Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits

It's not unusual for the meals I cook to reflect my thoughts and feelings. Whether it's love I'm trying to share, excitement, joy, encouragement, or the need for simple comfort. What foods match my thoughts during this month commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11?

It's been ten years since we were attacked on American soil and so many lives were lost. Families and friends were devastated, and we as a nation were stunned, afraid, and not at all sure about what would happen next. Not only were we attacked, but it was a complete surprise, and it all happened right before our eyes. We watched in real time as the tragedy unfolded.

Some of us, and I fall into this category, went from being very naïve about our safety and security, to realizing just how vulnerable we are every day. I was over the half century mark, past the age of knowing better.

However, now that I look back, I realize I moved from one naïve mindset to another: after this life changing event, I believed our country would come together in brotherly love, working for the common good, righting past wrongs, moving forward united. It's never too late to begin.

As I watched the families and friends commemorate their losses of ten years ago I was reminded of the losses we have all suffered. No one is immune. There is no angel of the Lord passing down our streets marking the doorways of those who should be passed over. We're all vulnerable. Even more reason that we should be kinder and more caring.

It's fall, it's back to school, it's ballgames and changing leaves. It's hometown happenings with a family focus. Summer is over, and we're settling in. We're preparing for the colder months ahead. During this month of taking stock, I'm thinking of foods to share, foods to nurture, foods that say, “I care.”

My family's favorite recipe, the one they ask for more than any other, is my version of Shrimp and Grits. We've been eating it for as long as I can remember. It's good anytime of year. It's a great meal to share with friends or around the table with your family. Give it a try, and while you're sharing, think about how fortunate we are to live in this wonderful country, and what we need to do to preserve it.

Shrimp and Baked Cheese Grits


2 lb. shrimp, cooked* , and peeled

One and one-half sticks butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons minced shallot

2 minced garlic cloves

Zest and Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

One-fourth tsp. Nutmeg

One-fourth tsp. red pepper

Three-fourths cup bread crumbs

*Boil shrimp in shells with bay leaf, quartered onion, and 3 tablespoons Old Bay or similar seafood seasoning mix in enough water to cover. Bring water to boil with bay leaf, onion and Old Bay. Add shrimp, cover pot and cook only 2 minutes, just until pink. Remove shrimp from water and cool immediately in ice bath to prevent further cooking. Drain. Peel and devein shrimp. Set aside.

Combine softened butter and remaining ingredients except bread crumbs, stirring and mashing together to combine. Put cooked shrimp in 9 x 9 inch casserole. Top evenly with butter mixture and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake at 350º for 20 minutes (butter should be bubbling). Turn broiler on for just a minute to brown bread crumbs. Serve with Cheese Grits**

Baked Cheese Grits**

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups quick (NOT instant) grits

One-half stick butter

1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce

One-half teaspoon Texas Pete

2 eggs

2 cups shredded cheese, half colby, have cheddar

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly stir grits into simmering broth. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Cook for seven minutes. Remove lid and whisk to remove any lumps. Add butter, Worcestershire sauce and Texas Pete, stirring to combine.

Beat the eggs in a small mixing bowl. Slowly add about a cup of hot grits to bowl to temper eggs, stirring to combine. Then add egg mixture back into grits, along with cheese, and stir well to combine.

Pour grits into buttered 9 x 13 inch casserole.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until grits are browned and puffed.

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