Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Charleston Anniversary re-hash and Christmas Dinner

**NOTE: My phone turned to crap right before I posted this entry. ALL of my beautiful photos of ALL of the many things i discuss in this entry are GONE with my phone. I'm furious, but please don't let that keep you from reading, hopefully you can just use your imagination, or just cook the food, and you'll know how good it is!**

My dear sweet hubby took me on a weekend trip to the beautiful Charleston SC for our anniversary this year. If you've never been to Charleston, you should go now, because it's one of the most perfect places in the south.
The weather was beautiful and perfect for ruffly sun dresses, which I participated in wholeheartedly.

Charleston is famous for an abundance of ghost stories, including, but not limited to, the saluting ghost of Fort Sumpter, and the Whistling Ghost of Church Street.
We did take a day to go visit Fort Sumpter - which, btw, was not the most exciting thing in the world, but would be good to do if you were in Charleston for an extended period of time and needed a good way to waste an afternoon. - but we did not witness any saluting ghosts.

Afterwards, we meandered the streets of Charleston, which is really the best thing to do in Charleston. We happened across multiple shop varieties, french bakeries, girly boutiques, and most importantly, ghost shops! One in particular had everything ghastly you could imagine, and as many of you know, I'm usually already planning for halloween well before our September anniversary, so we had to stop in. We found lots of great things to look at, but our greatest find was this doormat, which I'm pretty sure was made specifically for my psychologist hubby. Unfortunately, they were sold out except for the display model. So we bought it.
In addition to the ghosts and the shoppes, Charleston also has an open market on Market Street (so cleverly named, don't you think?) So we did quite a bit of meandering there, as well.

But the most important thing we discovered in Charleston, was shrimp and grits.
I was skeptical, but i'd heard rave reviews. I had had some versions of "shrimp and grits" in other places that i was not impressed by, and I had seen some tv personalities put "their own spin on the classic" but I wanted to start with the classic.
So the first night we were there, we found a place and I explained my uncertainties to our server, who assured me that if you're going to try shrimp and grits, you came to the right place.
WOW was she right. You know that first time you ever had a taste of creme brulee? How it just punched you in the face with it's magical flavors? it was THAT good.
This was quite possibly the best thing I'd ever put in my mouth, and I've tasted some delicious things.
First, if you don't like grits, you're wrong. You don't like grits for the following reasons 1) you ate them as a main dish, and they are not. 2) you ate instant grits, which are a lot like eating buckshot.. only with less flavor. 3) your "chef" prepared them with water. so you take a flavorless pile of sand and add even less flavor to it and you get a perfectly unappetizing pile of gelatinous bleh.
Stop that.

Second, if you don't like shrimp, then I can't help you, you're clearly a crazy person, and my expertise can only go so far.

Third, if you're skeptical of this recipe i'm about to give you, well join the club, and try it anyway.

Here's the deal: That dish was absolutely PERFECT. Start with HUGE perfectly cooked shrimp, add sliced andouille and fresh portabella sauteed and then dredge it all in a made-from-scratch brown gravy. Then pour that over a pillow of creamy and decadent grits. Then die because you have reached enlightenment.

It's that good.

But it's also insanely simple! So I came home and started trying out the recipe. Thanks to Harris Teeter's occasional "Buy 2 Get 3 Free" sale on EZ Peel shrimp, I had plenty to test with. But I nailed it right from the start. That's right IIIIIIIIIIIII, of all people, got something basically right on the first try.

Cook the NOT INSTANT grits low and slow, and I recommend using milk instead of water, or at least half milk half water. Also put in lots of REAL butter, salt and pepper. If you use all milk, be sure to stir it fairly often to keep the milk from scalding on the bottom. Also, use a WAY bigger pot than you think you should, this stuff expands and you need stirring room. Some people like to add cheese too, but I don't think it needs it, and the original that I ate didn't have cheese, so I didn't. I bet some parmesan would be good though, if you really want to try.

I broiled the shrimp, because a few months prior I learned to broil shrimp from this pin I found on Pinterest, and decided that there's no reason to cook shrimp any other way. Although that recipe calls for seasoning and broiling in the shell, I shelled them first and broiled them plain. The process otherwise is the same, though. Lay the shrimp out in a pan, broil for 3ish minutes, then stir and spread out again, repeat until the shrimp is pink on all sides. Easy!

Then slice some Andouille sausace into little medallions (I used about 12 ounces, but use more or less depending on how much you like it) and sautee. you might want to add in half a diced onion here, I did and it was tasty.
Once the sausage is heated through, add in the sliced mushrooms. I used button mushrooms because that's what I had on hand.

Last, but certainly not least, add prepared brown gravy to the sausage and mushrooms, then add the shrimp, give it a quick stir, then serve a pile of grits and the shrimpygravy on top! Hubby likes to mix his all up, but I like to keep it layered as served.

We liked this so much, we made another HUGE batch for our family for Christmas. We had over 20 people at our house the day after Christmas, and while normally I would love to make a very intricate menu, I was in the middle of a major proposal at work, and just did not have the brainspace.
So when I started trying to figure out something that I could make with little to no fuss in a few large pots and have everybody serve themselves, and eat off of disposable places so I didn't have to to dishes, this was the perfect option!  I had a huge roasting pan filled with 10 lbs of shrimp, which the broil and stir method worked perfectly for, and then a stock pot full of grits and a stockpot for gravy (unfortunately it wasn't big enough for all the shrimp, so we had a 3rd stockpot to keep them in when they were done broiling)

I hightly recommend giving this a try, It is SUPER filling though, so judge your shrimp purchace accordingly. We estimated 1/2lb of shrimp per person and went from there because I was concerned about not having enough for everyone, but it was WAY too much. Aim for more like 1/4lb of shrimp per person, and half the standard "serving size" of grits, and you'll probably be in good shape.


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