Happy Mardi Gras! Ah, the last big feast before the Lenten season of sacrifice begins. I don’t need many excuses to whip up decadent food, but Mardi Gras is definitely as good a reason as any. I kicked things off on Friday with Bourbon Bread Pudding (it’s now gone and I would like to have it magically appear right this instant) and then followed up with another sweet treat yesterday – New Orleans Beignets. Since today is the day to celebrate, I wanted to share with you a great option for your dinner tonight if you feel like being festive and whipping up some authentic Louisiana Creole fare. Nothing says South quite like shrimp and grits, right? A couple of summers ago my Chief Culinary Consultant and I went to the Outer Banks for a long weekend and I think we ordered shrimp and grits twice while we were there. So incredibly delicious, and I’ve been wanting to recreate it at home ever since. For Mardi Gras, however, I wanted to find a recipe that had a New Orleans flair to it, and this one definitely fit the bill.
I went completely authentic and made a homemade shrimp broth using the peels from the shrimp. While it adds a little bit of time to the recipe (about 20 minutes or so) I think it was definitely worth it – the flavor of the final dish was fabulous, clean, and of course, I knew exactly what was in it, which is always a plus in my book.
Once the shrimp broth is done, you make a roux with butter and flour, let it caramelize, then saute your vegetables. Throw in all your seasonings, tomato paste, and then slowly add the shrimp broth to create a wonderfully thick sauce that you let simmer for a little while. All the flavors meld together and it becomes a perfect little bed in which to cook the shrimp. You can thin it out at the end with a little more shrimp broth if you’d like. Served over grits, the dish is absolutely bursting flavor thanks to a wonderful combination of simple ingredients and seasonings.
After eating and realizing that I was successful at my first attempt at shrimp and grits, I declared to my Chief Culinary Consultant that I could, in fact, be a Southern belle. What would be a good follow-up recipe to the shrimp and grits?
Are you doing anything to celebrate Mardi Gras today or tonight?
If you observe Lent, are you giving anything up this year?
Peel shrimp, reserving shells; devein shrimp, if desired. Bring shells and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes. Pour shrimp broth through a colander over a large bowl, pressing shells with back of a spoon; discard shells.
Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat; stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly until flour is caramel colored (about 8 to 10 minutes). Add onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, 5 to 7 minutes or until tender. Stir in Creole seasoning, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Add the tomato paste and stir until it is evenly coating all of the vegetables. Slowly add 2 cups shrimp broth, stirring constantly to create a thick sauce. Add the bay leaf, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook 10 minutes, stirring in ¼ to ½ cup remaining shrimp broth to reach desired consistency.
Meanwhile, bring milk, water, and salt to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Gradually stir in grits. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Serve Creole Shrimp over grits. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if desired.
Note: I found Creole seasoning at my local grocery store in the International aisle, in the Cajun section.