Seafood Fridays – Shrimp and Grits

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? I do.

I haven’t been back down to the Crescent City since 2007’s Jazz and Heritage Festival, but I keep tabs on what’s happening by tuning in to WWOZ online every day.

And I reconnect with the city periodically from a culinary perspective, such as this recipe for shrimp and grits.

Up north, grits aren’t as big a deal as they are down south. We prefer polenta, which is also made of corn meal, but usually has a slightly finer grind.

But unlike polenta, grits have the ability to jump from your breakfast bowl onto your dinner plate, where they can serve as a delicious anchor for almost any dish: Shrimp and gits, pork and grits, chicken and grits. If I ever were to open a Southern-style restaurant, I would simply call it “And Grits”.

Grits can be sweet or savory. This past Sunday I took my daughter, Maggie Mae, out to brunch at Stanley’s — a great bar/restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood near DePaul University, where she goes to school — and among their breakfast offerings were grits sweetened with honey. They were fabulous.

For this recipe, I made standard grits —  with just water and little salt — then ramped them up at the end with butter and a ton of grated parmesan cheese. The result were creamy, nutty grits that perfectly complemented the strong flavors of the shrimp. Even my wife loved it, and she usually won’t eat shrimp.

I decorated the plate with a little braised green chard and some roasted corn-black bean salsa. It not only tasted great, but it looked pretty fantastic as well. I’ll have to save this one for the menu at “And Grits”.

Shrimp and Grits

1/2 lb 16/20 Shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 TBS Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Sesame oil

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp Pick-a-Peppa Sauce

Dash red pepper flake

Fresh cracked black pepper

6 TBS Grits (not instant)

2 cups Water

Dash sea salt

2 TBS Whole butter

1/4 cup Grated parmesan cheese

For the Roasted Corn-Black Bean Salsa

1 can Black beans, drained

2 ears Corn, shucked and boiled

3 Tomatoes, ribs and seed removed, small dice

1/4 cup Red onion, small dice

2 TBS Cilantro, chopped

2 TBS Parsley, chopped

2 Green onions, sliced thin


Coarse salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

1. Combine shrimp, EVOO, sesame oil, Worcester and Pick-A-Peppa sauces, and red pepper flake in a mixing bowl, season to taste with black pepper, cover and place in refrigerator to marinate at least 30 minutes.

2. Place grits, water and salt in a small pot, cover, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let sit at least 10 minutes, then fold in butter and parmesan cheese.

3. Roast corn cobs on the grill until they get a char, then cut the kernels off the cob and combine with all the remaining salsa ingredients. Season to taste with coarse salt and black pepper, cover and marinate in the refrigerator until ready to plate. Using coarse salt rather than sea salt gives the salsa a little crunch.

4. Saute shrimp with marinade in non-stick pan until cooked through, about 4 minutes. To plate, pile grits in the center of the plate and arrange shrimp decoratively on top of the grits. Spoon salsa so that it is falling off the shrimp and grits. Garnish if you want with a little braised greens.

Now that the Lenten season is ending, I have to decide whether to continue Seafood Fridays or not. Does anybody have an opinion? I would love to hear it. And thanks for looking at my blog!


Pork and Grits

I’ve only started using grits in my cooking recently, but I’m glad I discovered them, even if it is belatedly.

Probably because I was raised in the North, I never had much exposure to grits. About the only time I remember hearing about them growing up was when Flo, the sassy waitress on the TV show “Alice”, would tell people, “Kiss my grits!”

Grits are most definitely a Southern thing. Up north, people generally eat cream of wheat or oatmeal instead of grits. The closest thing we have is polenta, which like grits is made of corn meal but unlike grits is not treated with alkali.

It is one of America’s oldest foods, having been first introduced into the culture by Native Americans.

While grits are most typically eaten as a breakfast dish, they are starting to show up as part of dinner entrees. Shrimp and grits, which is a Louisiana dish, is now on many restaurant menus nationwide

Grits can be made either sweetened or savory. For breakfast, I prefer to make them with half milk and half water — this is known as Charleston-style — add a tab of whole butter and sweeten them with honey.

As a dinner side, I make grits will all water, butter, salt and fresh cracked black pepper and usually a lot of Parmesan or Romano cheese. You can use grits anywhere you would use polenta and the results will be delicious.

Pork and Grits

1 pork tenderloin, about 1-1/2 lb

6 TBS grits

2 cups water

Sea salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

1/4 cup Parmesan and/or Romano cheese

2 TBS whole unsalted butter

1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce

1. Turn on grill (I used an indoor grill because it’s still wintery here, but an outdoor grill — gas or charcoal — is preferred). When hot, spray pork tenderloin with pay spray, season it generously with salt and pepper and throw it on the oiled grill. Turn occassionally so that all sides are marked, then reduce heat, move the tenderloin to a place on the grill where there is indirect heat, and let cook until done, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the t-loin. Remove from heat, cover with foil and let rest for at least five minutes before slicing.

2. Bring water to a boil, add a dash of salt then whisk in the grits. Reduce heat and simmer until grits have thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When finished, remove from heat and fold in butter and cheeses with a spatula. Balance at the end with salt and pepper because Parmesan and Romano already contain a lot of salt and you don’t want the grits to be too salty.

3. To plate, pile the grits in the middle of a plate or bowl. Pour the teriyaki sauce on the bottom so that it pools around the grits. Slice the tenderloin at a bias and then shingle along the sides of the grits.

I usually serve this with some sort of steamed green vegetable such a green beans, broccoli or Brussels sprouts, depending on what looks good at the market.

Programming note: I will be going on vacation for the next week, so there will be no new blogs until about March 15. Hope you all have a great week and I’ll see you when I get back!

Hoppin’ John and Johnny Cakes

I love it when a dish comes with a side plate of history.

Hoppin’ John is one of those dishes. In the Deep South, this stew made with black eyed peas is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day because it is believed to bring good luck throughout the rest of the year.

There are all sorts of rituals that come with this practice, including leaving a coin under the bowl or even in the stew itself, or counting the number of peas to see how many lucky days you will have during the coming year, or leaving three peas in the bowl at the end of the meal — one for luck, one for money and one for love.

Whew! But that’s not all. Hoppin’ John is usually served with brasied collard, turnip or mustard greens because they are the color of money, and with corn bread because it is the color of gold.

Finally, leftover Hoppin’ John is eaten again the following day — only this time it is called Skippin’ Jenny — to show how frugal you are.

The name Hoppin’ John may refer to a legendary character, or it may simply come from the Creole French for black eye peas, “pois pigeons”. No one knows for sure.

Back in the northern states, our food rituals are not nearly as interesting. Johnny cakes are what people from New England used to call corn bread around the time of the Revolutionary War. Because they would stay edible even during a long day’s journey on horseback, with the flat, nasal Yankee accent “journey cakes” became “johnny cakes.”

I may have been a couple of weeks late with this dish, but I hope it brings me luck for the rest of this year!

Hoppin’ John

4 TBS unsalted butter

1 white onion, medium dice

1 green pepper, ribs and seeds removed, medium dice

2 stalks of celery, ribs and leafs included, medium dice

3 cloves garlic, crushed

4 cups dried black eyed peas (soaked 6 hours)

32 oz chicken stock

1/2 lb sausage (any kind, your choice, I used chorizo)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 TBS red wine vinegar

Rice or bulgur, cooked

1. Soak black eyed peas in cool water for at least 6 hours to soften. Rinse before using.

2. In pot, melt butter then add onions, pepper, and celery and cook until onions translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove sausage from casing, add to pot, break apart and cook until brown, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or two.

3. Add black eyed peas, chicken stock and seasonings and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice with braised greens and corn bread on the side. Good luck!

What recipes do you make that come dripping with history? Share your story in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!