Abita Brewery’s new cookbook, Abita Beer: Cooking Louisiana True, stimulated my appetite as I thumbed through it this week. It features recipes contributed by chefs, home cooks, and the brewery folks. Today’s trip to the farmer’s market yielded a pound of fresh shrimp and red onions grown right here in St. Charles parish–inspiring me to rustle up a brunch of shrimp and grits.
The cookbook’s shrimp and grits recipe was contributed by Emeril’s NOLA restaurant, and it reads like a typical recipe straight off the kitchen line, calling for multiple items requiring their own ingredients and recipes. Sorry, Mr. Lagasse: I’m a home cook, and I’m not going to cook a half pound of bacon, make a spice mixture, smoke cremini mushrooms over applewood, grill green onions, make an Abita beer glaze, cook a pot of grits with butter, cream, and smoked cheddar, and then whip up a buerre blanc, all for one dish–and all before I actually cook the dish itself. But I did make the Abita “beer-b-cue” glaze as described in the NOLA recipe, and I winged the rest. A short trip out the back door yielded fresh bell peppers, hot wax peppers, and fresh thyme: way better than the dried spices in the original recipe’s “essence” mixture.
My shrimp and grits
For the grits:
- 1/3 cup stone ground, old-fashioned grits (I use Dixie Mills)
- 2/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp salt
Boil water, salt and heavy cream together in a saucepan, then add grits. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 25-35 minutes, until very creamy. If grits seem too thick, add a little more water near the end of the cooking time.
For the shrimp:
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp chopped oregano (dried is okay)
- 1 lb 16-21 shrimp, peeled & deveined
- 1 cup Abita beer (I used Golden)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 6 T brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 small to medium green bell pepper, finely diced
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 2 hot yellow wax peppers, finely diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 T olive oil
Combine the smoked paprika, salt, and oregano; toss with the shrimp in a bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, boil together beer, ketchup, pepper flakes, and brown sugar for 15 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; reserve for later use. The cookbook recipe calls for Amber; I used Golden, left over from watching LSU win the College World Series (geaux, Tigers!)
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and saute peppers, onion, thyme, and garlic until fragrant and soft. Push them to the sides of the skillet and place seasoned shrimp in a single layer; increase heat to high. Notice my nifty, left-handed, flat-ended spoon: it was hand-carved from osage orange wood by the Spoon Mill of Denham Springs, LA.
Sear shrimp on one side (2-3 minutes), then turn over and sear the other side. Once undersides are colored, stir in 1/2 cup of reserved beer glaze and fold shrimp, sauteed aromatics, and glaze together. Cook briefly to combine, then spoon over hot, cooked grits.
Note: you’ll have plenty of leftover beer glaze; it will make a nice dipping sauce or finishing glaze for grilled chicken.