My brother came over for lunch today, and I wanted to feed him something more composed than the old fall-back, the omelet. I wasn’t able to go to the store, so I went shopping in my freezer and came up with a dish full of stuff I know he likes: shrimp (raw, peeled, de-veined) with bacon (still working through my over-abundance of bacon from Costco), tomatoes (which he loves and I inexplicably hated as a kid), and grits (or polenta, if you want to be fancy).
As this recipe stands, the shrimp and bacon, with loads of organic grape heirloom tomatoes, chopped onion, and spinach, is bright and fresh with the acid from the tomatoes. Spoon it over garlic grits cooked with chicken stock and a little cream and butter, and you have a balanced, filling, and colorful meal.
My brother liked this dish a lot—with so many of his favorite things in one bowl, how could he not!—but I wanted it to be saucier, to tie the flavors together better. Next time, I’ll open the bottle of dry white that I was saving and de-glaze the sauté pan to make a sauce for the shrimp. (Then I’ll probably have a glass, if I don’t have to do anything for the rest of the day…) I’ll also incorporate more of the bacon fat into the tomato mixture and chop the bacon to even out the acid.
One tip for your bacon: Don’t rush it! Bacon should be slow-cooked at a medium-low temperature for bacon that is perfectly reddish-brown but still crispy. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Plus, cooking bacon on lower heat also prevents hot oil from splattering out of the pan onto your stove, or worse, onto you!
This surprisingly light-tasting lunch, peppered with pork fat and butter and laid on a bed of grits, goes out to my Southern forbears. Enjoy!
Shrimp, Bacon and Grits
- 1 2/3 cup ground yellow cornmeal, or polenta
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 3 cups salted chicken stock
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- splash of heavy cream or half-and-half
Bring butter, chicken stock, garlic, and cream to a boil. Whisk in cornmeal, set flame to low, and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add more water or chicken stock if the grits become too thick to stir. Cover and let sit on stove for 10 min., or until grits are desired softness. Salt and pepper if necessary. Can be made ahead.
- 3 large pieces of bacon, slow-cooked
- ½ large white onion, chopped
- 1 ½ cup chopped tomatoes (I used heirloom grape tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 cups packed spinach
- 1/3 cup chopped parsley
- 2/3 lb. shrimp (raw, peeled, de-veined)
Slow-cook bacon in large skillet at low-medium temperature until fat is golden-brown on both sides, 6-10 minutes. Place bacon onto a paper towel to cool and pour off excess fat from skillet. Return pan to heat, add onion, and sauté onions until softened. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes begin to break down. Add butter and spinach and sauté until spinach wilts. Remove from pan and set aside.
Place shrimp and parsley in pan, and cook, turning occasionally, until tails are red and shrimp is opaque all the way through. Then return vegetables to pan with shrimp and heat for a few minutes. Season to taste. Spoon over grits, garnish with bacon, and serve.