Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Fat Tuesday Shrimp & Grits

Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday," and it refers to the last night of indulging in rich, fattening food before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.  I can't think of a richer dish to indulge in either, and nothing says the South like Shrimp and Grits.  This recipe has a variation of my Grits Souffle and uses instant grits.  Although when I use instant grits, my husband likes to quote the guy in My Cousin Vinny and say, "No self-respectin' Southerner would use instant grits." Instant or not, this recipe is definitely Mardi Gras worthy, so as they say in New Orleans, "Laissez les bons temps rouler," or "Let the good times roll!"

Go ahead!  Indulge!
It's Fat Tuesday!

The Grits Casserole ready to bake.
The rich, thick shrimp mixture ready to top the grits.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Let the good times roll!

Fat Tuesday Shrimp & Grits

3 cups water
3 1/2 cups half and half
2 cups instant grits
1 (8 ounce) carton Mascarpone cheese OR 1 (5 ounce) package grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less if you like spicy or mild)
8 slices bacon, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 pounds medium fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (I like Slap Ya Mama or Tony Chachere's)
additional green onion, chopped for garnish (green parts only)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9x13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.   In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups water and 3.5 cups half and half to a boil over medium heat.  (Keep an eye on this so the half and half does not burn.)  Add the grits, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.  Stir in Mascarpone, egg, salt and cayenne pepper.  Spoon into prepared casserole dish and bake until set, approximately 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove and place on a platter lined with paper towels.  Crumble when cooled, if necessary.  Leave the bacon fat in the Dutch oven.  Add bell pepper and green onion.  Cook and stir until soft, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add chicken broth and heavy cream; stir well until combined.  Continue cooking this mixture until thickened, approximately 5 minutes.  Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink and firm, approximately 3-4 minutes.  Season with Creole seasoning.  To serve, spoon a serving of prepared grits onto plate.  Top with shrimp mixture.  Garnish with crumbled bacon and chopped green onion.

Prep Time:  Approximately 25 minutes     Cook Time:  Approximately 1 hour total

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