Good, fresh shrimp have been a bit hard to come by since our move to Denver. I’ve had a bit of a prejudice against frozen, bagged shrimp – once you get a bad bag it’s hard to come back! – but it was actually a featured ingredient in a special section of last month’s issue of Everyday Food. (I’ve also come to realize that many of the “fresh” shrimp you get at the meat counter were actually previously frozen. Tricky, tricky.) Apparently, the “EZ peel” shrimp hold their texture and flavor a bit better than those that are pre-peeled AND they were on sale at King Sooper’s last week, so I decided to give frozen shrimp another chance.
The result? Today’s recipe – Saucy Shrimp and Grits from the December 2008 issue of Everyday Food – is *the* best dish I’ve cooked so far in 2009, hands down. I’ll admit that probably has something to do with cooking onions and garlic in bacon grease, but the recipe is actually pretty “middle of the road” when it comes to nutrition. The flavor, though, is off the charts.
I started with the grits. I put 4 1/2 cups of water into a medium saucepan, brought it to a boil, seasoned the water with salt and pepper, and then whisked in 1 cup of coarse grits. (I used Bob’s Red Mill corn grits.) I reduced the heat to medium-low, covered the pan with a lid, and cooked the grits (whisking occasionally) until they were creamy and tender (30 minutes).
Once I had the grits on the stove, I did my food prep. I cut two slices of bacon crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, I halved and thinly sliced 1 medium onion, and I thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves. After the grits had been cooking for 15 minutes, I cooked the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it was browned (about 6 minutes). I used a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and then added the onion and garlic to the fat in the skillet. I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and cooked it until the onion was tender and browned (about 8 minutes).
To finish the sauce, I added 1 can of diced tomatoes (including the juice) and 1/4 cup of water to the skillet. I brought the sauce to a boil and then stirred in 1 pound of large peeled and deveined shrimp (thawed, since mine were frozen). I stirred the mixture until the shrimp were completely opaque (about 3 minutes) and stirred in 1/4 teaspoon of hot sauce. I stirred 2 tablespoons of butter into the grits to finish them, served the shrimp over the grits, and then sprinkled each serving with the cooked bacon.
Oh. My. Gosh. This flavor of this dish is seriously just INCREDIBLE. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – there aren’t any exotic ingredients and the seasoning methods are simple – but I couldn’t get enough of this dish. It’s really just the perfect combination of ingredients, I think, combined with a touch of delightful unctuousness from the bacon grease. Holy moly. I cannot wait to make this one again.
TIPS: Really keep an eye on the shrimp and remove the sauce from the heat just when they’re fully cooked. Overcooking the shrimp will make them rubbery.
Recipe link: Saucy Shrimp and Grits