Red Fork Hippie here, dishing up a warm, hearty way to begin or end a chilly January day: thick, buttery cheese grits spiked with bacon and topped with sauteed shrimp in a spicy roux.
Be forewarned: This ain’t diet food.
The recipe is a riff on an idea I swiped from my favorite Cajun restaurant, Chicory and Chives, which is an awesomely awesome place to have brunch on Saturday mornings, but which also happens to be several miles (and two or three construction zones) away from Red Fork, making it a less-than-ideal choice for weeknight dining.
Start by thawing a bag of peeled, deveined shrimp. Drain the shrimp and throw them in a big skillet with a couple of tablespoons of your favorite heat-stable cooking oil. Add spices in roughly the following proportions, adjusting to your personal taste as needed: about a teaspoon each of powdered cayenne and ground thyme; a tablespoon of file (powdered sassafrass); a very small pinch of ground nutmeg; a teaspoon or two of paprika; and a hefty sprinkling each of garlic powder, onion powder, and white pepper. Spritz the whole mess with a little lime juice and stir-fry gently over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
While the shrimp cooks, begin preparing four servings of instant grits according to the package directions.
The shrimp will begin to release liquid. At this point, melt two tablespoons of butter in a heavy skillet and stir in about the same amount of all-purpose flour. Brown the butter-flour mixture, stirring constantly, and remove from heat.
Once the shrimp is thoroughly pink, add the butter-flour mixture — a teaspoon or so at a time — to the shrimp, stirring between each addition, until the liquid begins to thicken. Stir again and remove from heat.
Cut two pieces of bacon into half-inch-long rectangles (a pair of kitchen shears will speed this process along), and cook over medium heat. When the grits finish cooking, add the cooked bacon, a couple of tablespoons of butter, a cup or so of shredded cheddar, and — if desired — a little chopped green onion or some chives.
To serve, split the grits between two big bowls and top each with half the shrimp. Serve with Louisiana hot sauce and maybe a little Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt. Mmmmm….