Monday, November 14, 2016

Shrimp and Grits

One lesson in cooking school was focaccia. As the demonstration proceeded, one student, from Italy, said aloud, "That's not focaccia; that's not how my mother makes it."

Shrimp and grits is another dish for which multiple "right ways" exist. I have eaten versions with only shrimp and andouille. Other versions had gravy and bacon as well. I have read recipes that include the cajun trinity of onion, celery, and sweet pepper.

The version I will feature here is a "wrong" version. I like to make shrimp and grits with polenta as it has even more flavor.


1 cup dry polenta
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 cup half and half
additional water as needed
16 31-40 count peeled shrimp 
2/3 cup shredded cheese (gruyere, cheddar, asiago)
1 link andouille sausage, sliced in 1/4 inch rings
2 slices bacon, cross sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
large pinch salt plus pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
2 tablespoons flour
chives, minced

Method - Meats and Gravy

Put 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a cold non-stick medium skillet. Add the bacon pieces in a single layer and cook the bacon slowly over a medium low heat. When crispy and brown, remove to a paper towel covered plate and put in a low warming drawer.

Pour some of the fat out of the skillet and add the andouille. Fry to brown on both sides of the sausage rings. Put them on a separate paper towel covered plate and place in the warming drawer.

Pour off most of the fat, leaving about a Tablespoon. Saute the shrimp until barely opaque (about three minutes, and place on a third small plate for the warming drawer.

Add enough olive oil to bring what is in the pan to about 2 Tablespoons. Add 2 Tablespoons of flour and slowly cook the roux to light pecan color. Add a splash of dry white wine and 1 cup of stock and bring to a boil. Your goal should be a light, silky gravy. If necessary add additional water.

Method - Polenta

Bring 2 cups of stock and 1 cup of half and half just to a boil in a 5 or 6 quart sauce pan. Use a spoon to start the liquid swirling around the pan and keep it going. Slowly add the polenta and salt. After the polenta is incorporated, reduce the heat and simmer 25 to 35 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every 2 or 3 minutes. Be sure you use the spoon to clean the bottom of the pan, even in the corners. 
After 10 minutes, add the sausage. If the polenta becomes thick, thin with added water to a loose porridge stage. Taste to assure the polenta has reached a creamy soft stage. 

Add the cheese and continue to stir to melt the cheese. Taste and adjust the salt. pepper, and thickness.

Serve the polenta with sausage and cheese to bowls. Divide the shrimp among the bowls. Top with the bacon pieces. Layer the shrimp on top of the polenta mixture. Pour the gravy over the bowl contents and garnish with snipped chives.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Accidental Chicken Cacciatore Diablo

Sometimes I make mistakes. Sometimes I have accidents. When I do, just like all of you, I have to bear the consequences. Every once in a while, those consequences are not so bad - in fact, they work out really well. This dish is one of those mistakes gone good.

My intention was to make a rather traditional chicken cacciatore. To augment the minced rosemary, I intended to add a small amount of the Cento Italian seasoning. The lid fell off in the pan, spilling a large amount of the seasoning into the mix. I used a spoon to remove all I could, but the crushed red pepper and  seeds in the seasoning stayed. In one moment my cacciatore became Diablo! And served over flat noodles, it was really good! The following recipe is a common sense way to recreate my end result without having a spill.


2 chicken leg quarters
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup sweet bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped mushroom
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon sun dried tomato paste
1 rounded Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon minced rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning without crushed red pepper
1 large pinch crushed red pepper.
salt and pepper
olive oil


Pat the leg quarters dry and salt and pepper them. Heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a saute pan over high heat until smoking. Add the leg quarters and brown them on both sides.

Remove the chicken to a plate and pour the fat from the pan, but do not wipe it out. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms.

Saute the vegetables until soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, the tomato paste, and the flour. Stir and mix until the vegetables are rust colored.

Add the red wine, rosemary, seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Stir and cook the mixture until the liquid evaporates. Add the tomatoes with juice and the chicken stock. Stir and add the chicken quarters with juices back to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pan. Simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove the lid form the pan and continue to simmer until the sauce thickens a bit. 

Serve over egg noodles with a dry red wine such as Goats Do Roam.