Shrimp and Grits

We moved to South Carolina in July.  Since moving here, I have been honing my southern cooking skills and trying to learn more about the cuisine of this backasswards state.  Grits is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of South Carolina food.  These people LOVE their grits.  On my baby’s first visit (at 9 months) to his new pediatrician, I was told to go ahead and get him started on grits immediately.  I had never cooked grits before moving here and it has taken me several attempts to make decent grits.  I have found that the key to creamy grits is to use at least some milk when cooking them (I use half milk, half water).  It also helps to add lots of  butter  and to stir often while they are cooking.   Shrimp and grits is the quintessential South Carolina dish and one of the first recipes I tried.  There are countless variations, but we really like this particular recipe.  I serve the shrimp and grits with stewed okra and tomatoes and sometimes collard greens.  Very Southern.

Shrimp and Grits

1 pound medium-size raw shrimp (31/40 count)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 bacon slices, chopped
1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Prepared grits

1. Peel and devein shrimp. Toss shrimp with flour until lightly coated, shaking to remove excess.

2. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon, and drain on paper towels.  Reserve drippings in skillet.  If you would like to reduce the fat content of this dish, pour excessive drippings into a glass container and only leave 1 or 2 tablespoons in the skillet.

3. Sauté mushrooms in hot drippings 4 minutes or just until mushrooms begin to release their liquid. Add shrimp, and sauté 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute (do not brown garlic). Add lemon juice and hot sauce. Sprinkle with bacon and serve immediately over prepared grits.

Adapted from the Hominy Grill’s Shrimp and Grits found in Southern Living, MAY 2009

Sea Glass Candy

This makes a beautiful candy that really does look like sea glass.

You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe, but if you familiar with the sugar stages (you are looking for the “hard crack” stage for this candy), you could use the method in which you drop a bit of the hot mixture into a bowl of cold water and then check for desired result.

Candy flavoring oils can be found in craft stores. You can also use regular extracts but you will need to add slightly more because they are not as concentrated as the candy oils.  I made two batches of this candy.  For the first batch I used apple flavored candy oil and green food coloring.  I over-did it on the flavoring and coloring and the candy did not taste that great.  For the second batch, I used a 1/2 teaspoon of regular coconut extract and 5 drops of blue food coloring and was very happy with the results.

Sea Glass Candy

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
food coloring
1/2-1 teaspoon flavoring oil (or extract)
non-stick cooking spray
powdered sugar for dusting

Lightly spray a small metal pan with non-stick spray. Don’t use ceramic or glass pans or else you may end up with real glass mixed in your sea glass candy.

In a small non-stick sauce pan, add sugar, water and corn syrup and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. When the mixture begins to simmer, brush the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush.  Attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and watch.  There is no need to stir the mixture.

When the mixture gets to the 250°F range, go ahead and add the food coloring. Start with 5 drops and let the food coloring spread throughout the mixture.  If needed, you may add more food coloring, a drop or two at a time, until you get the color you want. Do not stir the mixture.

When the thermometer reads 300°F pull the pan off the heat and then add the your flavoring and stir.  Be careful because it will bubble and steam. Immediately pour the hot mixture into the prepared pan and allow to sit until cool.

Once the candy has fully cooled, cover with a piece of parchment paper, plastic wrap, clean tea towel, or paper towel and hit it with a hammer or mallet.

Lightly brush the pieces with powdered sugar, shaking off the excess. Store the candy in an air tight container and keep at room temperature. Do not leave the candy uncovered as it will absorb moisture from the air and get sticky.

Pork Chops with Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce & Garlic Orange Spinach

Valentine’s Day Dinner

.Pork Chops with Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce
.Garlic Orange Spinach
.Baked Potatoes
.Chocolate and Coconut Cream Fondue

This is the meal I made for Valentine’s Day.  It was a nice, as well as easy meal.

Pork Chops with Raspberry-Chipotle Sauce

4 pork chops, trimmed of fat
1 T. oil
salt and pepper to taste

2 T. finely chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 12 oz. bag frozen raspberries
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced
2 T. butter
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse pork chops and pat dry.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 T. oil in a skillet over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking.  Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook, turning once until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Remove pork chops to a plate and cover with foil; set aside.

Add shallots and garlic to skillet and saute for about 30 seconds (you may have to add a dash of oil).  Add the raspberries and cook, stirring for another 30 seconds.  Add the red wine, scraping any bits on the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the mixture over high heat until about 3/4 cup liquid remains.  Add the stock and chipotle.  Reduce over high heat until about 2 cups of liquid remains.  Strain the mixture into a clean saucepan and heat to boiling.  Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon some of the sauce onto a plate and place a pork chop over it.

Garlic Orange Spinach

1 10 ounce bag of spinach leaves, washed with stems removed
1  clove garlic,  thinly sliced
2  T.  olive oil
3  T. fresh orange juice
1  T. orange zest
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pot heat oil over med. high heat, add garlic and cook stirring constantly until it begins to brown, about 30 seconds.  Add orange juice and cook until reduced about 30 seconds.  Add spinach and orange zest and saute until spinach wilts.  Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper.

Chocolate and Coconut Cream Fondue

Chocolate and Coconut Cream Fondue

From February 20, 2005:  I made this amazingly indulgent chocolate and coconut cream fondue for my family for Valentine’s Day last year and then again this year….the beginnings of a fun and very sweet tradition.  This year I tried to keep it simple and served the fondue with fresh strawberries, sliced bananas, maraschino cherries, sugar wafers,  and cubes of pound cake for dipping.   We also enjoyed dunking pretzels and teddy grahams in the rich chocolate concoction.  Last year, dippers included Pirouline cookies, cubes of angel food cake, grapes, and graham crackers.  Fresh pineapple and marshmallows are also  good, but you could dip anything into this fondue and it would be good!  This recipe makes a lot of fondue, so there is plenty for left-overs and for sharing with friends and neighbors.  I don’t have a fondue pot so I served it in a small warmed bowl….that worked just fine. Enjoy!

Chocolate and Coconut Cream Fondue

1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
Assorted fresh fruit (such as whole strawberries, 1-inch-thick slices banana, 1-inch cubes peeled cored pineapple, and tangerine segments), cookies, cakes, marshmallows, pretzels, etc.

Combine sweetened cream of coconut and 12 ounces chocolate in heavy large saucepan. Stir mixture over very low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Stir in whipping cream and extract. (Fondue can be prepared 8 hours ahead. Cover; store at room temperature. Stir over low heat to rewarm before serving.)

Transfer mixture to fondue pot. Place over candle or canned heat burner. Serve with fruit for dipping.

Makes 8 servings.

recipe source:  Bon Appétit December 2002