Ingredients for this week’s “Chopped” Challenge: Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese
My mind automatically went to Shrimp and Grits as the dish to make. I don’t really know why. I’ve only eaten one bite of shrimp and grits ever. It was at a restaurant in Charleston. My husband ordered it. I would never order such a thing. Surprisingly it was delicious. My version? Read on and see.
So okay, to be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure if traditional Shrimp and Grits has cheese in it, or if I’m confusing “Cheese Grits” and “Shrimp and Grits.” Either way, I made Shrimp and Grits and it had cheese in it. Here’s the recipe:
Shrimp and Grits
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
14 oz Andouille sausage sliced about 1/2 inch thick (you can use a bit less or more, this is just what size package I found at our clearly un-Southern grocery store)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
3/4 cup quick grits
1/2 tsp salt
1 12-oz can 2% evaporated milk
2 cups water
1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I didn’t measure but I think I used closer to 2 cups)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup more water
2 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large non stick pan with a lid over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and heat until shimmering. Add sausage and brown on both sides. While sausage is cooking pat shrimp dry and season with S&P. When the sausage is browned, remove it from the pan and place on paper-towel-lined plate. Drain all but about 1 Tbsp of sausage drippings from pan. Add shrimp to pan in batches and brown on both sides. Only cook a minute or two on each side and just until the shrimp is opaque to avoid over cooking. Remove shrimp as it is cooked to another paper-towel-lined plate. If all the fat is taken out of the pan, add a bit more oil and let it get hot. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add grits and stir to coat with oil and brown a bit. After a few minutes, add 1 cup of the condensed milk (reserve the remaining 1/2 cup in can) and two cups of water to grits, stir, scraping browned bits from sausage and shrimp from the bottom of the pan, bring to a boil and cover, cooking for about 5 minutes. While grits are cooking, add 1/2 cup water to the remaining 1/2 cup evaporated milk and whisk in the cornstarch. When grits are done, add cheese in handfuls, stirring to melt and alternating with adding the water/evaporated milk/cornstarch mixture. When the cornstarch liquid and cheese are added to your liking (you’ll probably need to add a bit of water to keep it from getting too thick, see note below), add in the paprika, cayenne pepper, shrimp, and sausage. Add S&P to taste. Cover and cook for a few minutes to let the shrimp and the sausage get warm again. Serve.
So, I stirred the shrimp and sausage into the grits to get them warmed up again, and the result was an extremely ugly dish of food. I probably should have tented the sausage and shrimp with foil, or perhaps placed them in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm, so I could just put them on top of the grits instead of needing to stir them in to warm them up again. Appearances aside, the dish had good flavor but it was too thick for my taste. I would either lessen the amount of cornstarch in the slurry or add more water or milk to adjust the consistency after all the slurry and cheese were added. I did manage to get the grits cooked better this time, as they were not “gritty.” In all honesty, this was not my favorite of the “Chopped” dishes I’ve done so far. Perhaps I shouldn’t have gone with the first dish that came to mind. I could have been a bit more creative. Maybe I could have done a chowder or some sort of play on a tuna melt or a Po’Boy. Whatev. The dish was good, but not delicious. I’ll do better next time!