Mothers' Day was this past weekend, and we thought making my mom brunch at home made a lot more sense than waiting in super-long lines at any of our favorite brunch spots in town. Shrimp & Grits came to mind right away, which led us on a recipe search when we realized we had no idea how we'd made this dish last time. I found a recipe at allrecipes.com (of all places) that (with a couple minor changes) turned out to be pretty darned spectacular, and when all was said and done we found ourselves sitting down to one of the most awesomely delicious meals we've cooked in recent memory, leading me to exclaim several times during brunch "Holy crap! This is AMAZING!"
First things first: Let's talk grits. I've never had instant grits, but I always chose to eschew them, (perhaps based on some early culinary wisdom gleaned from the movie My Cousin Vinny). The first time I ever made grits, the recipe called for about 45 minutes of near-constant stirring, so we had switched to using a slow cooker in subsequent grit-cooking endeavors. This worked quite well, but had the consequence that we had to make a pretty large batch each time and deal with leftovers. Turns out, the best way to cook grits is also the best way to cook a lot of my favorite things: sous vide.
For 4 servings, 1 cup of grits went into a bag with about 4 cups of (homemade) stock, a couple tablespooons butter, and a bit of salt and pepper. After about 3 hours at 180°F, the grits had taken on the perfect texture.
We dumped the now-cooked grits into a pot and stirred in some Parmesan as well as a bit of cream cheese for texture. (One nice thing about having no Southern heritage in my family history is that I can do weird things like adding cream cheese to my grits without upsetting any ancestors or traditions...)
While the grits stayed warm elsewhere, it was time to prepare the shrimp. I followed the recipe almost exactly in terms of ingredients, but made a few little changes.
The first change I made was to cut the Andouille into small pieces similar in size and shape to the veg (rather than into 1/4-inch slices).
With everything prepped, it was time to cook. The veggies (red, green, and yellow bell peppers, plus an onion and a couple cloves of minced garlic) go into a pan along with the bacon fat...
(My camera lens was a bit steamed up during most of the cooking... Oops.) Once the veg starts to take on a bit of color, the Andouille goes into the pan...
... and before long everything looks and smells pretty freaking great.
I went to about the "peanut butter color" stage, and the cooking flour and butter smelled amazing. The roux is then added to the skillet with the veg and sausage, along with the crumbled bacon, the stock, and some Worcestershire. After simmering to thicken the newly-formed sauce, it finally seemed like a legitimate time to add the shrimp.
By the time I was done stirring to combine, the shrimp were practically ready to go. I finished the cooking with the burner off and lid on so as not to take it too far, and the sauce finished cooking the shrimp perfectly.
That's all there is to it. Somehow this combination of very simple ingredients resulted in something far more delicious than the sum of its parts. This will definitely stay in the queue as a house specialty...
One interesting thing we noticed after enjoying this dish is that there isn't much in the way of herbs and spices in the mix, so a lot of the great flavor comes from great ingredients. In this case, our bacon and Andouille came from our local awesome butcher, and I had some really nice homemade stock. Oh, and as far as that recipe, it looks like it originated in a book called Soul Food Wonders. I look forward to seeing if other recipes in there turn out to be just as kick-ass.