If you’ve been following here long, you know my best friend Heidi is known for her cooking. Her kitchen is her sanctuary, and it is there that she speaks her most fluent love language: nurturing through food–really good food. Today, she’s sharing a perfect meal for Valentine’s Day–spicy shrimp in a not-too-heavy creamy sauce over a cloud of cheesy grits. With winter in full effect over much of the country, this meal packs an elegant and hearty punch. Pair it with a big green salad and a glass of prosecco, You know what they say: Spice up your kitchen, spice up your love life. Okay, no one ever said that. No matter what your love life looks like, this meal will bring all the heart eyes on Valentine’s Day. Because CREAM SAUCE.
Heidi, take it away.
Blackened Shrimp with Cheesy Grits
4 cups of water
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup of quick cooking grits (I used Quaker brand. Not instant.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup grated Pepper Jack cheese
3/4 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
SHRIMP AND SAUCE
6 slices of bacon, scissor cut into small pieces (easiest way)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c. crushed tomatoes or tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon each paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and sea salt
1 cup baby bell mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup green onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cold butter
1 fresh jalapeño, sliced thin
1. In a heavy saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add salt and gradually add the grits, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce the heat to low and let the grits simmer to thicken (will take about 5 minutes). Add your milk and butter and stir. Simmer until the edges start bubbling a bit, reduce heat to low, cover the pan and set your timer for 35-40 minutes. Stir every once in a while so the grits don’t stick to the bottom. When grits are nice and creamy, turn off the heat and add your cheeses and pepper. Season to taste.
2. Dry shrimp with paper towel, toss with cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper.
3. While the grits are cooking, heat a heavy skillet (cast iron if you have it) and brown bacon until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and dry on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and let it heat until butter is brown. Add seasoned shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and keep warm.
4. Add mushrooms and green onions to the pan and let them soften up a bit, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and heat for about 2 minutes (don’t burn it!). Add chicken broth, cream, and tomatoes and stir with a wooden spoon. Let the sauce cook down a bit and then add the cooked bacon (saving a little for garnish) to the sauce and continue to cook down for about 10-15 mins. over low heat. Stir and taste the sauce and season as needed.
5. You can serve this in individual bowls or family style. Spoon a healthy scoop of grits into a bowl, spoon some sauce over the grits, and then layer 5-7 shrimp on top of that. Sprinkle green onions, crispy bacon and sliced fresh jalapeños on top. Now dig in because you deserve it after pulling off this easy but multi-step dinner!