My knowledge of New Orleans comes entirely from movies and TV, the sounds of jazz, the Cajun food, and the colourful and lacy buildings are the sum of it. I had never even heard of a muffuletta sandwich until B made hers, but I dream about them now. Actually, when B told me she was making a muffuletta I thought of this gorgeous kitten. I guess that my crazy cat lady credentials are in the open now.
I realise how little I know about Cajun food, especially when I look and see that most of the recipes have capsicum (bell pepper) which I can’t eat, so it means I have tried very few.
A few weeks ago B sent me through a recipe for ‘smothered shrimp and grits’. I made it, and loved it, I needed to share it. What I didn’t realise when I first made it is that it is a recipe by a famous N’Awlins restaurateur, Emeril Lagasse, from his book Farm to Fork. Etouffée, a well known New Orleans dish means ‘smothered’. This ‘smothered shrimp’ is a variation on the traditional, but it is so delicious, I am not sure I would make the traditional version now. This dish takes a little while, there is nothing difficult about it though, and oh, it is worth it. I have adapted it a little mainly to incorporate the ingredients I can get here.
For our non-USA readers, grits are like a rougher ground polenta, still with some hull remaining. Here in Trinidad I can find the yellow, but it is also available in white hominy corn. A USA grocery should carry them or some say you can substitute with polenta. Polenta would be smoother in texture.
I started the grits first and let them cook on low heat for the time it took to make the shrimp. Adding the last two ingredients to the grits just before I was ready to serve.
For the Grits
The loot you need: corn grits, milk (full cream if available, I could only get skim that day), cheddar cheese, butter, salt and pepper.
In to a saucepan I poured the milk, and some water, salt and pepper and added half the butter.
I brought it to a boil, and then turned the heat down to low and whisked in the grits.
Stirring every ten minutes or so, I cooked the grits for close to an hour and a half. Taste to make sure they are cooked through, they will be soft.
I then left the grits on the stove on low heat until ready to serve.
For the Smothered Shrimp
You’ll need shrimp (prawns), olive oil, butter, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground chilli pepper, salt, black pepper, chorizo or other smokey flavoured sausage, ripe tomatoes, sour cream, onion, shallots, garlic, spring onions (scallion), and some parsley for garnish (if you remember, ahem).
First up I made a stock from the shrimp shells and heads, so I shelled the shrimp directly in to a saucepan, and then deveined the shrimp (I deveined the shrimp after I had already put the stock on to boil, as I knew the stock would need some time on the stove). Instructions for shelling and deveining a shrimp if you need them. Set the deveined shrimp aside.
I wanted a full cup of stock so I boiled until the liquid was reduced by two thirds. While this was boiling down I was preparing the rest of the sauce and shrimp.
When the stock was ready I strained and reserved the liquid ready to add to the sauce.
The rest of the sauce
I added the chilli powder, cayenne, paprika, salt and black pepper to the shrimp and mixed well.
And then chopped up or minced the remaining ingredients… the onions, the shallots, the spring onion (scallion), the garlic (which I microplane to mince), the chorizo and tomatoes. The chorizo I can get here is almost like a salami, but if I was back in Australia I would get an aged chorizo sausage and use that. You could also use a fresh chorizo or andouille, if you do that, double the quantity you use.
I put the oil and butter in a large fry pan on a medium heat, and melted the butter.
Then added the shrimp and cooked for around three minutes, turning midway to lightly cook on both sides.
I removed the shrimp to a plate, then put the chorizo in to the pan and cooked until crisped a bit.
Then added the onion and cooked that through with the chorizo.
When the onion was translucent, I added the shallot, garlic and two thirds of the spring onion, keeping a third for garnish. I stirred them in and continued to cook.
After another minute or so I added the tomatoes.
I cooked the tomatoes in to the sauce for about five minutes and then added the shrimp stock.
With the heat on high I cooked vigorously to reduce the liquid right down. And then reduced the heat to low and added the sour cream and mixed it through.
I then put the shrimp back in to the pan and cooked for another couple of minutes, until the shrimp were ready to warmed and cooked through.
I then ladled some grits in to a bowl, some of the shrimps and their sauce on top, and topped with a little chopped spring onion. Some chopped parsley would also go well.
The shrimp sinks in to the bowl of grits, but rest assured, there is quite a nice surprise portion of shrimp in sauce as you eat the dish.
Tasty tasty ‘smothered’ shrimp and grits.
Well B. Thank you for these introductions to New Orleans cooking. I’m curious to see where you take it, because you know what this means… you’re “it”.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1.25kg (2 1/2 pounds) large uncooked shrimp, with heads and shells.
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground chilli pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
120g (4oz) dried chorizo, or 240g (8oz) fresh chorizo or andouille sausage, chopped in to a small dice
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onion (scallion)
2 cups chopped tomatoes, whatever kind looks most flavoursome and ripe
1 cup shrimp stock
1/3 cup sour cream
Chopped parsley for garnish
Shell and remove heads from the shrimp, retaining the shells and heads in a small saucepan. Add three cups of water to the shells and boil rapidly to make shrimp stock. When liquid has reduced by two thirds strain out the shells and retain the stock ready for the sauce. Devein the shrimp.
Season the shrimp with the cayenne, chilli powder, paprika, salt and pepper. In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil, and then add the seasoned shrimp. Lightly cook the shrimp at medium heat for three minutes, flipping half way through. Remove the shrimp to a plate.
Add the chorizo to the pan, stirring often, until the sausage is crisped up, about 5 minutes. Then add the onion to the pan and continue to sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic, shallots, and a tablespoon of the spring onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes. Increase the heat to high and add the shrimp stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the sour cream and stir to combine. Return the shrimp to the pan, stir through and heat just until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3 minutes.
Spoon the shrimp over the warm grits, and garnish with finely chopped spring onion and parsley to serve.
GRITS WITH CHEESE
3 cups water
3 cups milk (preferably full cream (whole) milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup stone ground grits
150g or 5oz grated tasty (cheddar) cheese
Combine the water, milk, salt, pepper, and one tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the grits and cook, stirring frequently so the grits don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, for 1 1/2 hours. If you need more liquid to keep the grits nice and moist, add water as needed.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of the butter and the cheese. Serve the cheese grits immediately or retain on very low heat until shrimps are ready.