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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shrimp and Grits, with a Cali twist

For some reason, I got to a place where grits were on my mind. Growing up in California, and in a Japanese-American community, grits were never on my mind, and to be honest, the first few times I tried them, they did not make any sense. Along the way, that changed, cheesy grits, and then shrimp & grits suddenly became a dish I could really enjoy. Herein, is my riff on that classic.

For starters, I marinaded the shrimp for 4 hours, the recipe was really just to get some seasoning on the shrimp for the grill.

Shrimp Marinade:
3 tablespoons Sudachi juice
2 tablespoon whiskey
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
pinch of sugar

I just mixed it all up with 1/3 pound of shrimp. Later these would be skewered for cooking on the Konro. A word on that, what most folks call a Hibachi, is actually a device called a Konro, in it's original form, it is a ceramic cooker with metal grating. Skewers are either laid on the grate or directly over the charcoal. In one form or another, these exist all over Asia.

The Veggie Players

Back to the meal, I decided I wanted to have a complete meal, and that meant vegetables. I found some great Red Chard, so that was the play, a quick riff on what could really have been Collards. The red bell pepper just looked great and I needed some of it for my gravy. So, some onions, Chard and red bell pepper went for a ride in the wok. At the end, I adjusted with a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of white pepper and a splash of vinegar, I would guess about 1/2 cup. Want to keep it southern here.

Meat on sticks

I also planned to make a roux, to support the gravy with the shrimp, that is what the finely diced onions, red bells, chard stems and some celery were going to go in to. But first, prepared the grits, kept them a little watery as they would tighten up while I did other things, had the Konro fired up, using basic hardwood lump. Once the grits were on stand-by, it was off to the grill. I skewered up the shrimp, some wild caught stuff I found, along with some chicken jalapeno sausage from Roundman's Sausage in Fort Bragg. Then it was all seasoned with a dose of Ted and Barney's H3 butchers rub. This is a spicy version of their salt and pepper rub. I find it adds a very nice piquant heat, I can imagine it doing very well in their home market of Humboldt County.

On the fire

A little color

Once this was done, I built the roux, a basic affair of oil and flour cooked until a dark brick color was achieved, I didn't take it to the full gumbo stage, I wanted the lighter brown color and to retain some of the nuttiness of the toasted flour. Add in the veggies, then the meat, and then on top of the grits, which I reheated and seasoned up with some butter, white pepper and a touch of Kosher salt.


Decided to forgo the parsley, didn't get that done. Plated the grits, then the chard and red bell peppers and finally the shrimp and sausage. The final touch...


A few shavings of Parmesan cheese to round out the flavor and give it just a bit of that cheese aroma. I know that taking an Old South favorite and playing with it is not everyone's cup of tea, but, these grits are outstanding, hitting all kinds of flavors, while definitely hitting all of the traditional flavors as well.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Boudin Sausage

I do love sausage, and it doesn't take much to get me wanting some. In this case, it was a thread about Boudin sausage on the BBQ Brethren that got me wanting some of this classic Louisiana pork and rice sausage. At one time a ubiquitous staple of any road trip or celebration in the Acadian areas of Louisiana, this sausage represents the height of a poor food economy, often made with liver, leftover rice and pork that has already been cooked, it was an ideal dish for using up food from previous meals. In it's most native version, it is an acquired taste, usually served boiled, and mostly consisting of rice, it was squeezed out of the casing, a  soft, screaming hot, liver-y road side meal for many travelers. 

Fresh off the smoker

Here is what I used for a recipe

 Bob's Boudin:

4 lb Pork Butt, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
2 lb Pork Liver, cut into 1" cubes
1/2 Vidalia Onions, diced
4 stalks Celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 Garlic Cloves, peeled and chopped
2 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
3 TBS Kosher Salt
1 TBS Black Pepper
1 TBS White Pepper
1 TBS Cayenne Pepper
1 TBS Chili Pepper

3 Cups Cooked Medium Grain Rice
1  Cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1  Cup Green Onions, chopped
Hog casings (32-36 mm)
Pork and Grandma's knife

Note, that I did not find any liver handy, and I flat forgot to add the jalapeno.  In any event, I cubed up the pork, diced the veggies and added it all to a stock pot, with enough water to cover the entire thing about 1" under. I simmered this until the pork was tender to the touch, you want it to fall apart with a light pinch. Strain the stock, and save it, you will need it later. Grind up the pork, adjust the seasonings with the salt, pepper and chile powders. Since the filling is cooked, you can simply taste until you have the desired levels of salt and spice. 

Stuff added

From there, add in the rice, which I moisten with the pork stock to get it to fall apart easier, also note that the aromatics are in there as well. Lightly blend the mixture, folding from the outside, the rice will turn to mush if you are too rough. I added additional pork stock as the rice absorbs it along the way.  The mixture ends up being quite soft, too soft to easily hold a ball shape. I opted to stuff the sausage into casings, it is often served fried into balls. I wanted to stick with the casings as I intended to smoke these.

Raw and Ready

From thence, it was into the smoker, running at 225°F, with some pecan wood for flavor. The sausage was allowed to smoke until the casings became firm and the sausage was heated through, about an hour, give or take. Rested for 15 minutes, and ready to slice. Since these are already cooked, there will be less juice than what you might normally expect from a sausage.

Rested and Ready

The rice does a great job of absorbing the flavors throughout the process. The actual texture, even off of the smoker is a very soft and tender sausage, with a slight juiciness from the rice. It is distinct from just about any other sausage I can think of. 

Fine texture and lots of flavor

Grainy mustard is perfect

I went with a Creole Mustard and some Lucky Dog Dia del Perro hot sauce, to finish off the dish. Pretty much what I was looking for, a subtle yet complex flavor and the addition of a little smoke, made for a satisfying sausage dish. And I have quite a few to freeze for a later meal.