Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Snakes on a Plane for Dinner

WARNING: Every single thing mentioned in this post is not for the faint of heart. As in, everything that follows is potentially bad for - could STOP - your heart, cold. Read on at your own risk!

Maybe you managed to resist the impulse to see that certain movie starring Samuel L. Jackson he claims he participated in on the strength of the title alone... "Snakes - On a Plane!".

The cinematic equivalent of a TV commercial hawker promising breathlessly, incredulously, "But wait - there's MORE!!", the phrase "snakes on a plane" quickly morphed into family shorthand for "over the top".

This could be over the top bad, as in "wait - it gets worse, he didn't just wreck his car...", or over the top good. That honor used to go to the phrase "poison tigers" which was old and tired and ready to rest. (You're welcome, poison tigers!)

Certainly for every one of the (very) many who watched the movie because they thought nothing could be worse than being trapped inside an airplane with dozens of poisonous snakes there was somebody else who watched it with a shiver of delight because hell yeah!, nothing beats snakes - on a plane, baby!! (except snakes on a plane battled by the iconic Samuel L. Jackson).

What you are legitimately wondering now, does this have to do with food or fun?  Sit tight my children and I will tell you.

Cheese Grits! But wait, there's more!!

Cheese Grits with Shrimp!

Worth the ride right there, sure, but hold on - I am not finished yet.

Cheese Grits. With Shrimp... Cooked.......


BACON FAT!!!!If that thud I just heard was your jaw hitting the keyboard, I feel you. I saw this recipe in the Serious Eats "Dinner Tonight" column by Nick Kindelsperger and realized that whether or not I already had most of the ingredients on hand (which I did - go figure!) I would be making this for dinner and, PRONTO!So I did.  It did not disappoint dear hearts. It most certainly did not.

The original recipe calls for cooking bacon then using the "oil" (seriously - we are pretending that stuff coming out of cooking bacon is oil and not fat?) to cook shrimp in right before you throw the shrimp, the crumbled bacon and some chopped scallions back on top of the (had me at cheese) grits.

I didn't actually have bacon handy but honey chile, my Momma grew up in Virginia, OK? As in "Yes, Virginia, we DO all have a jar with bacon fat sitting in our refrigerator".  And I do.  When I want to quick sizzle something extra delicious style I have the best sizzle maker there is readily available - bacon fat.I followed the recipe as written with the exception of actually cooking bacon to get my "oil" which also meant no crumbled bacon to throw back on top. Maybe because I was already delirious at the prospect of bacon fat cooked shrimp for dinner, I tossed a few red pepper flakes into the hot "oil" right before I put the shrimp in to cook. 

And, yes, whatever you call it, once you use bacon fat/grease/drippings/oil to cook something, you elevate that something to an entirely new, over the top, snakes on a plane level of rich sumptious porky fat goodness.  When you are already talking about something as delicious as shrimp, sugar, now you got yourself a little somethin' somethin' goin' on, you hear?

Yuppers, this dinner would have been celestial alignment delicious with the crumbled bacon pieces added on top but trust me when I tell you it didn't even need to go there. What we ended up with was one of the most delicious and inexpensive dinners we've shared hereabouts. This bowl of shrimpy, cheesy, bacony goodness prompted a spontaneous "You can fix this for dinner any time you want" from the Hub.

No higher praise than that.

Granted, he had to speak up to be heard over the sounds of our arteries slapping shut, but nothing's perfect.We had a lovely salad, dressed up with gorgeous organic grapefruit sections, alongside the grits. The salad also features scallions and arugula from our own garden but more on that in a moment. We can eat salad for a week after to make up for this bit of cardiac clogging, ok? Ok! (note I state we "can" eat salad for a week, not that we "will". Just stating the possible, not making any promises...).

A couple of notes before I close. Long ago and far away I got a tip from Andrea Meyers, Instructional Designer, Education Consultant, Mom, blogger and cook extraordinaire, about taking the root tips of the scallions you buy at the store and planting them in your garden rather than tossing them on the compost pile. I have been carefully doing so for a while now, and have several stands of scallions in the back garden beds. Now when I want a pile of yummy green oniony tops for a dish?I just haul myself out back with the shears and smugly get to clipping. I hear you can do the same with leeks although I haven't successfully pulled that off yet (or else I've lost track of where I planted that leek root...things are getting a little busy back there true enough.).I also harvested arugula we planted earlier this Fall for our salad. Anything for another opportunity to say "It doesn't get much more fresh or local than this!"*. That also means this dinner with the two dishes using scallions and the salad using both scallions and arugula grown in our garden, qualifies to be featured in Andrea's Grow Your Own Roundup for February. You can get the details about GYO here.

[*Yes. I am that person. Deal with it.]

Do give this wickedly simple and decidedly delicious dish a try on your own. Maybe even while watching "Snakes on a Plane". Just be careful about having a spoonful in your hand in case watching the movie makes you jump. You won't want to lose one iota. For those of you who are sure your cholesterol numbers are low, I can be all business too. Here is a suitable-for-printing version of the original recipe:Shrimp and Grits with Bacon  - serves 4 -
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups milk
3 cups water
1 cup grits
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, finely grated
8 ounces bacon, chopped
20 medium to large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup scallion, chopped
Salt and pepper

1. Add the butter and olive oil to a saucepan set over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Turn the heat to high and pour in the milk and water. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in the grits. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes. When done, dump in the cheese and stir until it is melted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Add the bacon to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook until golden browned and crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour out all but 3 tablespoons of the oil.

3. Set the skillet back over medium-high heat and when nearly smoking, add the shrimp. Cook until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.

4. Scoop some of the cheese grits into a bowl and top with the shrimp, chopped bacon, and scallions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


PassivePastry said...

this looks amazing!
i love love love cheesy grits.... and with shrimp... and bacon fats?? my mouth is watering.

TexasDeb said...

PPastry: You know what? My mouth is STILL watering and we had this two nights ago. Sadly only some of the grits were left over, we snarfed the shrimp right up. I'd meant to set a few aside but....let's just say I didn't and leave it at that.

Andrea's Recipes (Grow Your Own) said...

My mother had a bacon grease jar (as did my grandmothers). I had one until M found out about it and tossed it. *heavy sigh* His cholesterol just can't take it. I, on the other hand, would be all over this. So many things I like in one bowl.