Finally Friday: shrimp and (cheesy) grits
December 2, 2016
It’s almost embarrassing to admit this but I buy my shrimp from Safeway. My Asian card just caught flame. But there’s a good reason, I swear! One, the nearest Asian market is 99 Ranch and that parking lot is, if possible, as terrible to navigate as any parking lot in Rowland Heights back in Southern California. I’d rather walk to the store. Except it’s ten miles away so that’s not happening either. Two, their shrimp are deveined! This was revelatory.
I can devein shrimp, I’m good at it. Or rather my 13-year-old, pre-fibromyalgia hands were great at it. Now? Hah! I save my fine motor control for things like not slicing off more than just the tip of my finger. That’s not hyperbole, by the way, I did slice off the tip of my index finger two weeks ago. It got better.
Anyway, shrimp from Safeway, saving fingertips, and even more importantly, time across America!
(If you don’t know why I’m mocking myself, it’s because I’m probably the only person in my family who buys their seafood from a not Asian market. Growing up in Southern California nearish to LA meant that Asian markets abounded and growing up in a traditional immigrant family meant we never cooked anything but our home country cuisines. And no non-Asian market carried Asian food fixings beyond soy sauce, so we always always always went to an Asian market. And stopped by for a passel of banh mi on the way home.
My shrimp were destined for a decidedly non-Asian ending though, because I adore this dish!
I keep this one super simple, just as it was intended.
1 cup polenta (grits)
3 cups water
Swish of salt
Half a small onion, halved again and sliced
Several cloves of garlic
1/2 pound of shrimp, deveined, shelled
Doing it right
Boil 3 cups of water, swish your salt in, and when it’s boiling, stir in the cup of polenta. Let it boil at medium to low heat, stirring every 20-40 seconds to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot. This is something I forget every other time I make it and end up scraping regret off the pot. Actually no, I cheat and boil water with some baking soda which lifts off almost all burnt-on guck. So don’t burn your grits.
Mince your garlic and slice the onion while the grits are cooking, unless you’re smart and/or had a sous chef do this already. I shooed my sous chef away to chase JuggerBaby around so I had to do the dirty work. Toss garlic and onions into a hot pan and let them cook for a few minutes. You could also toss in your tomatoes now, if you’d diced any. I always err on the side of cooking a little longer at this stage because I don’t want raw onions or overcooked shrimp when I realize I’m going to have raw onions. Because the next step is tossing on the shrimp and on medium heat shrimp cooks through really fast. I hate overcooked shrimp, it’s rubbery and awful. As soon as your shrimp are starting to curl up and the split deveined side turns outward, it’s nearly done. Usually it goes from translucent to solid white too but some don’t, and you don’t want to overcook it seeking that solid white. A few minutes will do the trick.
In the meantime, your grits. Once the pot is hot and smooth when you’re stirring, it’s just about done. If you want (and I usually do), throw in your cheese at this point, stir it well so none is sitting on top and turn off the heat. It’ll thicken in no time. (Actual time: one to two minutes)
To serve: a generous dollop of your cheesy grits on a plate, with a little hollow for your grilled onions and shrimp on top.
I added a handful of too-crispy, slightly burnt kale chips to our plates for our brown-greens. Still edible but those should have come out if the oven a few minutes earlier.
Total time to serve: 45 minutes, and only that long because I was poky and inefficient. Normally I’d have gotten it served in 25-30 minutes.