Monday, August 15, 2011

Shrimp and Grits with Fried Green Tomatoes & Collard Greens

Wearing the tails like fingernails is apparently frowned upon.

*This meal marks the first non-vegetarian dish to be featured on the blog. Don't fear, I'm still going to also make vegetarian dishes, but it just depends on who I'm cooking with/for. Also, notice the handy tags for "vegetarian" and "non-vegetarian" to let you filter the recipes, and don't forget that a few simple substitutions can change one type of meal to the other.*

My Saturday was actually completely packed with cooking. After my cupcake adventure with Jenny, I went to go make dinner with Courtney, another former classmate of mine at UCLA (I'm noticing a trend here of chemists who cook).  She's a native of South Carolina, so we decided to combine our culinary forces for an authentic Southern meal in the form of shrimp and grits.

Shrimp and Grits
From Library at the Vendue Inn, Charleston, SC
Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2

2 pieces bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 shakes tabasco sauce
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
Quick Grits
Heavy Cream
Cheddar Cheese
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp butter

  1. Sauté the bacon in olive oil over medium heat stirring frequently until the bacon is almost cooked.
  2. Add the onion, celery and garlic. Cook until the onion softens (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the salt, pepper, Cajun seasoning, tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce. Continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pot with wine then reduce heat to low or medium-low and let simmer until the tomatoes start to incorporate into the sauce. The longer you let it cook, the better the flavor.
  6. Sauté the shrimp in 1 tbsp of butter over medium heat until they start to turn orange (about 2 minutes per side). Right before they are done cooking, add the sauce and let finish. 
  7. The grits will vary depending on what kind of grits you have. With the quick grits, measure out the amount of liquid you need as a 2:1 ratio of water to heavy cream. Bring the liquid to a boil in a pot then slowly pour in the grits while whisking constantly.
  8. Reduce the heat and let simmer covered for the time recommended on the package. This will allow the grits to absorb all the liquid.
  9. Whisk in additional heavy cream to help with the consistency of the grits and add your cheddar cheese and 1 tbsp of butter. Serve immediately in a bowl topped with the shrimp and sauce.
I want my kitchen to always smell like this.
If you're not from the South, you might be wondering "What are grits". Well, I'll save you the trip to wikipedia. They're a cousin of polenta made up of coarsely ground cornmeal or hominy combined with liquid to give an oatmeal-like consistency. Typically, they're eaten at breakfast with fried eggs. The most important thing to know about them is that they are absolutely delectable.

It's pretty hard to find real grits out here, so we had to settle for quick grits. You have to be careful with quick grits because they typically form a less than desirable texture. Thus we added a lot of heavy cream and butter to counteract this.  The end result would have made any Southerner proud. Our sauce combined with the creamy grits was utterly mouth-watering. We were literally making "mmm" faces after each bite until it was sadly over. We then stared longingly at our empty bowls for a solid 10 minutes.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Servings: 4
Time: 30 minutes

2 green heirloom tomato, cored
Heavy cream
Panko bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Slice the tomatoes to a thickness of about 1/2 an inch.
  3. Dip both sides of the tomato in the heavy cream then roll them in the bread crumbs.
  4. Cook for 25-30 minutes then top with parmesan cheese.
Peppered Collard Greens
New technique learned: Chiffonading
From Peninsula Grill, Charleston SC
Servings: 2
Time: 30 minutes

1 bunch collard greens
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/3 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp vinegar

  1. Remove the stems from the collard greens. Stack and chiffonade the leaves into very thin strips (1/4 inch or less). Normally collard greens take a long time to cook, but this will cut the time down considerably.
  2. Bring water and salt to a boil in a large pot.
  3. Blanche the greens for 3 minutes then drain and rinse with cold water. Dry the greens.
  4. Sauté the shallots in olive oil. Add the greens and simmer covered on low heat until heated through (about 5 minutes).
  5. Toss with pepper and vinegar.
As with all good Southern food, the veggies can be made better by frying.
These veggies were a fabulous addition to the meal. The fried green tomatoes helped add some much needed crunchy texture to the meal and the vinegar of the collard greens was a nice touch. I found that wrapping the greens around the tomatoes provided the best results. While quite satisfied with the veggies, I would probably adjust the cooking temperature of the tomatoes next time to make them even crispier. 

I don't know that I've ever been sadder than when there was no more.
Courtney and my attack of Southern food was a smashing success. Somehow, I managed to not overcook the first meat I've prepared in six months, and we made the best version of shrimp and grits I've ever had (not a small feat considering we were stuck with quick grits).  Now we just need to figure out what cuisine to tackle next. 

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