If you haven't tried grits before, now is your chance. It is a lot like polenta--in fact, sometimes it is hard to know the difference because of the various "quick" and convenience products you can buy. Hominy grits are made from cornmeal soaked in an alkaline solution to add nutrients. Masa harina, the cornmeal used to make tortillas, is made in a similar way. Polenta and corn grits do not get the alkaline treatment. By my observations, grits have a fluffier, "grittier" texture than polenta which is typically more smooth and pourable. I like quick-cooking polenta, and for grits I use Quaker Quick Grits (white hominy grits), not instant. I have also used finely ground masa harina as a substitute for both of them.
Now that I've done my best to make your head spin over the true nature of cornmeal products, I will get back to this recipe. Once you are past the southern roots, you'll see it is healthy (and low-calorie), super-quick to make (20 minutes, max) and very satisfying (the grits are flavored with Boursin cheese--mmm). Buy peeled and deveined shrimp, so all you have to do is pinch off their tails. I have made this with chopped tomatoes (both red and green, actually), but it looks so much prettier with the grape tomatoes. I also like their sweetness. Combining them with sauteed garlic and scallions results in an incredibly flavorful pan sauce for the shrimp.
This is one of my go-to dinners when I want something healthy and fast that does not involve feelings of deprivation. After the antipasto platter and tenderloin carpaccio salad I ate last night, that's sounding like a pretty good idea.
Shrimp n' Cheesy Grits
Adapted from a long lost copy of Shape magazine.
I am not giving exact quantities for the grits and chicken broth in this recipe because it will vary depending on what cornmeal product you use. Follow the package directions and make enough for 4 servings (it never hurts to make extra--they are addictive).
Serves 4 (cut in half for 2--leftovers don't hold up very well).
1 1/2 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
salt and pepper
low-sodium chicken broth
Fast-cooking grits (like Quaker Quick Grits)
8-10 scallions, finely sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/2 cup (4 oz.) Boursin Light cheese spread (Alouette cheese is also good), garlic and herb flavor
Add 1 tablespoon of the olive to a large skillet and heat to medium. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook, turning once, until done, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with any juices to a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, add the chicken broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Add the scallions and cook, stirring often for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the tomatoes are slightly wilted. Stir in the shrimp and remove from heat.
You can start the grits while you cook the scallion-tomato mixture, or you can wait until the veggies are done and give your full attention to the grits. You should have them finished in 7 minutes or less. Use the package cooking time as a guide, but most grits thicken very quickly. If they don't taste done, add more liquid (hot water is fine) and keep stirring. This is how I do it: Using a whisk (this is the best tool to avoid clumps), pour the grits into the boiling chicken broth in a slow stream, whisking as you pour. Whisk constantly and turn the heat to the lowest setting as soon as the liquid starts bubbling again to avoid hot, splattering grits. Keep whisking until the mixture starts to thicken. When you reach a thick consistency, stir in the cheese. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you like. Remove from heat. You can cover the grits to keep them warm for a few minutes if you need to finish the rest of the meal.
Spoon the grits onto four plates and top with one-fourth of the shrimp mixture. Serve immediately.
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