Channeling the Magic of Shrimp + Grits: Adapted Recipe
Confession: When I did my kitchen clean-out and pantry inventory at the start of designing my capsule kitchen, I discovered that I had two large, opened but mostly full bags of artisan grits and one large package of polenta. I think I had bought them for a specific recipe or a holiday brunch at some point or another and forgotten them. At that point we rarely incorporated grits into dinner and I think I had made polenta once. As I started using my existing pantry to add variety to my capsule, these grains became a delicious part of the regular rotation this summer.
I really want to use this recipe space on the blog to help teach you how to adapt recipes to fit what you have or use often. One of the fastest ways to blow through a grocery budget or have rarely used ingredients lurking in your pantry is to grocery shop with only one, specific recipe in mind.
I fell in love with Shrimp and Grits while in college in what might as well be the dish’s home state, South Carolina. It became one of my favorite special occasion meals to prepare. I even prepared it as a taste of the south for some friendly Airbnb hosts in Boston (although I had to use polenta because grits were nowhere to be found! What are grits!?!?)
I don’t buy shrimp very often both because I don’t like spending so much on one ingredient and there are only a few ways I like to prepare it. To me, this recipe satisfies the craving for Shrimp and Grits with a much more every-day list of ingredients. When I do make Shrimp and Grits, this is exactly how I make it! I just add shrimp when the sausage is added back to the pan and cook until the little guys are opaque.
There are dozens of ways that you can tweak this recipe to fit what you have. And even more ways to adapt it just for fun. Today I didn’t have any butter because the dog swiped almost a whole stick off the counter yesterday and olive oil worked fine. You could use any kind of sausage or even try something totally different like ham or mushrooms. I have deglazed the pan with just broth or beer instead of wine and I think it would also work to make a creamy version by using milk or cream. If you live in a place where grits are hard (or impossible) to find, polenta will give you basically the same effect. This is also good over rice, pasta, or thick garlic toast. I’d love to hear what you come up with! And I should mention that reading the comment sections of online recipes is a great way to develop a knack for adapting and tweaking recipes.
Smoked Chicken Sausage with Peppers, Onions, and Tomatoes over Garlic Cheese Grits
Olive oil OR butter
2 cloves garlic, one minced, one sliced
1 cup stone ground grits OR polenta
2 cups milk (optional OR cream)
2 cups water
½ cup shredded cheese (I love using smoked cheddar or gouda)
12 oz. or 1 regular sized pkg smoked chicken andouille sausage (most any kind of sausage could work OR mushrooms)
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 bell peppers
2 small tomatoes roughly chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp Cajun seasoning (optional)
½ cup white wine OR beer OR just broth
1 cup chicken broth OR any kind of broth OR bouillon with water
To make the grits, prepare them according to package instructions with a few key changes: You will replace half of the water required with milk. With my grits I used two cups water and two cups milk with one cup of uncooked grits. You will also heat garlic in the pot before you add the liquid. Start with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil in the pot where you will make the grits. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add one clove of garlic, minced. When the garlic begins to sizzle add the water and milk. When the liquid boils, add the grits and a tsp of salt, lower the heat to a low simmer, and cook uncovered until they reach the desired consistency (about 20 minutes). When the grits are done, turn off the heat and immediately stir in your cheese. You can also add butter, olive oil, and/or a bit more water or cream to adjust the consistency. Also taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
While the grits are cooking, prepare the sausage and peppers. In a large pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil or butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sausage and let them get well browned by only stirring every couple minutes or so. When the sausage is well browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt (if the sausage didn't leave very much fat, add a bit more olive oil or butter). Cook until the onion is translucent and beginning to sweat . Add the sliced garlic and peppers and cook until they begin to soften. Add the chopped tomatoes and as the liquid in the tomatoes loosens the stuck bits on the bottom of the pan, be sure to scrape up those yummy bits.
Cook the tomatoes for about a minute, until they begin to soften and release their liquid and then sprinkle the flour over the pan. This will thicken the sauce. Stir the flour in well and break up any globs until you have a nice, silky consistency. Cook for about a minute and then add the wine. Stir well and let the wine reduce for about 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let it cook to the desired consistency (There should be plenty of sauce and it should be thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. You can adjust by adding more broth if needed.) Add the sausage back to the pan until warmed through. Check the seasoning and add salt, pepper, or Cajun seasoning or hot sauce. Serve spooned over the grits. Finish with lemon juice, hot sauce, or fresh herbs.