Pretend it’s tomorrow.

July 27, 2013

Good friends, good food.

Good friends, good food.

Which is when, in my last post, I promised you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em I would detail the dinner party.

I lied. I meant to….but you know the road to hell, and all that. And I got busy. And then I was gone. And then I was back. And then I was babysitting, which is not conducive to blogging. And now I’m ensconced in what has become my favorite armchair with a glass of wine and my readers.

Sorry. But make this stuff, and I will promise you a dinner worth waiting a week for.

Mr. B’s Bistro Shrimp and Grits. It may not come up to the original in New Orleans, but folks, it’s pretty damn good.

Shrimps! Bacon! Goodness!

Shrimps! Bacon! Goodness!

Here’s the recipe, from one of several on-line versions:

8 strips applewood-smoked bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
20 jumbo shrimp (12 per pound, about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, leaving tail intact, and deveined
4 large wooden skewers, soaked in water for 10 minutes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 tsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 cups dark chicken stock
2 1/2 Tbsp pepper jelly
1 Tbsp cold unsalted butter
3 cups Mr. B’s stone-ground grits (see recipe below)
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives

Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Wrap 1 piece bacon around center of each shrimp (reserve leftover bacon) and line up on a work surface.  Skewer 5 wrapped shrimp onto each skewer, leaving a little space in between each shrimp.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until almost smoking.  Add 2 skewers and cook 2 minutes each side, or until bacon gets crisp.  Repeat cooking shrimp in same manner.  Transfer shrimp to a plate.

To skillet add vinegar and brown sugar and cook about 1 minute, or until reduced by half.  Add stock and cook over high heat until reduced by half.  Add jelly and cook 1 minute, or until jelly is dissolved.  Remove skillet from heat and add butter, stirring, until just melted.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

In a small skillet cook leftover bacon until crisp.  Cool and crumble.

To serve, mound grits (see recipe below) on plates.  Remove shrimp from skewers and arrange around grits.  Drizzle sauce over grits and garnish with reserved bacon and chives.

Grits

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk
1 cup stone-ground grits
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan bring cream and milk to a simmer over moderately low heat.  Whisk in grits and cook, stirring often, 25 minutes.  Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper.

 

What I did differently on the shrimp:

  • I used medium, not jumbo, because that’s what I’d bought, and used eight on a skewer.
  • The bacon wasn’t applewood smoked; it was just hardwood smoked. Note: you need to get the thin bacon, not the country style.  A 12-oz package cut in quarters will wrap 32 medium shrimp and leave enough over to dice, brown, and save for garnish, as well as giving you a start of bacon grease in the skillet to put the skewers in.
  • I cut the brown sugar down to about 1 tbsp. Actually I used the full amount, but a big clump of it kinda seized up and scorched, so I snagged it with a spoon and tossed it out.
  • I didn’t use any chives because, well, I forgot to get ’em.

What I did differently on the grits was more significant. You will note from the recipe these are heart-attack-inducing grits. Not wanting the deaths of people I was feeding to be on my hands, I lightened them a smidge. I used two cups of half and half, two cups of two percent, and 8 ounces of low-fat cream cheese. Tasted pretty doggoned good to me; sufficiently creamy to be guilt-inducing, but not enough so inflict permanent health damage. Hopefully.

The combo of grits, shrimp and sauce (assuredly NOT the red-eye gravy which Mr. B’s claims, but still good enough to take a bath in…) is most assuredly well inside the Sweet Baby Jesus territory border. Make you some.

I decided we needed another veggie besides the salad, so I put together a ratatouille from veggies from the farmers’ market and elsewhere. Peeled Japanese eggplant , cut it in one inch chunks, tossed it in a colander and salted it and let it sit in the sink. Cut up a big zucchini and two yellow crook-necks. Diced an onion and minced about four cloves of garlic,  Sauteed the onion and the garlic in a big skillet, added the squashes,  dumped the eggplant out on a towel and pressed it dry and added that. Let them brown and caramelize a little, and added a can of diced tomatoes (had fresh ones, but didn’t want to have to peel them), covered it and let it simmer away for about 25 minutes. Added a bunch of chopped fresh herbs — basil, parsley, something else I forget — and simmered it another 10. Tasted it, salted it a touch, and let it sit.

Dessert was pound cake from the grocery (sue me), topped with fresh peaches that had been macerated in white balsamic vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of sugar, topped with sweetened creme fraiche.

And fed a tablefull of old and new friends. There’s a lot to be said for it. Next time you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want to throw a dinner party, do this. It’s simple enough, prepping the shrimp skewers in advance, making the ratatouille, putting the salad together and assembling the elements for dessert, and then a la minute all you have to do is cook the shrimp, make the sauce, dress the salad whlie you’re simmering, and there you have it.

A word of note: the leftover ratatouille, and there WAS leftover ratatouille, is damn fine over left-over grits the next day.

 

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