Monday, July 1, 2013

Shrimp and Grits, my way

I love shrimp and grits.

I love shrimp without grits, and I love grits without shrimp. Put them together, and I'm in nirvana. I don't know why it took me so long to discover shrimp and grits (possibly because I grew up in the midwest), but now I'm hooked.

But here's the deal. Since shrimp and grits isn't a traditional food for me, I'm more than wiling to mess around with the ingredients a bit. I made these a little bit spicy, but I also added some yellow squash from the farmer's market. Just because.

Makin' the Grits

For the grits, I used some pre-made polenta that I received from Freida's Specialty Produce. Normally, you'd slice and fry that polenta, but I decided I wanted a soft polenta. It's my favorite.

So I cut it in chunks, put it in a bowl, added water, and heated it in the microwave. When it was soft, I broke it up and mashed it a bit. Added more water, heated again.

When it was un-lumpy, I added enough water to get it to the "soft polenta" texture, then I tossed in about 1/4 cup of shredded gruyere cheese, stirred it again, then heated it to melt the cheese. Stirred one last time and served.

MMmmmmm. So good.

And now for the Shrimp

So, let's talk about these ingredients for a second, shall we? The bulb onion are like scallions that have started growing the onion part. The one I used was probably about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You can use a few scallions, or about 1/4 of a regular onion if you don't have bulb onions. Or, if you like, you can use a lot more onion. It's not science, here.

The mini sweet peppers are about the size of jalapenos or big habaneros, but they're sweet like regular bell peppers. They were on sale and I bought a whole lot of them. A regular bell pepper would be just fine.

The vodka doesn't really add flavor to the sauce, but you know about the pasta sauce with vodka, right? You don't taste the vodka there, either, but the alcohol brings out flavor in tomatoes that you wouldn't get otherwise. Or that's the theory.

Peak 7 Vodka is a new micro distillery in Denver. I received some sample from them to try. There will be cocktails later. But for now, I decided to use it in a recipe. Because I'm wacky like that.

Shrimp 'n Polenta

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bulb onion, white and tender green parts. quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
8 mini sweet bell peppers, quartered, seeded, and sliced thinly
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large can (28 or 32 ounces, depending on brand) diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vodka (I used Peak 7, a local brand)
3 small yellow squash, sliced in thin rounds
2 pounds raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, sweet pepper, and salt. Cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables are softened.

Add the tomatoes and vodka and cook, stirring as needed, until the tomatoes cook down a bit - you want a fairly thick sauce. It will get more liquidy when the squash and shrimp show up.

Add the squash and shrimp and cook until the shrimp are just opaque. Don't over cook.

Serve the shrimp over the grits. Or if you like, serve them separately so people can serve themselves.