love grits. I love grits for breakfast. I love sausage gravy. And yes, I grew up with grits and sausage gravy. I think I need some of that shrimpngrits now. (By the way, it’s pronounced as one word as in ‘shrimpngrits’. Or at the least shrimp&grits. I’m just looking out for you.)
And also, are those stoneground grits? If so, where do you get them?
YUM! Like Rebecca, I love grits. I love cheese grits, I love shrimp-n-grits, I love plain old grits with butter and salt and pepper with my bacon and eggs. And how can you dis grits and love polenta? They’re the Same Thing, except polenta is ground a little finer and didn’t get turned into hominy as an interim step.
Anyway. Never thought about sausage in shrimp-n-grits, although it would work; my fear would be it’d overpower the shrimp. But then, as you aptly note, these were Big Damn Shrimp. I typically do mine in a bechamel sauce that’s heavy on cayenne and/or Pick-A-Peppa sauce (it has mango and tamarind in it. It’s wonderful. Buy it, if you can find it). One hint to get some flavor into your grits sans shrimp is to grate up some onion and add some cayenne or white pepper to them. It’s also good to cook them up a little thick, pour ’em into a greased loaf pan, let them cool and set up, then turn them out, slice and fry until they’re crispy on the outside before you put the grits over them. I usually wind up using cooked shrimp, the few lonely leftover ones, if I have any, from Cajun boiled shrimp the night before. Or I go to the Half Shell in Memphis and get ’em.
One of my favorite things to do when I go to New Orleans to visit my grandmother is wander into any store with food and stand slack-jawed in the grits aisle. Yup. Aisle. For grits. There must be a hundred different varieties. It’s impressive. Especially given the fact that MY (Yankee)grocery store carries exactly TWO kinds: Instant and not instant.
Some people go to New Orleans to drink and bare their breasts for cheap plastic beads. I stare at grits. Yeah. Story of my life.
Are you seriously telling me I have to give up my Sunday brunch? Fuck that. Try grits-n-grillades too – yum. Also, I like garlic, onion and cheddar cheese in mine, too. Never tried the Pickapepper sauce (which I love), I’ll have to give that one a try.
I live in Louisiana, sometimes we drive down to Cocodrie or Cut Off to get our shrimp (we like lazy Sunday road trips). You are so right about the shrimp – nothing better than fresh. We are so lucky.
Thanks for the lesson on HDL vs LDL. Could never tell the difference before (and I probably shouldn’t have gone and looked mine up after reading that). Maybe I should cut some butter out of my diet. Just not today.
PS: I love your blog – it’s the first thing I read in the morning when I get to work. I just hate spewing coffee out of my nose when I get to laughing too hard.
I also think the texture of grits is creepy. But I don’t doubt that cooking anything in milk and heavy cream will improve its flavor. Even creepy, creepy grits.
dude…how is that “cheap-ass Monday?!” LOL
also, when i make the shrimp n grits, I often just sub Polenta, i’ll admit it. i’ll use good bacon or ham often instead of sausage, and add in some mushrooms
also, dont forget the cheese YO….grits are phenomenal with cheese, its how i usually get shrimp and grits…mmmm
Yeah, that was my question too…How in the hell is this Cheap-Ass Monday? Just the grits, heavy cream and sausage could put you over the top…unless you consider shrimp a pantry item and then I’m revising my pantry list right now to include filet mignon.
Here I am racking my brains to come up with a $5.00 recipe for next month, totally freaking out and wondering if you’ll believe half the stuff I keep in my pantry, and her you are making shrimp in sausage gravy? What, did you only use one shrimp?
LUCY! you have some ‘splainin’ to do….
Kristin — you have a Yankee grocery store that even CARRIES grits? I’m impressed. I used to have to buy ’em down here and smuggle them out.
I hate grits, and I live in the south, but I’m not originally from the south, so I think that excuses me. I do, however, believe I will try making grits with heavy, heavy cream. Sounds yummy. I will have to have some cheese standing by though, just in case.
Now, what was the other dish – the one not written about? Grass Soup?
Kay, ever since quaker got in on the Instant flavored grit packets market…everyone gets bowls full of steaming hot grits with dehydrated bacon bits swimming in it…
**grit factoid of the day: in 1974, singer Al Green’s psycho girlfriend threw a pan of boiling hot grits on his back while he was in the shower, and then shot herself in the head with his gun.
Needless to say, brother Al went on to sing for Jesus soon after…lol
I, a Texan, also hate grits, and I haven’t eaten shrimp since a serious bout of food poisoning at the age of eight, but I would totally eat this. Damn. I does look like hurl, but I’d eat it.
What is the grass soup? Raita left over from one of Rhadika’s Quickfires?
bowl, i will always be able to differentiate my cholesterols from now on. thank you!
i’m sure smitten kitchen could have taken a picture of this and it would have been as lovely as a 4-tierd birthday cake with sparkles and unicorns on top. me, i’ve got chives.
rebecca, yes, they are stone ground, and they usually have them at the whole foods in my area. sausage gravy and grits were never big for me, but pour that gravy on a biscuit? now we’re talking.
kay, grits i always associate with the bland white farina my mom forced me to eat, so i have a psychological block. also, i only really like polenta when it’s been firmed up and sauteed.
must get pick-a-peppa sauce. maybe next time i visit my sister in NC? or next time my colleague goes to see her family in LA.
kristin, grits AISLE? please list 10 kinds of grits for me, and explain what differentiates them.
karen, wait, who’s giving up sunday brunch? not me! i just have this thing where sometimes i like to just eat food, and not take pictures of it.
if you must know, i had multi-berry flaxseed waffles, niman ranch bacon and a glass of milk.
other kay, thank you for the validation.
vera, does the post say “cheap ass”? no, it does not. it says “economic stimulus monday.” why? because the economy needed stimulating. and because i really wanted shrimp and grits.
i think if this had involved cheese, i would actually be dead right now, instead of just feeling like death.
anna, see above re: cheapness. STIMULATE. the other option in the poll? under $5. so really, you did this to yourself.
first kay, whole foods! or order ’em from bob’s red mill.
tanis, the cream’s the trick. heavy, delicious soup. grass soup coming up tonight, if i don’t go straight home and collapse after the 4 straight hours of hellacious meetings i just had.
vera, sweet holy jesus.
emily, you’ll find out tonight, hopefully. and i’ll tell you, the final product? FAR more attractive than this one (although equally tasty).
Damn! I thought I was going to be the only person with a cholesterol mnemonic. My nerd pride is injured. Anyway, I remember it as H for High (what you want your HDL or good cholesterol to be) and L for low (LDL). I’m impressed with your warning statements about this dish–right up there with surgeon general warnings.
you just wish you lived in nashville
Maybe I should have specified they’re really just different flavors. Cheese, bacon, red-eye gravy, pepper . . . and yes, I believe there is even a shrimp flavor. Sort of like all the different flavor options for instant rice or whatever.
I’m going to be in New Orleans for a couple of days in March. If I have the opportunity, I will take a real-life, honest-to-God digital photo of the grits aisle. FOR YOU. If you really want to see the awe-inspiring sight of ham-flavored grits. And honestly, who doesn’t?
WOW! Michelle great minds think alike – or maybe my mind thinks like your great one. I just made shrimp-n-grits and blogged about it too. After seeing yours, I must, I’m compelled to make this again NOW!
Just want you to know that I thoroughly enjoy all the “aside-y” remarks. your blog wouldn’t be the same without ’em!
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