Monday, October 20, 2014

Shrimp and Grits (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Gluten-free, dairy-free shrimp and grits.
Being a northerner, grits have never been part of my regular diet. However, a few years ago while visiting my in-laws who have retired in the foothills of east Tennessee, I had the fortunate opportunity to try the fabled southern classic dish shrimp and grits. It was delicious, but because grits aren't on my radar as something to cook regularly, I didn't ever consider making them for dinner -  until tonight.

Shrimp happened to be on sale last week so I picked up a pound and thought I'd make one of my regular shrimp go-tos like scampi. But today, as I was thinking about what to make, the idea of shrimp and grits popped into my head and sounded FABULOUS.

In case you didn't know, grits is a dish made from cornmeal. It's known in Italian cooking as polenta (yet still my Mom isn't a fan, although she grew up in her mother and father's Italian kitchen). And in other circles it's called by it's least appetizing name, "mush."  

Shrimp and grits became popular in the south near fishing communities, especially near Charleston, South Carolina, where the shrimp were plenty and the grits were cheap, particularly during shrimping season, May through December. Traditionally there is bacon fat involved, and while there's nothing wrong with that at all, sometimes you want something lighter (not that creamy grits could be considered light, but you know what I mean!). There are as many recipes for shrimp and grits as there are variations of minestrone soup in Italian-cooking land. With the emergence of special dietary needs, there are an ever-growing number of shrimp and grits recipes. My recipe is my own creation today.

If you're already a grits fan, you may prefer your grits a bit more on the runny side, but I like mine thicker. Feel free to add more liquid to your version and make it your own!

Also, these all happen to be ingredients that I almost always have on hand, including homemade shrimp stock/broth. To make a basic shrimp stock, peel raw shrimp and toss the legs and shells into a stock pot with whatever veggie scraps you have in your freezer. I save all my carrot peels and ends, onion and garlic skins and ends, celery leaves, potato skins, and so on in a gallon-sized freezer bag adding to it every night in the freezer and once every couple of weeks use them with whatever protein I have to make a stock. In this case it's shrimp shells and legs. Cover with water to the top of the pot and boil for about 45-60 minutes. I choose not to add salt so that I can salt any subsequent dish as I cook it, instead of the broth itself. Strain the liquid, cool, and freeze in various small containers.

In a pinch you can use gluten-free shrimp or fish stock in a can, but obviously homemade is best, and when made with the veggie scraps, costs nothing because you would have thrown those scraps in the garbage, anyway!

Now, on with the recipe.

Shrimp and Grits

4 1/2 - 5 Cups homemade or gluten-free canned shrimp stock
1 1/4 cup gluten-free cornmeal
3/4 coconut milk (full fat, in the can - this is what will give your dairy-free grits the creamy, rich consistency that this dish is known for)
1 lb. shrimp, raw, peeled, deveined, tail on (I use 16/20 size, but you can use whatever medium size you prefer)
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red (or green) jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
juice of one-half a small lemon (do NOT use that nasty stuff in the yellow plastic fake thing; yuck)
2 tablespoons fresh, flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (Yes! It's gluten free!)
2 teaspoons granulated garlic, or two cloves chopped fresh garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons tapioca starch or flour

Method - 
For Grits:

Mix cornmeal with 1 1/4 cup cold shrimp stock in a bowl. Bring 2 cups shrimp stock to a boil and add cornmeal mixture, plus 1 teaspoon salt, several cracks of freshly ground pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon over medium heat for 5-7 minutes until thick. If you prefer your grits looser, add more stock. Add coconut milk, incorporating well. Remove from heat. Taste and add more seasonings (salt, pepper, Old Bay) to taste.

For Shrimp:
Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and jalapeno pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent and just starting to brown around the edges. Add shrimp, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons Old Bay, garlic, and freshly ground black pepper. Saute 3-5 minutes depending on the size of your shrimp, until cooked. Mix in lemon juice and and parsley. While the shrimp cooks, mix remaining cold shrimp stock (about 1 C) with 1 tablespoon tapioca starch to form a slurry. When shrimp is cooked, add the slurry and stir constantly until boiling. If the sauce isn't as thick as you like it, quickly combine remaining 1 tablespoon tapioca starch with a few tablespoons of cold water and mix into the sauce until it thickens. Season to taste with more salt, pepper and Old Bay. Serve in bowls over grits with plenty of sauce.