Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shrimp and Grits with Summer Veggies

This dish was amazing! I can't believe how great it tasted, especially considering I had no idea how I was going to do it when I came up with the idea this morning after breakfast.

So there is no recipe. I just used what I had in the icebox, but I think I can walk back through what I did.

I started by making some shrimp stock. This is one of those times when I'm glad I'm one of those weird people who save various and sundry animal parts to make stock from scratch. I really think it made all the difference in this dish. I had 2 quart ziplock bags of shrimp shells in the freezer, so I put them in a 2 quart sauce pan and filled it with water up to within an inch of the top. I put it on the heat and added 1 bay leaf, 4 smashed cloves of garlic (I didn't bother peeling it), a few stalks of celery, the heal of an onion and a few whole peppercorns. I brought it to a boil, then cut it back to simmer for about half an hour. If you had time, you could simmer it longer and concentrate it more, but I didn't.

I used 3 cups of the hot stock to make 4 servings of instant grits. Yes, I said instant grits. Don't give me any crap. I'm a busy person. :) After the grits cooked, I added 4 pats of organic butter, 2 tablespoons of cream cheese and about 3 glugs of organic heavy cream. I stirred it all together, put the lid back on and moved it to the back of the stove until everything else was ready.

I put about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings and 2 pats of butter in my 12 inch skillet. I know, it sounds like a ton of fat, but when you're using flour to thicken something, there has to be fat, or it won't thicken. Anyhoo- I turned the pan on medium heat and rough chopped about 1/2 of a huge sweet onion. Then I added half of a polska kielbasa smoked sausage, sliced. I let the onion and sausage sizzle around for about 5 minutes, then I added a yellow squash, sliced in half moons, about 5 baby bella mushrooms, sliced, swiss chard, leaves and stems chopped, and about a dozen grape tomatoes. I let all the veggies cook down for about 10 minutes. After that, I put about 1/2 a pound of small frozen shrimp (raw) right out of the bag, I didn't even defrost them. After a couple of minutes, I deglazed the pan with some Vermouth. When the shrimp looked almost done, I added about a 1/4 cup of flour and mixed it around, letting it cook for about 1 minute or so. Then I added about 3/4 of a cup of warm shrimp stock and stirred it constantly until it began to thicken. It didn't take long, because the pan was still on medium heat. At that point I added several shakes of Frank's Red Hot sauce and about 1/4 cup of heavy cream. It was all looking rich and creamy and thick and yummie. I tasted it and added some salt and pepper and more hot sauce, then took it off the heat. At that point it was time for the ingredient that would take this whole mess over the top- dry sherry. I added just a few glugs to the pan and stirred it in.

I put some of the grits in the bottom of the bowl, then spooned on the veggie/shrimp/sausage mixture. I topped it with asiago cheese toasts.

The only change I'd make for next time is to use spicier sausage. I think anduille would be better, because the sauce would have better depth of flavor.

But just as it didn't suck! :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010


I needed to be redeemed after last night's dinner. I had chicken salad (that won't be blogged because it was not good) and fried squash blossoms. They weren't bad, but for all the work, they weren't great, either. I will have to think about the stuffing and tweak it a bit for next time. Less cheese, more veggies.

Tonight had to be a grand slam. Dev picked some rainbow chard out of the garden this afternoon, and as luck would have it, I had seen a recipe for swiss chard lasagna in an issue of Food Network magazine. I assembled the ingredients and gave it a go.

It turned out really well. It has tons of cheesy goodness, and the chard keeps it light. Next time, however, I think I'll add some chopped fresh tomatoes just to cut through some of the cheesiness.

Here's the recipe:

Swiss Chard Lasagna

6 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used an 8x8 pan, so I only needed 4)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 bunch swiss chard, finely chopped, leaves and stems separated
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups asiago cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350. Soak the lasagna noodles in a bowl of hot water until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chard stems and garlic and cook until golden, about minutes. Add the chard leaves and cook until wilted, about 3 more minutes.
Mix the ricotta, cream egg, parmesan, basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.
Brush a 2 quart baking dish with oil and add 3 noodles in a single layer. Top with half of the ricotta mixture, chard and asiago. Repeat with the remaining noodles, ricotta mixture, chard and asiago.
Cover with foil and bake until cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake until bubbly and golden, about 5 more minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

I also garnished mine with some tomato salad I had in the ice box.
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