Fresh Corn Grits with Shrimp & Roasted Pecan Butter

Another Easter weekend food tradition in our family is to eat shrimp and grits as a celebration of one of our favorite places- Charleston, South Carolina. The spring sunshine reminds me of how lovely it is there. It is a particularly special place for us because it’s where my husband and I met. ❤ Charleston is also an incredible food city.

I really like the story behind this amazing version. Apparently, it was created on Top Chef season 5 by Jeff McInnis, owner of Miami’s Yardbird restaurant. He was challenged to create a shrimp and grits dish without using grits. He made fresh corn “grits” using fresh corn, but, the best part was that he incorporated pecan butter in the grits because of a memory of eating fresh nut butter from his grandmother’s pecan tree. The fresh nut butter put this dish over the top. Delicious. I wish that I had the imagination to dream up a dish like this one.

This was my husband’s favorite shrimp and grits (thus far), and I’ve made quite a few versions. I pointed out that it may be because this dish didn’t actually have grits. 🙂 This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Jeff McInnis. I increased the amount of fresh corn in the grits and slightly increased the amount of prosciutto. Next time, I may reduce the amount of lager. I may increase the amount of grits as well- we wanted more!

Yield: Serves 4

For the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • coarse salt, to taste

For the Grits:

  • 6 large ears of corn, shucked and coarsely grated on a box grater (2 cups pulp and juice)
  • 1/4 cup milk, plus more for stirring/serving, as desired
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • roasted pecan butter (about 1/4 cup), directions below

For the Shrimp Sauté:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 to 4 ounces thinly sliced country ham or prosciutto, cut into strips
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup lager, to taste (I used 1 cup but may reduce it next time)
  • lemon wedges, for serving, optional

Make the Roasted Pecan Butter:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roast the pecans about 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Process toasted pecans in a mini food processor with canola oil until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  4. Season with salt to taste.

Make the Grits:

  1. In a saucepan, simmer the grated corn and juices with the 1/4 cup of milk over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, 4 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the pecan butter; keep warm.

Make the Shrimp Sauté:

  1. In a large, deep skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter.
  2. Add the prosciutto and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, snap peas and corn, season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just begin to curl, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the lager and bring to a boil.
  6. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes.
  7. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

To Serve:

  1. Whisk a little milk into the grits so it’s the consistency of polenta; heat until warm.
  2. Spoon the grits into shallow bowls, top with the shrimp sauté and serve at once.
  3. Serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

One Year Ago: Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

Two Years Ago: Classic Shrimp & Grits

Three Years Ago: Shrimp with Fresh Corn Grits

Four Years Ago: Shrimp & Grits with Tomatoes

Five Years Ago: Hominy Grill’s Shrimp & Grits

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Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole

The plus side (supposedly!) of the original recipe for this dish from Martha Stewart was that it was a vegetarian casserole without cheese. After seeing an adaptation on Kirkley Crossing, I added fresh mozzarella. :/ Cheese makes everything better! I added fresh spinach too.

I made the polenta but did use jarred marinara as a shortcut. We enjoyed it with a green salad. Cheesy vegetarian casseroles are perfect comfort food in cold weather!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Polenta:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking)
  1. Mix one cup of liquid with the cornmeal and stir. This prevents the cornmeal from lumping when added to the boiling liquid.
  2. Bring the remaining stock to a boil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot and add the salt and pepper.
  3. To the boiling stock, pour the cornmeal slurry in a steady stream, stirring constantly until completely added.
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until done, about 30 to 40 minutes. When done, polenta will pull away from the sides of the pot and will be soft in texture.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and finish as desired. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Pour onto a greased half-sheet pan and refrigerated until cool and firm. (I coated the sheet pan with cooking oil spray.)

For the Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole:

  • 24 oz jar (3 cups) marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine- delicious!)
  • 1 batch Polenta (recipe above)
  • 2 large handfuls organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary
  • coarse salt
  • 1 medium eggplant, preferably organic, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 pound (16 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Slice polenta into squares about 1/2 inch thick. (I cut mine into 24 pieces.) Brush lightly with olive oil. Place in the skillet until lightly browned. Flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the skillet until nicely browned, flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce into a 9-inch square baking dish, spreading to coat evenly. Arrange eggplant slices snugly in a single layer. (I used 9 slices per layer.)
  6. Top each round with a sprinkling of spinach (1 large handful) and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Top with a layer of polenta.
  8. Spoon about 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce over the top. Repeat with another layer of eggplant, spinach, cheese, and polenta. Finish by dotting with remaining tomato sauce.
  9. Cover with foil; place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and juicy, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove foil; place on upper rack in the oven and continue baking until sauce is lightly caramelized and eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from oven; let cool slightly, and serve.

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Five Years Ago:

Seared Scallops & Cauliflower Grits

With the sunshine and warmer weather, an Easter weekend tradition in our house is to celebrate our love (and the food!) of the beautiful South Carolina Low Country. I usually serve a version of the classic Low Country dish, Shrimp and Grits, but, this year tried this scallop and cauliflower grits adaptation. We absolutely loved it!

This recipe was adapted from Joel Gamoran, Sur La Table National Chef, via Sur la Table.com. I puréed the vegetables instead of juicing them for the sauce, used riced cauliflower, and doubled the garlic. Amazing.

Yield: Makes 4 Servings

For the Cauliflower Grits:

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds riced cauliflower
  • 1 to 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

For the Scallops:

  • 2 medium whole tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons canola or grape seed oil
  • 16 sea scallops, patted dry
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Prepare the Cauliflower Grits: In the microwave, steam the riced cauliflower for 4 minutes, or until very tender.
  2. Combine the steamed cauliflower with Parmesan, garlic, and enough cream cheese to achieve desired consistency.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
  4. Prepare the Scallops: Combine the tomatoes, pepper and carrot in a Vitamix, food processor, or blender. Puree.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Season scallops with salt and pepper and add to pan in one layer. Sear the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until golden. Remove scallops to a platter.
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and add remaining oil to skillet.
  8. Add shallot and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and smoked paprika and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.
  10. Slowly whisk in puréed vegetables and bring to a boil.
  11. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  12. To serve: Serve scallops on top of cauliflower grits with sauce spooned on top. Garnish with scallions and extra black pepper, as desired.

One Year Ago:

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Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Classic Shrimp & Grits

This is a simple, classic, and perfect version of this fabulous southern dish. As a tradition in our house, we eat Shrimp and Grits over Easter weekend. It is absolutely delicious and can be served for any meal of the day. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Crook’s Corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, via Saveur. I used large shrimp and increased the amount of garlic and mushrooms. I also omitted the oil and used Sriracha instead of Tabasco. The shrimp tasted incredible after being sautéed in the bacon fat. Mmmmm. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 cup white or yellow stone-ground grits
  • 3⁄4 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar
  • 1⁄4 cup parmesan
  • 2 T unsalted butter, divided
  • coarse salt
  • 2 T olive or canola oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled with tails intact
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges or slices
  • 1⁄2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Tabasco
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  1. In a 2-qt. saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. (I incorporated 1 cup of chicken stock.)
  2. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. (Whisk in more water for thinner grits.)
  3. Whisk in cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon of butter and season with salt; cover and set aside.
  4. Heat a 12″ skillet over medium heat.
  5. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
  6. Season shrimp with salt and pepper.
  7. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  8. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes.
  9. Add garlic and cook until golden, 1 minute.
  10. Raise heat to high, add chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute.
  12. Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and its sauce.
  13. Garnish each bowl with bacon, scallions, and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

One Year Ago:

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Three Years Ago:

Fried Chicken Thighs & Cheesy Grits

My husband’s dream Valentine’s Day dinner has to involve fried chicken. ❤ Weeks earlier, I had seen this recipe in Bon Appetit and thought it would be perfect for our celebration… The problem was that I didn’t remember where I had seen my perfect recipe. :/ I had to search far and wide to finally track it down. Thankfully, that happened in time!

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alison Roman. I used coarse yellow grits and added additional water and milk until the desired consistency was achieved. I also used a combination of baby kale, chard and spinach for the sautéed greens. My husband didn’t want hot pepper jelly (can you believe it?) so I didn’t add it to the greens while they were cooking. I added it to my plate at the end! (Tons of it!)

We ate this dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for any meal of the day- brunch too. 🙂 Absolutely Delicious!!

AND… I almost forgot… We had my homemade version of the best-selling Momofuku Milk Bar Crack Pie as our grand finale. What a meal. 🙂

Yield: Serves 4

For the Chicken:

  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs

For the Grits:

  • coarse salt
  • 1½ cups white or yellow grits (not instant)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • milk, as needed, to achieve the desired consistency

For Frying And Assembly:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 T unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby kale, chard and spinach or 2 bunches kale, or Swiss chard, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T distilled white vinegar
  • 1 T hot pepper jelly, plus more for serving (I used Trader Joe’s)

Marinade the Chicken:

  1. Combine buttermilk, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, and paprika in a large bowl or large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken thighs, cover bowl or seal bag, and toss to coat. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours. (I did 12 hours.)

Make the Grits:

  1. Bring 4 cups salted water to a boil and gradually add grits, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking occasionally, until grits are very tender and creamy, 25–30 minutes. Add cream cheese and Parmesan; whisk until melted and incorporated; season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve. Add more water or milk to adjust the consistency as needed.

For Frying And Assembly:

  1. Whisk flour, cayenne, garlic powder, paprika, and 2 tsp. salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Remove chicken thighs from brine, letting excess drip off.
  3. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture, occasionally dipping your fingers in brine as you pack on flour to help create moistened, shaggy bits (the makings of a super-crisp crust); transfer to a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Fit a large cast-iron skillet with thermometer and heat oil until thermometer registers 350°.
  5. Working in batches and returning oil to 350° between batches, fry chicken thighs, turning occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and coating is deep golden brown and crisp, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and let sit while you cook the greens.
  6. Heat butter or olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add greens in large handfuls, letting it cook down slightly before adding more and tossing to coat. Season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 Tbsp. pepper jelly and toss to coat, if desired.
  7. Divide grits evenly among bowls and top with greens, fried chicken, and more pepper jelly.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Scallops and Polenta

I have a soft spot for quick, easy, and pretty comfort food dishes! This dish is very reminiscent of one of our household favorites- shrimp and grits. Traditionally, we make that special dish from Charleston, South Carolina at Easter-time. Maybe this version should be our fall variation! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, via The Gourmet Gourmand. We ate it with sautéed broccoli rabe and broccoli on the side. Lovely!

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup dried polenta (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand; do NOT use instant polenta for this recipe)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano (I also added a little bit of shredded Gruyère)
  • 8 sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • 3 T grape seed oil
  • 1 1/2 T unsalted butter
  • 2 sprigs of fresh herbs such as oregano, parsley, and/or thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare polenta:

  1. Bring water and 1/4 tsp salt to a boil. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.) While whisking, slowly add the polenta. Whisk frequently to avoid lumps. When mixture begins to spit, turn heat down to simmer (polenta should intermittently bubble and pop, but not rapidly).
  2. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until polenta is thickened and soft and pulls away slightly from the edge of the pot. Add the grated cheese and season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and about 1/4 tsp of salt.

To prepare scallops and sauce:

  1. Pat your scallops dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a regular or cast-iron skillet, bring the grape seed oil to high heat. When pan is very hot, add scallops and sear for about 3 minutes. Flip the scallops and sear on the opposite side for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until scallops are cooked to your liking. Remove scallops and set aside.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until butter is lightly browned and smells nice and nutty. Turn off heat. Finish sauce with lemon juice (carefully! It will bubble and spit). Quickly pour into bowl or serving vessel to stop the cooking process. (It can be strained through a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, if desired.)
  4. Serve scallops over bed of polenta, with a drizzle of the brown-butter sauce and minced herbs.

Note: Cooking the scallops in oil vs. butter allows you to sear them at a higher temperature for optimal sear marks and will give you more control over creating your browned butter sauce without burning the butter.

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If you like this you may also like:

Pesto Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes

This is a fast full-flavored dish. Healthy too! I always forget about how much I enjoy creamy polenta. 🙂 We ate it for dinner but it would also be wonderful for brunch.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Todd Porter and Diane Cu. I increased the salt, doubled the tomatoes, and made homemade pesto. The pesto recipe is from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Tasty!

Yield: Serves 3 (in my house!) or 4

For the Pesto: (Makes about 1 cup)

  • 2 loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
  • coarse salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 T pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino Romano

For the Dish:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used Campari)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup pesto

To Make the Pesto:

  1. Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, the garlic, the nuts, and about half of the oil in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the rest of the oil gradually.
  3. Add more oil if you prefer a thinner mixture. (Sometimes I add a little bit of stock instead to achieve the same result.)
  4. Stir in the cheese.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. (I use a cast iron pot.) While whisking, gradually pour the polenta into the water.
  2. Reduce the heat to simmer or low and continue whisking for an additional minute.
  3. Continue cooking for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot.
  4. Remove the polenta from the heat when it is tender and creamy and has reached your desired thickness.
  5. Stir the salt and butter into the polenta until the butter is melted.
  6. Scoop polenta out onto plates. Top each with about 1/4 cup pesto. Divide tomatoes among plates. Serve. (We individually mixed together all of the ingredients before digging in!)

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