Living in the Low Country where the best shrimp in the world is harvested, one is soon drawn to a variety of shrimp recipes and there is one dish that is so classically Charleston which always comes to the forefront. This was and still is a great breakfast recipe, but I love it for dinner. There are as many Shrimp and Grits recipes here as there are Charleston kitchens. I play around with the elements, sometimes adding cheese to the grits and sometimes adding chiles or okra to the shrimp element. I always use tomatoes, small shrimp and really good grits.
Let’s talk about grits for a moment. This dish would be seriously compromised by anything other than the very best stone ground grits you can find. I prefer mixed grits, a combination of yellow and white grits. If you live in Europe, you can use coarse polenta. Polenta is always made with yellow corn. Whereas southern grits are available in yellow and while as well as mixed (my favorite). Speckled grits mean that they leave the hull of the corn on (also my favorite). I do like polenta for some things, it is not the same as good southern stone ground grits. At the bottom of this post I am adding a few links to what I consider the best online sources for the best grits. I am lucky that I can buy mine from Celeste Albers at the Charleston Farmer’s Market. But you can buy really great grits online now.
Now, let’s talk shrimp. Buy wild caught when you can. For this recipe I really like small shrimp. Not the tiny ones for salads, but about an inch or two long. Buy them with the shells on and peel just before cooking. If you freeze shrimp, put them in a zip lock bag and fill with water, making an ice block. There will be no freezer burn. I am lucky to be able to go to the docks and get shrimp caught that day here. You may not be so lucky. Our shrimp season is from June-December give a week or two. This is to promote sustainable fisheries. Our shrimp are born early in the year and grow in our incredible estuaries (a series of creeks, marshes and rivers) and then swim to the sea in late May.
On to the recipe! This is one of my favorites, but I play around with it all of the time.
Shrimp and Grits Sassy Spoon Style
My grits recipe is done in a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, follow instructions on the bag. Here is a link to my recipe: https://sassy-spoon.com/2012/07/19/grits-in-a-rice-cooker-perfection/
- One recipe of grits for four, cooked
- 3/4 pound small shell on shrimp, shelled
- 1/2 cup of butter &/or olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves finely chopp
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup of sliced okra (optional)
- 1/4 cup chives
- 2 cups tomatoes chopped
- Pork in one way or another. In this recipe I used a Chinese sausage. You can also add cooked bacon or andouille sausage.
- Your favorite hot sauce
- Sea salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper
- If using sausage or bacon, brown slightly in a skillet, remove and reserve
- Put the butter/oil in the skillet
- Add onion and saute till the onion just starts to turn golden.
- Add garlic and saute another minute
- Add tomatoes, herbs, hot sauce and seasonings, cook for 10 minutes on simmer
- Add shrimp and stir. It will be ready when the shrimp starts to turn pink.
- Scoop out the grits and top with the shrimp mixture
- Garnish with chives or parsley
Here are some sources for great stone ground grits.
One of my favorite Szechuan foods is Mapo Dofu. It is a peasant dish with tons of flavor and textures.It is spicy, slightly crunchy and yet cooling and smooth at the same time. I make mine with ground pork, but you can also use beef. If you get all of your ingredients together mise en place, this cooks quickly. Start the rice cooker before you do anything. Note, there is one ingredient that you may have a hard time finding, it is fermented broad bean sauce. It is available on Amazon.com.
There are several stories about the naming of Mapo Tofu, but the commonly accepted myth is that this dish was created by a pock-faced old woman. She was cast out of the Sichuan capital of Chengdu due to her disfigurement. One day, a weary trader happened upon her shack and she was so delighted by the company that she scraped together her meager provisions to create this dish.
- 4 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns, divided
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons cold water
- 1 1/2 pounds silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 pound ground lean pork
- 6 garlic cloves grated on a microplane grater
- 2 inches of fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
- 2 tablespoons fermented broad bean paste
- 4 tablespoons Xiaoxing wine or sherry
- 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
- 1/4 cup chicken or beef stock
- 1/4 cup roasted chili oil
- 1/4 cup finely sliced scallion greens
Mise en place
Heat half of sichuan peppercorns in a large wok over high heat until lightly smoking. Transfer to a mortar and pestle. Pound until finely ground and set aside.
Add remaining sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil to wok. Heat over medium high heat until lightly sizzling, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pick up peppercorns with a wire mesh skimmer and discard, leaving oil in pan.
Combine corn starch and cold water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogenous. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add tofu. Cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander, being careful not to break up the tofu.
Heat oil in wok over high heat until smoking. Add beef and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add chili-bean paste, wine, soy sauce, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Pour in corn starch mixture and cook for 30 seconds until thickened. Add tofu and carefully fold in, being careful not to break it up too much. Stir in chili oil and half of scallions and simmer for 30 seconds longer. Transfer immediately to a serving bowl and sprinkle with remaining scallions and toasted ground Sichuan pepper. Serve immediately with white rice.
These are one of my favorite fall/winter breakfast dishes…. each bite bursts with flavor and they are full of antioxidants too. As soon as my pomegranates are ripe I start making things from them and this is just one of many things I like to do with them. I sometimes make them with sourdough starter, but you can also use buttermilk and flour as I give instructions for here. I use good Vermont Maple Syrup on the side. You can change out the fruit, but I really think this is an amazing combination. Bacon on the side is a perfect compliment. Bring on the Mimosas!
- 2 cups self rising flour (White Lily preferred)
- 2/3 to 1 cup of buttermilk
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of melted butter
- 1 cup of blueberries
- 1 cup of pomegranate
- Using a stand mixer blend together all but the fruit. You want a fairly thin consistency, but not as thin as crepe batter. Add more buttermilk or flour as needed. Make a plain test pancake first, it should be about 1/3 of an inch thick.
- Preheat a griddle and wipe a used butter wrapper on the griddle
- Test heat by dropping a drop of water on it, it should immediately bounce.
- Pour two pancakes at a time unless you have a double size griddle.
- As soon as you have poured them on to the griddle, generously drop berries and pomegranate all over the top of the pancakes.
- When the pancakes start to have air bubbles, it is time to flip.
- Continue cooking till the bottom of the pancake is golden. You can lift the edge to check. This should take 1-2 minutes.
As Fall starts bringing us cooler weather, I start thinking of these hearty dishes from my youth (a very long time ago). My mother made Beef Stroganoff with Cream of Mushroom soup, dried reconstituted onions and anything else processed she could get her hands on. It was the age of processed foods, I really don’t blame her. My great grandmother (who was my true inspiration for cooking and gardening) on the other hand was a “scratch cook,” nothing processed and everything full fat and delicious. She was raised on an Indiana farm and spent her first 60 years there. Then they sold the farm and moved to Glendora, California where I spent almost every weekend with her till I was 14. I never saw her use a recipe and Beef Stroganoff was probably her most exotic meal. I added a few of my personal touches to this, she never used smoked paprika and I don’t think she ever used buffalo or sherry. She made her noodles from scratch and we would roll them out with the same old rolling pin I use today. This is an easy recipe and you can take out some of the fat by using milk where I used cream and if you really want to you can use low fat sour cream or yogurt…. but I suggest that you try it this way first. It is a “splurge meal.”
- About 1 pound of beef, you can use sliced sirloin, ground beef or ground buffalo like I did.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 # of crimini mushrooms (baby bella) sliced. Wild mushrooms would be great in this!
- 3 shallots or 1 sweet onion diced
- 1/4 cup glace (reduced beef stock (you can make this or buy it. Make it by reducing down 4 cups of beef stock to 1/4 cup)
- 5 cloves of garlic finely minced
- 1 Tablespoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
- 1 stick of butter
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 2 cups cream or milk (I used cream)
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 1/2 of a nutmeg grated (about a teaspoon)
- 1 cup sour cream
- Egg noodles cooked and buttered with 2 tablespoons of butter and 3 TBS fresh minced parsley
- In a large saute pan or wok add beef and olive oil and start to brown
- When the meat starts to brown add the onions & mushrooms till slightly golden
- Clear a hot spot in the pan and add garlic, stir in
- Add the glace and paprika then put on a very low simmer.
Make the cream sauce:
- In a 4 qt sauce pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour with a whisk
- Add the cream/milk and heat as it thickens
- Add the Sherry & Nutmeg and stir again.
We are ready for STROGANOFF! Pour the cream sauce into the pan with the beef and mushrooms. Heat till almost bubbling, then add the sour cream and stir till the sauce is all one color. Remove from heat. Serve over the noodles with chopped fresh herbs. Parsley, chervil or thyme all go well with this. I served it with roasted Brussels sprouts and Vidalia onions. This serves 4 we had leftovers for two nights.
This is one of the most delicious recipes and the meat can be used in so many ways after the original meal. You can make pulled pork and porcini gravy over grits/polenta, pulled pork sandwiches with BBQ sauce, tacos, as a topping for fresh pasta, empanadas, tostados and tamales among other things. The spices in the porchetta filling are distinctly Latin and permeate the meat along with the smoke. Keep in mind that “Latin” includes Italy as well as Latin America. If you do not have a smoker, you can get the flavor by Braising the butt with liquid smoke and beer in a slow cooker or oven before you add the bourbon and do the second braise.
I have not posted in several weeks. I had a knee injury that kept me from doing a lot of cooking. It is getting better or at least the cortisone injection is making it feel that way. It is good to be able to stand for more than a few minutes again. Meanwhile the Low Country is in it’s early summer glory after we suffered through an unusual plant killing winter. It is so great to see green and blooms again.
Smoked Butt Porchetta Style
- A large, well marbled pork butt (shoulder) with the fat on one side. Bone in is fine.
- 1 large bunch of flat leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup cumin seeds
- 1/2 cup fennel seeds
- 1/2 cup corriander seeds
- 12 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- 1 Cup of Bourbon for braising
- Put the seeds in a dry non stick pan and toast till you start to hear them pop. Remove and allow to cool
- In a food processor place the parsley, garlic, cooled seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Pulse till a thick paste is developed. You may need to add more oil to make a paste.
- Place one inch deep and wide slits all around the meat about 1″ apart.
- Fill each slit with the paste. If there is any paste left, rub it all over the meat.
- Place the butt fat side up in the smoker on lowest temperature. I used apple wood this time, but I often use maple or cherry.
- Smoke for 8 hours do not let the heat get higher than 250.
- Remove to a dutch oven or slow cooker pour the bourbon over the meat and cover. Bake on lowest temperature the oven will go to for another 8 hours or if using a crock pot, leave the lid slightly ajar. Cook on low for 10 hours.
I made a gravy using porcini mushrooms the drippings from the meat (removed fat by chilling) and some cornstarch. For the first meal I served it with polenta/grits and it was delicious. Then on the next day we had pulled pork sandwiches and a few days later, we are having pulled pork tacos!
Bucatini is one of my favorite pastas. It is a long noodle (#6) and it is hollow. This makes a chewy and delicious pasta dish. The first method is with bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil and herbs, topped with cheese and bread crumbs. The second has a sauce of butter roasted tomatoes with anchovies and garlic. Both are super fast and easy. Both have two layers of garlic flavor, utilizing fresh garlic and Vik’s Garlic Fix, one of my favorite products.
Bucatini with Bread Crumbs and Garlic, serves 4
1 cup fresh bread (Italian or sourdough is best for this) crumbs toasted in a pan with 2 TBS butter
10 cloves garlic, chopped
2 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
1 TBS fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 bunch of fresh parsley or 1/4 cup dried parsley
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup parmigiana, grated
1/2 package bucatini pasta, cooked al dente
The sauce is made as the pasta cooks. While your pasta is boiling place the olive oil, Vik’s and the red pepper in a frying pan and sear till the garlic is soft and lightly browned.
When the pasta is done strain and toss with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then add the cheese and top with bread crumbs and parsley! It is delicious!
Next method: Butter Roasted Tomato Sauce, serves 4
8 cloves of garlic
1 TBS Vik’s Garlic Fix
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (and juice)
6 small anchovies in olive oil
1/4 cup Sweet Onion Sugar
2 Tbs Italian Herb Blend
6 Tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
Salt and Black pepper
1/2 package Bucatini Pasta, cooked al dente
Fresh Italian Parsley or Basil for garnish.
In an oven proof pan with deep sides, place all ingredients. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After removing from the oven, smash the garlic, tomatoes and anchovies with a fork to achieve a thick chunky sauce. Toss half of the sauce with the bucatini and a ladle of pasta water. Then dish up and put remaining sauce on the pasta. Garnish with the fresh herbs.