Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

I recall those pre-cyber days, when friendships were made and advice bestowed in measured teaspoons, face-to-face. Since I’ve begun writing for AnnArbor.com, the dynamics of friendship have changed. Friends have been made and recipe advice given, in heaping cups on-line, without so much as exchanging a smile or a hand shake.

Case in point: Ann Arbor’s Tom and Stephanie Teague. Last year Tom made a comment on my “Poor Girl’s Seafood Etouffe” blog, suggesting my mother’s technique for darkened roux “…was a nice heretical touch…it may take some of the guesswork out of my tasso gravy production.”

Tasso gravy? Would that be the tasso gravy in my Magnolia Southern Cuisine Cookbook; the one in the recipe for Shrimp and Grits? Bingo. Turns out, Charleston’s Magnolia Restaurant is a favorite of Tom and Stephanie’s. He refers to the restaurant as “the mothership” — it’s one of my favorite restaurants too.

Honoring my Aunt Jane’s 80th birthday last year, I made her favorite, less complex, recipe for Shrimp and Grits; I sent them the link. They still preferred their Magnolia version, though Tom complimented the photo of Aunt Jane.

“I took an instant liking to your Aunt Jane just from her photograph…Stephanie and I would like to take her out for tea if she comes to town… Carson’s makes good iced tea.”

Anyone who flatters my Aunt Jane is a friend for life; perhaps I’ll tackle their Magnolia adaptation of Shrimp and Grits, after all. The timing is perfect — the Mardi Gras season ends next Wednesday, and an American regional recipe incorporating Louisiana flavors would be delicious; the spicy Cajun flavors softening the blow of Michigan’s icy chill.

Shrimp and Grits also figured into the courtship of Tom and Stephanie: Tom made the dish for Stephanie, who works for Main Street Ventures, when they were dating. Witnessing his struggles with the recipe, she shared a restaurant secret: pay careful attention to the mise en place.

Tom explains this is a French phrase “… for admitting you can’t be in two places at once and planning accordingly. Our adaptation of the Magnolia recipe (below) is based on your creating three separate m-e-ps  so you can bring all the pieces together at the same time.”

“Today I’m a mise en place fiend and have a great collection of bowls and ramekins and usually hand write out the sequences for each dish in a menu so I can look for hold points and places where things can be done concurrently.”

As with many romances teased by the flames heating a seasoned skillet, Tom, a man from the mountains of East Tennessee, married Stephanie, a Michigan woman with Greek family roots; Shrimp and Grits festooned the reception table, tastefully complementing the specialties of Stephanie’s families native Greece.

Sigh…

So, here’s the grits:

A treatise on grits could be written, a “Gone with the Grits” if you will; but it may be a tedious read for those of non-Southern persuasion. Suffice it to say, comparing instant grits to an artisan stone-ground grits is like comparing Wonderbread to an out-of-the oven Artisan bread; instant grits have their very essence pounded out of them.

Tom and I agree that stone ground grits (available via mail-order and at Zingerman’s) or quick grits (available at most groceries; just saw ’em at Hiller’s), would work well in this recipe; we recommend avoiding instant grits at all costs.
Zingerman’s stocks Anson Grits, which are the preferred grits of Charlie Trotter, chef and owner of the world-renowned Chicago restaurant of the same name. They have a chunky texture and capture the true flavor of corn. They command top dollar, for good reason, but require a longer cooking time — the attention reminiscent of risotto preparations — though not quite as much stirring.

Other ingredients for the recipe may be found locally; Morgan and York stocks a delicious tasso,which is a hot and spicy smoked Cajun ham. (Word of caution: this Louisiana specialty lent most of the spice needed in the recipe; we did not use additional salt or peppers in the gravy.) They also stock saltwater shrimp from Okemos, Mich. Whole Foods and Sparrow Meats supply fresh-made Andouille, Italian and chorizo sausages; all are suitable in the following recipe.

My Aunt Jane is looking forward to coming up from Alabama to have an ice tea with Tom and Stephanie; maybe I’ll tag along for a handshake and a smile.

Recipe adapted from Magnolia’s Southern Cuisine cookbook and tweaked to perfection by Stephanie, Tom and, of course, Aunt Jane.

Recipe: Shrimp and Sausage

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (2 links) Andouille sausage*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 recipe for Tasso Gravy (below)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion, plus green onion strands for garnish, if desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place whole sausage links on a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes or until the sausage is firm and its juices run clear. Cool then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Heat oil is a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown 1 minute; add the shrimp and sauté until the just begin to turn pink. Deglaze pan with stock, stirring. Stir in Tasso Gravy and scallions. Raise heat until it simmers; stirring in additional stock to desired thickness. Do not simmer too long or the shrimp could overcook. Season with kosher salt, only if necessary, and white pepper to taste.
  3. Spoon hot grits into bowls, top with shrimp and sausage mixture and garnish with chopped parsley and or green onion strands, if using.

*Hot or mild Italian sausage or chorizo may be substituted.

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Grits

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2-7 cups chicken stock
  • 
1 1/2 cups stone-ground or quick grits (not instant)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • White pepper

Instructions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven,bring 4 1/2 cups stock to a boil. Slowly pour in grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir so grits don’t settle to the bottom and scorch. They will plump up and and become a thick mass.
  2. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, an additional 20 to 120 minutes until they are tender and soft, and have absorbed all of the stock. (Grits have widely different cooking times according to processing and type; often packaging cooking times are inaccurate. Add additional stock in 1/4 increments if they are thick but not tender; they should have the consistency of oatmeal.) Stir in cream and cook an additional 10 minutes; season to taste with kosher salt and white pepper.

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

Recipe: Tasso Gravy

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sliced (1-inch strips) tasso
  • 1/3 cup toasted flour*
  • 1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus additional for garnish, if desired
  • 
White pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add Tasso and sauté 1 minute, lightly browning. Make a roux by slowly sprinkling in toasted flour and whisking to insure it is smooth and incorporated into butter. Let cook a couple of minutes, whisking.
  2. Raise heat to medium and, whisking continuously, slowly pour 1 1/2 cups stock to pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes; adding additional stock, for desired thickness; keep in mind the gravy will thin a bit when added to shrimp and sausage mixture.

(May be made several hours in advance, then reheated.) *Toasted flour is made by spreading white flour across a foil-lined sheet pan and baking in a 375 degree oven until golden brown. Bake 5 minutes; stir. Bake an additional 10 minutes; stir, then continue baking until flour is nutty brown. May be made several days in advance.

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

 

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