Shrimp and Grits at the demo (after a few folks had tucked into it)
Celebrity Chef Ric Orlando, currently of New World Catering and formerly of “Chopped”, demo’d this recipe at the 2014 Saratoga Wine & Food Festival. I asked him if I could share the recipe and he gave me a list of ingredients on a card. It’s somewhat different than what I saw prepared and I’ve modified to my best recollection, which is why it’s “after” Ric Orlando. The ingredient list is long, but this is a very improvisational dish so feel to add or leave out ingredients depending on what you have on hand. Serves 8.
1/2 c polenta or grits
1/2 c heavy cream (optional)
2 c water
Butter, a couple pats
1 lb raw shrimp with shells on
2 T olive oil
1/2 c chopped celery
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
1 t cracked red pepper
A little chopped andouille, Spanish chorizo or other spicy dry sausage, maybe 1/4 lb
Pernod or other anise liqueur, a couple of capfuls
3 T “Cajun seasoning” (a prepared spice blend Ric says is optional, or can be replaced by another blend of your choice)
2 T chopped parsley
1 t dried thyme or 1 T fresh thyme leaves
Dash of Crystal or Tabasco
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 c tomato juice
1/2 c scallions, green and white parts, cut lengthwise into shreds
1 c heavy cream (optional)
Salt to taste
Shrimp Whipped Cream:
Reserved shrimp shells (see Method)
1/4 c Pernod or dry white wine
1 T butter
1 T minced shallots
1/4 c tomato paste
2 c heavy cream
Ric Orlando at his demo station
Method: First, make the grits/polenta. Bring 2 c water to boil and slowly add 1/2 c grits. Turn down heat to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, till grits have absorbed most of the water. Taste and add salt and pepper as you like; add cream (or leave it out) and butter; continue cooking till all liquid has absorbed and grits have cooked to a stiff paste, about 15 minutes total.
Meanwhile, peel and devein the shrimp (if necessary; many of today’s unpeeled shrimp come deveined), leaving on the tails. Discard veins and place the shells in a small saucepan with 1/4 c white wine or Pernod and 1 T minced shallots. Simmer 10 minutes until shrimp shells turn bright pink.
Meanwhile, make a “Cajun mirepoix” of chopped green pepper, celery and onion, about 1/3 c of each, never carrots. Saute in a little olive oil in a small saucepan until vegetables lose their crispness. Add the dried ingredients then the tomato sauce and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors, adding other ingredients as you go but reserving the scallions. Finish with the cream, if using it. The goal is to create a rich, flavorful sauce for the shrimp.
Meanwhile, lightly sauté the shrimp in a little olive oil and butter mixed until they just become pink. Pour the gravy over them and mix, taste again and add salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with a few strands of scallion.
To make the shrimp whipped cream: strain out the shrimp shells shallots and mix the wine/Pernod with tomato paste and cream. (At our demo, Ric also poured in a bit of strained gravy as I recall.) Whip by hand or use a siphon if you have one.
To assemble the dish: spoon out a bed of grits on individual plates or a shared serving dish; add shrimp in their sauce; put a dollop of whipped cream on the top of each serving. Serve immediately.
NOTE: if you’re counting, that’s 1/2 c cream for each person. This is one reason people think the food in restaurants is better than what they eat at home. I feel like the cream in the whipped cream is ample and if people want an extra rich taste they can just stir it into their gravy.