The Cookbook Project officially began late on a Friday night. Normally I find it quite hard to come home on a Friday and cook dinner. So, when I stopped at Whole Foods I ordered a large iced coffee to ensure I would not fall asleep while cutting parsley. The iced coffee with 2% milk was perfect: refreshing and gave me enough energy to get through the rest of the evening.
The first recipe I decided to cook for this project was Shrimp & Grits out of The Skinnytaste Cookbook. I love grits. For as long as I can remember, my dad made grits on a regular basis. I can’t understand people who don’t like grits – or at least won’t try grits. If I had a choice between ice cream and grits, I would choose grits.
I thought this recipe was a good place for this project to start given my Southern Culinary Heritage (SCH!)
I started by making the grits. I added chicken broth, water, and low fat milk – brought it to a boil and then stirred in the grits which I had measured out:
I added half a teaspoon of kosher salt. Red pepper flakes. Freshly ground pepper.
I bought these grits from the bulk food section of Whole Foods. The recipe called for quick cooking grits but specifically said “not instant”. The WF grits just said “yellow corn grits” and did not specify if they were regular cooking grits, quick cooking grits, slow cooking grits or instant grits. I am pretty sure that they were not instant grits. But they came together a lot faster than I had planned on.
As the grits cooked, I tasted them. I was blown away by how flavorful they were. I instantly fell in love with these grits. I definitely burned my mouth at one point because I could not let them cool before tasting again. Finally after they had been on the stove for at least twenty minutes, I stirred in some sharp cheddar cheese and called it a day with the grits.
Next I moved on to shelling and deveining the shrimp. I bought wild caught gulf shrimp. These suckers were a pretty good size! About 16 – 20 per pound. I bought 15 so we could each have 5 with dinner. Have you ever wondered about shelling and deveining shrimp? It’s pretty easy – so don’t let it intimidate you.
Shelling & Deveining Shrimp:
- rinse shrimp in cold water (I usually do this in batches)
- take off the little legs (they are pretty cute)
- Using your thumbs, break off the shell from where you’ve already started by taking the legs off.
- Use a small knife, cut a very shallow slit on the top of the shrimp going the length of it. Using your small knife, catch the vein (which is the digestive track of the shrimp) and pull it up. Sometimes it breaks, just go back and get the rest of it. If you can’t find the vein on the back of the shrimp, turn it over and look on the other side – sometimes the vein can be there, too. (Tricky suckers!)
- You can keep the shells to boil them and make a seafood stock. But definitely throw away the digestive track. No one wants that.
A side note about shelling shrimp – it’s not actually necessary. When I was in Japan I was (at first) really surprised to see my Japanese friends eating entire shrimp as we were at dinner! It sounded kind of good as they were eating them whole – and really crunchy. I opted to peel my shrimp, but I later read that taking the shell off of shrimp was not necessary and just a preference. Maybe one day I will eat a shrimp with the shell on – I’ll let you know!
The shrimp cooks really quickly, and you never want to over cook your shrimp – it will turn rubbery. The recipe recommended to cook the shrimp one minute per side. I wasn’t sure if my shrimp were cooked all the way through after a minute on each side, so I let them go for maybe thirty seconds longer? Then I took them off the heat, and put them on a plate.
After the shrimp I cooked up two pieces of bacon. I was going to cut the bacon into little pieces, but I decided to keep the bacon whole while cooking it (thinking it would cook more evenly and that there would be less difficulty in trying to flip twenty or so little pieces of bacon?) After I cooked the bacon, I took it off the skillet, trimmed the little fat pieces and then cut it into smaller one inch pieces. (The original recipe called for ham, which I didn’t have – and bacon worked really well!)
After that I followed the rest of the recipe and the end result was really wonderful. I garnished with parsley and freshly ground pepper.
I cannot even tell you what a huge hit this dish was in my house! My mom loved it and really appreciated a home cooked meal after the long days in the hospital. As good as hospital food can be – it doesn’t hold a torch to shrimp and grits – that is for sure. We didn’t eat dinner until after 9 o’clock on Friday night – but it sure was good.
One of the great things about this recipe is how quickly the meal can be ready. The grits come together in about twenty minutes. If you have already peeled and deveined shrimp, the rest of the recipe is really fast! You could definitely have this on the table in less than thirty minutes – that’s a great week night dinner for sure! It is easy and delicious – and I was really pleased that there was not a whole lot of clean up, that is especially wonderful when you’re in the kitchen after 10:30 pm on a Friday cleaning up your kitchen.
If you love shrimp and if you think you might like grits, go ahead and make this recipe. It is a classic Southern dish and it is a crowd pleaser!
The first installment of the Cookbook Project is complete and I can’t wait to figure out what I am making next. Stay tuned and until then, happy cooking!