Food For Thought

(Jan. 18, 2019) There is a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes when one cooks from scratch.

But in order to be truly successful, you have to delve into the intricacies of flavors, be able to distinguish the different cooking techniques and master the pairing of foods.

In addition, it takes experience to build confidence and master the art of presentation. But if one takes the time to analyze a recipe, you will discover its true essence and be able to incorporate your own personal style and point of view.

With that thought in mind, let us deconstruct the process of making grits. For those who are not familiar with the coarse meal made from maize (field corn), it has been a staple in southern diets for centuries.

First introduced by Native Americans in the 16th century, grits have been transformed from a traditional breakfast item into a sophisticated and intricate dish.

When searching the shelves for grits; just remember, not all grits are created alike. Bypass anything labeled “instant,” this means it has been par-cooked and will be lacking in that coveted corn flavor that is so characteristic of grits.

Stone-ground grits are made from whole dried corn kernels that have been coarsely ground the old-fashioned way between two stones of a grist mill.

Stone-ground grits are rich in corn flavor but take much longer to cook. The secret to these grits is to whisk often, this will help release starch for creamier grits.

Grits that are labeled “regular” or “old-fashioned” are a happy medium between instant and stone-ground. They cook quickly, taste great and are readily available in supermarkets.

The most basic grits recipe calls for simmering grits in water that has been seasoned with salt; three ingredients are as basic as it gets.

But does this recipe sound appealing? Do you think you would prepare this dish again? Would your guests ask for seconds? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, a revision of this recipe is necessary.

The number one rule when cooking grits is to cook them in some type of stock or flavored broth. In addition, this liquid must pair with the theme of your dish. Remember, the grits will absorb this developed flavor so it is imperative that the essence of the grits is a calculated choice.

Fresh garlic and aromatic shallots sweeten the pot of stock. Heavy cream and unsalted butter give the grits depth of flavor and a rich, velvety texture. A touch of water balances the broth where every ingredient simmer in harmony.

The stock is ready for the addition of the grits. Add the tiny bits of goodness and stir occasionally; otherwise, you will end up with a clumpy mess.

Distinction is not determined by being typical; it is defined by the continual pursuit of excellence. As appetizing as these grits sound, they need an added element that will set them apart and give them that wow factor.

Decadent Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is the perfect ingredient for fabulous grits. The king of cheese is known for its superior taste and is the final touch for the best tasting grits.

Shrimp and grits have graced menus across the country but are especially popular in the south. If this dish tickles your fancy, but you want to raise the flavor profile, consider Parmigiano-Reggiano grits topped with garlicky shrimp.

Tender, succulent shrimp nestled on a mound of hot, cheesy grits is delightful indeed. The beauty of this dish is it can be served as an amuse bouche, appetizer, or main course.

If you love shrimp and grits, you must give this recipe a try. Enjoy!

Parmigiano-Reggiano Grits

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 heads garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups chicken stock

1 cup water

1 cup grits

3 to 4 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

kosher salt to taste

Garlicky Shrimp

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 teaspoons minced garlic in a jar

½ cup dry white wine

¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon dried, crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 ½ pounds extra-large shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/3 cup chopped parsley, plus extra for garnishing

juice of a half lemon

zest of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour

1. For the grits - In a medium pot, melt butter with canola oil over medium-low heat. Add garlic and shallots and sauté for 5 minutes.

2. Add heavy cream, chicken stock and water and continue simmering for another 5 minutes.

3. Bring mixture to a boil, add grits, and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook 12 to 14 minutes, occasionally stirring.

4. Turn off heat, add cheese and salt and mix until grits and cheese are completely blended. Cover until ready to use. (The grits may get a little thick after sitting, simply add a touch of cream).

5. For the shrimp - In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. Add wine, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Let wine reduce by half.

6. Add shrimp and sauté until they just turn pink. Stir in parsley, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook for another two minutes and add Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour to thicken the sauce. Remove pan from the stove.

7. Presentation – Spoon grits on a serving plate, top with shrimp and garnish with chopped parsley.

Secret Ingredient – Diligence. “Every noble work is at first impossible.”

– Thomas Carlyle

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