Saturday night in our neck-of-the-woods is date night. Suburban, hip-town America where the bars, bistros, trattorias and restaurants are packed with happy, hungry revelers.
Given the choice, I’ll be staying in and preparing something ridiculously good to eat while catching up on everything dvr’d over the course of the week.
I’m a food writer. My husband, who is in international shipping and spends way too much time in airports, finds relaxation in taking apart a multiple ingredient recipe and sweating in front of the Viking range.
Since I spend a good portion of my week in restaurants—tasting, interviewing (chefs and owners)—food markets, and specialty shops—photographing and then writing about food, nothing pleases me more than to have a Saturday night at home in our kitchen.
In June, I wrote about a shrimp and grits dish I tried at a local luncheonette for the on-line news site where I am a freelance contributor. You can read about that meal here if you’d like. The comfortable, warmth and big flavor of the dish was partying in the back of my memory.
We already had most of the ingredients on hand, so one quick and pleasant trip to Whole Foods yielded a box of gluten-free, organic, non-gmo quick cooking grits.
A two pound bag of large frozen shrimp bought on sale the previous week at our local Acme Market, and a brick of aged Cabot cheddar cheese from Costco was all the inspiration we needed to tackle shrimp and grits and make it our own.
With no specific recipe—we made the grits according to back of the package directions. Into the finished grits went about a tablespoon of unsalted butter and a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, stirred and melted through.
Under cold running water thaw and peel a pound (1/2 the bag) of shrimp and remove the tails. It’s annoying and messy when you have to remove the tail of a shrimp that is already cooked and on your fork.
In a hot sauté pan add about a quarter cup olive oil and a teaspoon of butter. We added a half teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger, two cloves of chopped garlic, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp. As soon as the shrimp start turning pink, turn them over. The shrimp take about three minutes to cook through. We hit the pan with about a quarter of a cup of vermouth to deglaze (we were out of white wine), and added a cup of frozen peas.
Crisp, piquant shrimp and sweet peas served over rich creamy grits and garnished with fresh chopped green onion—the flavors and textures happily mingling on the back of my tongue like it’s Saturday night and time to party. Yeah, it’s that good.
If we had chorizo or Italian sausage in the fridge, I would consider adding it, but for a quick decision—easy to make meal that we had the majority of ingredients on hand for, this turned out to be perfection. A sprinkle of hot sauce or Tabasco brings one more note of perfection to the bowl.
Southern food recipes and ingredients have been popping up on menus in New Jersey lately. Although shrimp and grits is traditional breakfast fare down south, it is suddenly showing up as both lunch and dinner options. The soul satisfying character of the one-bowl belly-filler tells me this leaning toward southern food is going to be sticking around for a while.