One afternoon last month, Shawn called on his way home from work and asked if he should pick up something to make for dinner – he knew that I didn’t have anything planned. I told him that I’d cook, but I really didn’t have any ideas. I asked him to just grab whatever looked good and I’d figure out something to make. When I finally got home, I found that he had purchased a pound of shrimp, a block of Monterey Jack, and a carton of grits. I guess he knew what he wanted!
I’d never made shrimp and grits before (and had only ever eaten it once!) so I consulted a few friends on twitter for guidance. I added a pepper that I had in the the fridge and, taking a cue from the menu at New World, made a spicy Creole cream sauce to blanket everything with. The resulting dish might not be traditional, but it definitely hit the spot.
Sometimes I come up with ridiculously complicated recipes with ingredient lists a mile long. I know, it’s incredibly annoying. Other times, I get into the mood for simple food. As long as you use good, quality ingredients, you really don’t need to use a million spices and seasonings to make things taste good. Lately, I’ve been in a simple kind of mood.
I’m taking a class about food blogging right now, and this afternoon I listened to an interview with Molly from Orangette. She commented that as she became more interested in food and cooking, she became less and less interested in fancy ingredients and food trends and focused more on the simple joy of eating something like cheese and crackers. That comment really made me pause and think about my own cooking. Back in the day if you asked your mother or grandmother for a copy of a favorite recipe, you’d get it written on an index card. It might have taken up both sides, but it probably wouldn’t compare to today’s recipes, which could easily fill an entire printed page.
I was nervous when I made these shrimp and grits a few weeks ago – it didn’t seem like I was putting enough in them, and I was worried that they’d be bland. In the end, I shouldn’t have worried. This isn’t a pretty dish and the ingredients and preparation are simple, but it has a ton of flavor and it was exactly the kind of comfort food that we were in the mood for. If your handwriting is small, you might even get the recipe to fit on an index card.
- 4 cups Water
- 1 cup quick cooking Grits
- ½ cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
- 1 pound peeled and deveined Shrimp
- 1 Tablespoon dried Oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried Thyme
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- ¼ cup Skim Milk
- ¼ cup Tomato Juice (from a can of tomatoes)
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, or more to taste
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
- 1 Onion, chopped
- In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the grits. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
- Meanwhile, combine the shrimp, oregano, thyme, and a little salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss the shrimp until it is thoroughly coated.
- Melt the butter in a small pan set over high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring frequently, until it’s lightly tanned – like the color of coffee with cream. Slowly whisk in the milk. Stir in the tomato juice and cayenne.
- Add the oil to a skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp. Cook for a few minutes, or until the spices begin to brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add the pepper and onion. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and cook for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens and the shrimp is pink and cooked through.