Shrimp and Grits

Confession: I’m afraid to fly.

My fear of flying began in my adulthood on a flight from Las Vegas to DFW where we banked hard upon taking off. I spent the rest of the flight bargaining with God and wishing I had partied harder in Vegas because I swore I would never fly again…which was an impossibility given that my job at the time required constant air travel. It was less than a week before I was back on a plane.

To quell my fear, I tried many things. I researched everything I could about air travel hoping that I could grab enough information to calm myself down. This? Not a great idea. I am now the crazy passenger who looks out the gate window and says, “Oh great! Just GREAT! A T-TAIL! DEEP STALL DANGER ALERT!” Not only that, but I have memorized the final words of pilots the world over and am thisclose to being able to match flight numbers with their respective crash scenarios. Don’t hang out with me at the airport – I am no fun.

I also tried a little self-talk therapy using a soothing inner voice. “Calm down,” I told myself. “See that model on the cover of Glamour? She had to fly to get to that shoot and she made it! Think about all of the planes that flew overhead when you were little…none of them crashed did they?” But eventually, my other not-so-patient inner voice would snap, “No, smarty, none of them crashed. So you know what that means? Even your terrible math brain can figure out that IT IS HIGH TIME FOR A CRASH!”

You name it, I tried it: wine, lucky t-shirts, music, prayer, sitting in the back of the plane…and the list goes on. Nothing really worked, and each flight was another exercise in heart palpitations and grinding teeth.

Then one day, Emily said: “Listen, just imagine that if you fall out of the sky, you are going to land in a nice big bowl of shrimp and grits!” (Emily is from Georgia and knows of my raging crush on all things Georgia. Except the Atlanta Braves, that is. Boo on the Braves!)

And, voila. We have calm. This image – and trust me, I use it every time I fly – brings new meaning to the term comfort food.

Here’s my recipe for the dish that saves my sanity one flight at a time.

Shrimp and Grits

The Ingredients:

For the Grits:

  • 1 Cup of Quaker Instant Grits (Yes, I said instant.)
  • 3 Cups of Chicken Broth
  • 2 Cups of Sharp Cheddar Cheese – Shredded
  • 2 Tbs. Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Shrimp:

  • 1.5 Lbs. of Shrimp – Uncooked, peeled, and deveined.
  • 6 Strips of Bacon
  • 1 Poblano Pepper
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper
  • 1 Large Shallot
  • Salt and Black Pepper
  • White Pepper
  • Chives or Scallions
  • Worcestershire Sauce (Optional)

The Tools:

  • Saucepan
  • Heavy Skillet – Not Non-Stick!
  • Knife and Cutting Board
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons for Solid and Liquid Measurements
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Tasting Spoons
  • Tongs
  • Plate Lined with Paper Towel

The Action:

Gather your ingredients:

Ingredients W

  • To make this recipe, you will have lots going on in two pots. I recommend chopping everything up ahead of time. Chop up your poblano, jalapeno, and shallot. Remove the seeds from the peppers – this dish is not about heat.
  • Heat your heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. When it is warm, add your 6 strips of bacon and cook until crisp.*
  • Remove bacon from the skillet and place onto your paper towel plate to drain. Turn off the heat under the skillet.
  • Remove the bacon grease from the skillet but save about 1 tbs or a little less of the grease.**
  • Start cooking the grits according to the package directions. Here, you are substituting chicken broth for water for more flavor. Once the grits are done, you will stir in the cheese and keep the pot warm.
  • Back to the skillet we go! Heat the skillet with bacon grease*** over medium heat.
  • Add the poblano, jalapeno, and shallot and cook gently for 1-2 minutes:

Peppers W

  • Add the shrimp to the pan and stir it around to coat it with the pepper/shallot mixture. Here is where you can add a little Worcestershire sauce if you want. Just a touch.
  • If the shrimp sticks, add a touch of olive oil.
  • Cook the shrimp until it is pink and opaque. Do not overcook it. (Don’t you hate when recipes say this? Me too, but don’t overcook it. Watch it closely.)
  • When the shrimp is done, taste it. Season with pepper and white pepper to your taste.
  • Grab the grits and get ready to put the dish together:

Grits and Shrimp W

  • Plate the dish by scooping out a portion of grits into a bowl or onto a plate.
  • Spoon some of the shrimp mixture over the top.
  • Crumble the cooked bacon into bits and use the bits to garnish the top. Don’t be stingy!
  • Chop up chives or scallions and garnish with these as well.
  • And enjoy…who wouldn’t want to dive into a bowl of this?

Finished Product W

*This skillet method is not at all the best way to cook bacon, but it is essential to this recipe that you use the skillet. The best way to cook bacon is in the oven. Pre-heat to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and lay the bacon slices out on top of it in a single layer. Cook in the oven until crisp. You will never bother with the skillet again unless you are making this recipe.

**I am sure you know where this is going. Yes, I am going to use the bacon to cook the shrimp and peppers. And yes, I know this is REALLY unhealthy. As if the 2 cups of cheese in the grits aren’t enough, now I am asking you to cook in bacon grease! Well, I am. This recipe is not healthy. I am sure that there are plenty of ways to make healthier shrimp and grits, but you know what? They won’t taste as good. Everything in moderation, kids!

***Despite what I said above, I really do feel guilty about using bacon grease. Must. Remember. Taste.

Ali Wechman

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