Creole Shrimp and Pimiento Cheese Grits

Creole Shrimp and Pimiento Cheese Grits

Creole Shrimp and Pimiento Cheese Grits

(courtesy of Alex Downing, chef de cuisine, The Club at Rancharrah in Reno. Serves 4)

Pimiento cheese

2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
2, 4-ounce jars diced pimientos, drained well
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until well combined, slightly thickened, but still somewhat chunky. Let the mixture rest in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes.

Pimiento cheese grits

1 cup white grits
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 knobs of butter (a knob is a lump — about 1 to 2 tablespoons each)
½ cup pimiento cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Once pimiento cheese has rested in the refrigerator and is ready to use, combine grits, stock, cream, and butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Once it’s simmering, turn heat to low and continue stirring to avoid lumps, about 10 to 15 minutes for regular grits, or 3 to 5 minutes for quick grits. Fold in pimiento cheese and add salt and pepper, to taste.

Creole shrimp sauce

½ cup bacon, minced
2 andouille sausages, sliced
1 teaspoon butter
½ cup green bell pepper, diced
½ cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1, 12-ounce can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 bay leaf
Cajun seasoning, to taste (adjusting for desired heat level)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Gumbo filé, an herbal powder made from the dried, ground leaves of the sassafras tree (optional)

Add butter, andouille sausage, and minced bacon to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until bacon begins to brown but isn’t yet crispy. Turn heat to high and add onions, celery, and bell pepper. Sauté until fragrant (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes (carefully, as they may spatter). Stir and cook until sauce begins to darken and caramelize. Add chicken stock, bay leaf, Cajun seasoning, salt, and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Turn heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. If you like, remove from heat and mix in 1 teaspoon of gumbo filé powder for an extra-sweet, earthy flavor.

To assemble Creole shrimp and grits dish

1 pound 16/20 prawns
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning of choice
Pinch of baking soda
1 tablespoon olive oil
Optional: green onions, shredded Cheddar cheese, gumbo filé, and minced basil, for garnish

Pat shrimp very dry with a paper towel. Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan on high. Allow pan to heat until water droplets dance on the surface. Coat bottom with a high-smoke-point neutral oil, such as canola, lard, or ghee. Add shrimp, settling until all are lying flat. Allow to sear and develop a deep brown, almost charred crust on one side before turning heat to medium low and adding a few generous scoops of Creole shrimp sauce. Beware, the sauce may spatter; it’s a good idea to keep lid handy to prevent a mess. Simmer 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Serve immediately over pimiento cheese grits. If you like, garnish with chopped green onions, shredded cheese, gumbo filé, and minced basil.

And, as always, add more hot sauce.

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