Shrimp and Chipotle Cheddar Grits

Starchy foods are my weakness, and recently I have discovered the glories of grits. Shrimp and grits is a southern dish, and the only time I have had it – not prepared by myself – was on a visit to the Florida panhandle. While it was good, I felt that it could be made better. Perhaps Louisiana has better grits.

Since I live in the southwest, I figured it was essential that I impart some regional element into the dish. Chipotle and cheddar are ingredients that I use frequently, and they added the requisite southwestern touch I was seeking. I also felt that the gravy-like sauce was less decadent than it needed to be. Therefore I added half and half.

I recommend that you prepare this dish for a Sunday brunch. It could also be made for dinner, but there is something spectacular about shrimp and grits as a breakfast food. If you want to make this dish in a fraction of the time, buy a pressure cooker. It cuts the process of cooking grits down from 45 minutes to less than 15 minutes. The shrimp doesn’t take long at all to cook either, so in addition to being luxurious, it is amazingly simple and quick.

There are two optional additions that will take it over the top. Herb oil is super easy to make and adds color along with extra fresh flavor to brighten it up. A beautiful sunny side up egg will take it into the stratosphere!

For the Shrimp:

2 lbs of shrimp (peeled and deveined)

1 medium onion

1 green bell pepper

2 large stalks of celery

½ lb of bacon

1 cup of half and half

½ cup white wine

Cajun seasoning

 

For the Grits:

1 cup of grits

½ a can of chipotle in adobo

4 cups of water

½ stick of butter

1 cup of extra sharp cheddar

¼ cup of milk

Salt and pepper

 

Herbed oil:

3/4 cup of olive oil

10 leaves of basil

3-4 sprigs of thyme

10 sprigs of parsley

4-5 cloves of garlic

Begin by preparing the herbed oil. Add the oil to a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic cloves after slicing or smashing them. Be mindful of the heat; you don’t want them to be brown, just lightly cook them to take the heat out of them. Remove from the heat after 2-3 minutes. Remove the leaves of each of the herbs from the stalks. Place them in the hot oil and allow them to gently cook through with the residual heat. After it is cooled, pulse it in the blender until the solids appear finely minced. Set aside for serving.

Place the grits in a pressure cooker or pan. Remove half of the adobo liquid from the can of chipotles along with 3-4 of the chilis. Depending on the amount of heat you want, remove the seeds from the chilis. Mince the chilis into a paste and mix with the adobo sauce. Add to the grits along with the water. Set the pressure cooker on high for 9 minutes. If using the stove, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover, cooking for 45 minutes stirring every 10 minutes or so. After the grits are cooked, incorporate butter, milk, cheese, and season with salt and pepper to taste. If they are too thick, add more milk.

While the grits are cooking, prepare the shrimp. Remove the tails if they have them. Dice the onions, bell pepper, celery, and bacon. Add the bacon to a large cold frying pan. Place over medium heat and add the vegetables as soon as enough fat has accumulated, feel free to add a little oil or butter if there is too little bacon fat. Sweat the vegetables until the onion is translucent and there is some fond on the bottom of the pan. Deglaze with white wine and cook until the alcohol is burned off. Add the shrimp and season with Cajun seasoning. Add the half and half and cook for another five minutes or so, until it thickens a little. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more half and half if there is not enough sauce.

To serve, spoon the grits into a shallow bowl. Spoon the shrimp along with some of the sauce in the middle of the grits. Place a fried egg on top and drizzle with herbed oil.

 

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