[RECIPE]<br />
April's Blackened Shrimp and Grits

Just as good at night as it is in the morning!

If you’ve been out for brunch lately, you may have noticed that shrimp and grits have become a menu staple, and not just in the South where the dish originated, but all over the country!

Before it became the entrée du jour, shrimp and grits have been a favorite of my family for years.  In fact, I made it this past Easter Sunday and after posting pictures of the dish, shrimp and grits was all anyone wanted to talk to me about! This included a guy friend of mine who told me about a version he had at a popular restaurant in Washington, DC that featured blackened shrimp. The gears in my head began to turn. 

I have always loved the color, kick, and smokiness of blackened catfish and salmon, and the idea of blackened shrimp intrigued me. I decided to make my own version and as I was rummaging through my pantry for blackening seasonings, I came across a McCormick Grill Mates seasoning pack (Slow & Low Smokin’ Texas BBQ Rub). I looked at the ingredients and discovered that many blackening spices like paprika, sugar and chili pepper were mixed into the rub.  So I used it to season my shrimp and what I ended up creating was an AMAZING new version of Shrimp and Grits that, not only is beautiful, but it also uses the seasoning pack in a different, creative way! I hope you give it a try!

Ingredients (makes 5-6 generous servings):

3 ½ cups Chicken Broth (divided)

1 cup Heavy Cream (plus a splash)

1 cup Quaker 5-minute Grits

Salt & Pepper (to taste)

½ teaspoon Garlic Powder

½ teaspoon Hot Sauce

½ cup Parmesan Cheese (Sharp Cheddar works too)

1 ½ lbs. Raw Shrimp (peeled, deveined, tails off)

1 McCormick  Smokin’ Texas BBQ Rub Seasoning Pack

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 small Onion or 1-2 large Shallots

2 cloves Garlic

½ cup Dry White Wine

Juice of ½ a Lemon

¼ Cup Chopped Parsley

Directions:

To make the Grits:

In a medium sized pot, bring 3 cups chicken broth and 1 cup heavy cream to a boil. Once bubbling, add the grits, salt and pepper to taste, garlic powder, and hot sauce. Stir to combine ingredients, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to stay covered and thicken for another 5-10 minutes.  Then right before serving, stir in the cheese and add more salt and pepper to taste.  

To make the Shrimp & Gravy:

Preheat your oven to a warm setting (approximately 200 degrees)

Empty the seasoning packet onto a large plate, then roll the shrimp (a few at a time) in the seasonings until they are completely covered.  Set seasoned shrimp aside and chop your onion (or shallots), 2 cloves of garlic, and a good handful of parsley.  Reserve onion, garlic and parsley separately on your cutting board.

Next preheat a seasoned cast iron skillet to medium high.  Once it is hot, cook the prepared shrimp, in batches if necessary, for approximately 2 minutes on each side.  (Note: If your cast iron skillet is seasoned you should not have to add additional oil, but if it is looking dry add only enough butter and/or oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Too much will remove the seasonings and the shrimp will not “blacken”) After the shrimp are cooked, put them on a pan, cover them with foil, and transfer them to the oven to keep warm. 

Then add 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO to the skillet and add the onion or shallots.  Allow to cook until softened, about 5 minutes, and then add the garlic and cook for about a min more.  Next pour in a ½ cup white wine and scrape up all the brown bits and seasonings from the bottom of the pan.  Then pour in a ½ cup chicken broth.  Bring everything to a simmer and then turn off the heat.  Add ¾ of the parsley (leaving about a tablespoon for garnish), the juice of ½ a lemon, a splash of cream, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. 

To serve family style, pour grits into a deep serving dish, then pour the gravy on top of the grits, and stack the shrimp on top.  Sprinkle the reserved parsley over everything to garnish the dish and you’re finished!  You can also serve this dish on individual plates by following the same process (grits, gravy, shrimp), with smaller portions. (Refer to the pictures for the serving suggestions)  Enjoy!