Fast take on Southern grits spurs cleaning shrimp

The Whole Dish podcast: Shrimp shells make stunning seafood stock

For the second holiday-season meal running, I estimated just right.

After preparing an 8-quart Dutch oven chock full of fresh mussels, clams, shrimp and Oregon halibut in a briny broth for six adults and two kids, I only had a few odds and ends for the fridge. There were a couple of good-sized nuggets of fish, about 10 small fingerling potatoes from our garden, fewer clams still in their shells and 2 cups or so of that intensely flavored, fennel-infused, saffron-hued stock.

The seafood left over in greatest quantity, to my surprise, were the wild-caught Gulf shrimp. But that could have had something to do with my apathy for continuing to peel and devein them when I had clams to scrub AND mussels to de-beard.

So I cleaned a dozen or so of the less attractive shrimp last night, chopped them up with some scallions and fresh ginger and encased the mixture in prepared wonton wrappers. After pan-frying on their bottoms and briefly steaming, the quick, Asian-inspired dumplings got a bath in the leftover bouillabaisse broth.

Delicious as it was, I almost went in another direction to use up leftover ingredients from the Christmas breakfast casserole. Bacon ends, collard greens and shrimp all suggest a play on shrimp and grits, which I could pull together in a hurry, owing to the polenta squares in my freezer. But because I ran out of steam cleaning the shrimp for the second night in a row, that meal is sure to be in our near future.

I use the yellow, medium-grind cornmeal labeled polenta, but this version with white cornmeal in the true Southern style is well within reach. It would be a great use for leftover ham, if that factored into your holiday meal. And frozen corn kernels are a perfectly adequate substitute in winter. Likewise, if you lack fresh chives, feel free to substitute some finely sliced scallions.

Tribune News Service photo

Shrimp and Grits

2 1/4 cups milk

Kosher salt, as needed

1/2 cup white grits

1 ounce grated white cheddar

Canola oil, as needed

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces ham steak, diced in 1/4-inch cubes

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Cajun spice mix (or paprika and cayenne)

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on, rinsed and patted dry

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup chicken or shrimp broth

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with parchment, leaving an overhang.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Sprinkle in the grits, whisking continuously. (Wear mitts: Grits can spatter). Reduce heat to medium, and whisk until thick, for about 10 minutes. Pull pan off heat; whisk in the cheese. Scrape grits into prepared pan; set aside to cool, for 10 minutes or more.

Pull out parchment and slice slab into 4 squares; halve each, yielding 8 triangles. Set a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add a little oil. Working in batches, crisp all triangles, for about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Set 2 triangles in each of 4 shallow bowls.

Melt the butter in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Tumble in the ham, and let brown, for about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, scoop out ham; toss with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and either 3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or 1/4 teaspoon each salt, paprika and cayenne; set aside.

Tumble the shrimp, corn and garlic into skillet, still over medium heat. Stir for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and broth and cook, stirring, until shrimp is curled and pink and corn turns tender, for 2 to 3 minutes. Return seasoned ham to pan. Increase heat and cook for 1 minute. Add more seasoning, if you like.

Spoon shrimp and sauce over grits. Scatter on the chives. Enjoy.

Makes 4 servings.

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  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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