The other evening I started up Lumineers Radio on the Pandora, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work organizing my Pictures File on the hard drive. This was no simple task- the entire file was a total mess. There were copies upon copies of random blurry photos; baby pictures sent to us by our parents that needed to be sorted through; and sunny, warm shots of the Big Man and I on our honeymoon in the same file as photos of us freezing and pink-cheeked at Ravens games (We have approximately 55,459 photos of the two of us at Ravens games, and about 14 photos of our honeymoon. Such romantics.) Then there is the overwhelmingly large amount of wedding photos that I still have to bring myself to organize They’re all thrown haphazardly into a file labelled “WEDDING” which may as well read, “HOURS OF MIND-NUMBING WORK. YOU HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO.”
In the midst of all this clicking and organizing, I stumbled upon a Word Document titled, “If you can make it here, NOV 2010″. Curious as to what I was writing and saving around the time we moved to New York, I opened it.
Have you ever read something that you’d written in the past and it so emotes the feeling you had when you wrote it that it gave you a head rush? That’s the feeling this Word Document gave me, a quick and random piece I wrote on a bus somewhere on I-95 between Baltimore and New York, heading back to pick up some random things from our (still full) apartment. I was broke, lonely and thoroughly stressed out. We had no money, I had no job, we missed our friends, we were dealing with some family issues, and the Big Man was working 80+ weeks so we barely saw each other. New York was (and still is) a constant and exhausting learning curve. And the holidays were coming. It wasn’t an easy time in our lives.
An excerpt (pardon the bad grammar):
“It’s a stressful exciting start to a new life and I can’t wait till we get on our feet financially. It feels like every day there is something overwhelming or irritating- a missed train, or I end up in the wrong side of the track and have to hop the wrong train just to turn around again; the bitch that cut in front of me in line at trader joe’s and I was way too tired and cranky to say anything. Feeling unstylish. The dying urge to rub my hands with sanitizer whenever I leave one crowded space.
I’m looking forward to this in two parts: I’m excited to learn, and to slowly get better at this New York thing, and to meet people and make friendships. I’m excited to see how each day slowly changes from exciting to more mundane. And I’m excited to be a year or two later down the line, looking back on this time and shaking my head at how totally ignorant I am.”
So here we are, a year and a half later, and in honor of that scared, broke girl who wrote that document, I decided to wake up early this morning and make a super-comforting batch of Shrimp, Sausage and Grits. I make my grits like a cross between traditional Southern milk-boiled grits and Italian polenta, but once you’ve boiled ground cornmeal with a liquid until it is soft and creamy- boom, you’ve made grits, and I challenge the purists out there to a grit-duel. (Dukes up.) If you’ve never had grits, I highly suggest you buy yourself a bag of ground cornmeal and try them immediately. It’s one of the most comforting, warm, filling meals in my arsenal, and the Big Man sent me a gushy thank you text for leaving him a big bowl on the counter to eat after I left for work. It’s remarkably easy, especially if you have a nice big saucepan so the grits have a wide fat surface area in which to cook smoothly.
Make sure you stay near the pot while the grits cook- they like to stick to the bottom of the pan, and if you don’t stir them often the whole mixture will get lumpy. Keep a whisk at hand and stir in between doing everything else- rinse the shrimp and stir the grits. Slice the sausage, stir the grits. Wash a couple of dishes, and then get on in there with that whisk and banish even the thought of lumps from the pan of creamy goodness you’re aiming for. A good simmer and lots of stirring is the secret to good grits.
After you’ve cooked the sausage and the shrimp (both of which are optional additions to this dish, you can add whatever you like), toss everything together and add some finely sliced scallions on top for crispy crunch. We like to also add a few squirts of sriracha (aka Hot Sauce of the Gods)
These Shrimp, Sausage and Grits were my silent thank you to that scared girl, as well as a pat on the back to Today’s Me – who kept my head down and kept going when things were tough, till I came out at the other side. I’m still very unstylish, but a lot more confident and always, always learning.
Sausage, Shrimp and Grits Recipe
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup grits / ground cornmeal
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 sausages (we prefer Italian-style Hot around here, but use what you’d like)
- 16 oz uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
- In a large saucepan, heat the butter until melted and add the minced onion. Cook til translucent, and add the water and heavy cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and whisk in the grits, along with a pinch fo salt to taste. Let the mixture come to a simmer, stirring often to prevent the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan and getting lumpy. Let cook 20-25 minutes, until smooth and creamy, then add the garlic and the cheddar cheese, stirring until combined.
- While the grits are cooking, cook the sausages in a small pan over medium heat. You can cook them whole and then slice into rounds, or you can slice them into rounds first and then cook. Depending on the shape of the sausages, I may do either (sometimes the sausages come curled in a “U” shape, which makes it hard to cook evenly, so I’ll cut before cooking.)
- While the sausage is cooking and while you are still keeping an eye on the cooking grits, toss the shrimp with the olive oil, red pepper flakes, cumin and salt. Once the sausages are cooked, remove from heat and add the shrimp mixture to the pan, cooking over medium heat until the shrimp are firm and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside, along with the sausages.
- Once the grits have cooked through, add the shrimp and the sausages and combine. When serving, sprinkle the sliced scallions on top of each serving for added crispy crunch.