Recipe from Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook
Author Perre Coleman Magness (The Runaway Spoon), on Pimento Shrimp and Cheddar Grits:
The classic “Shrimp and Grits” originated in the South Carolina low country, but the concept has spread throughout the South, with as many variations as there are cooks who make it.
Pimento Shrimp and Cheddar Grits
Featured Recipe From: Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook - 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite
Yield: Serves 4
2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 1⁄2 teaspoons kosher salt
Several grinds of black pepper
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1⁄4 teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (I prefer fresh Gulf shrimp or frozen wild American shrimp)
6 bacon slices, cut into small pieces
One 4-ounce jar sliced pimentos, with their liquid
3⁄4 cup chopped scallions, white, light green, and a little dark green (from a big bunch)
One 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
About 1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
A quarter of a large lemon
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Cook the Grits: In a deep-sided large pan (grits tend to spatter) over medium-high heat, stir together the broth, cream, and butter until the butter has melted and all the ingredients have come to a low boil. Stir in the grits, salt, and black pepper and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. The grits should be tender and the liquid absorbed. You may add a bit more broth if needed. Stir in the grated cheese, a handful at a time, until it has melted and is smooth before adding the next handful.
When cooked, the grits can be kept, covered, for an hour or so, then slowly reheated over low heat, stirring in a little extra broth as needed.
Cook the Shrimp: Mix together the paprika, mustard, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a plate. Sprinkle the spice mix liberally over both sides of the shrimp, turning them over to make sure they get a good coating. Place the plate of shrimp in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
When the shrimp are ready, sauté the bacon pieces in a wide skillet over medium-high until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Carefully pour the bacon grease into a small bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons of grease back into the skillet and heat over medium-high. Add the shrimp and sear briefly—just a few seconds per side—to seal in the spice mixture; you do not want to cook the shrimp through. Transfer the shrimp to a clean plate, or you can scoot the bacon to one side and use the same plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add more bacon grease to the skillet so that you have about 4 tablespoons, then drop in the pimentos and the scallions. Sauté until the pimentos and scallions are soft. As they release some liquid, you can scrape the tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
While the vegetables are cooking, drain most of the juice from the tomatoes into a measuring cup. You can just hold the top of the can askew and drain out what you can—no need to dirty a strainer. Add enough chicken broth to the tomato liquid to make 1 cup and set aside.
When the vegetables are soft, add the tomatoes to the skillet and cook until the tomatoes are heated through and start to soften, breaking up any large pieces. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. There should not be any white flour visible. Pour in the tomato liquid and broth mixture and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat a little and let the liquid bubble away until it is nice and thick, stirring to avoid scorching. Squeeze over the juice from the lemon quarter, making sure you’ve removed seeds, and stir in. Add the shrimp to the skillet, cover, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. You can add a bit more broth if you would like a saucier version.
Serve: Spoon the grits into four shallow bowls and spoon over the shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle over the crispy bacon pieces and chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
Reprinted by permission from Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook by Perre Magness (St. Martin’s Griffin, September October 2014; $21.99/Hardcover; ISBN-13; 978-1250047298), http://us.macmillan.com/publishers/st-martins-press