Shrimp and Grits

We love going to a little Cajun restaurant in Berkeley and the shrimp and grits on their menu is perfect southern comfort food! After doing some research and finding several very different versions online, I combined my favorite parts of each of them and came up with this recipe. While my version may not be very authentic, I can promise you it is incredibly delicious and each bite is full of cheesy, creamy, and spicy perfection! 

Shrimp and Grits
Serves about 4

3/4 cup quick grits
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined 
2 teaspoons paprika
2 dashes of cayenne pepper (or more if you like it hot!)
1 clove garlic, minced
6 slices of bacon, diced

1 green pepper, finely diced
1 cup finely diced onion
1 can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup chicken broth (more or less)
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Cook grits:
1. Bring broth and half and half to a boil.
2. Add salt, pepper, and grits and cook about 15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
3. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. Cover to keep warm while you prepare the shrimp and sauce.

Cook shrimp:
1. In a small dish, sprinkle the shrimp with paprika and cayenne pepper and toss to coat.
2. In a large sauce pan, fry the bacon until crispy, remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel covered plate, and pour the grease into a small glass bowl.
3. In the same pan, put back 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. Add minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Then add the spice-coated shrimp, cook only until they turn pink, then remove and set aside on the plate with the cooked bacon.

Cook sauce:
1. In the same pan, add back another 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and add finely diced onion and pepper. Cook until they begin to soften.
2. Drain the juice from the diced tomatoes into a measuring cup and set aside. Add the diced tomatoes to the onion and pepper and cook until everything is soft. At this point if you want a smooth sauce, pour the mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth (this is what I did) and then pour back into the pan, or if you like it more chunky just leave it as is.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, chicken broth, and half and half until smooth, then pour over the veggie mixture in the pan and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat until bubbly for about 5 minutes, or until thickened as much as you want.

To serve:
1. Spoon grits into a dish, spreading out into a disk.
2. Spoon sauce into the center of the grits.
3. Place a pile of shrimp on top of the sauce.
4. Sprinkle with crispy bacon, garnish with chopped parsley, and enjoy!

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