Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: rainbow shrimp and grits
Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with the big, new kitchen. They often bring some of their market's choicest ingredients home with them and cook up a feast.
There's a huge difference between instant grits and the real thing, and for the real thing, there are no better grits than Anson Mill products. Marcyk's is the only retailer in Denver that pimps Anson Mill products, because, says Barb, the company only sells wholesale. "We have to bag and labels all their products, which is a bit of a pain in the fanny but their products really are amazing," she adds. Whitney Ariss, who works at Marczyk's and "is a jack of all trades," notes Barb, came up with this recipe, which utilizes blue corn grits and shrimp, although if you prefer a vegetarian dish, you can eliminate the shrimp completely and skip those steps in the recipe. "Everything comes together in one incredibly colorful, comforting, warm bowl, and I can't think of anything that tastes more perfect on a blustery spring evening," says Ariss.
Rainbow Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and Ramp Paste
1 pound shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined
About 5 ramp stalks (one small bunch)
12 tablespoons salted butter (1 1/2 sticks), room temperature
1/3 cup good whiskey
Juice of 1 small lemon (Ariss uses Meyer)
Liberal pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound coarse ground grits
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups shrimp stock or water
3/4 cup shrimp paste
8-12 cooked shrimp
microgreens, for garnish (optional)
Wilted Spinach with Andouille Sausage
1 pound baby spinach, washed and tough stems removed
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cooked andouille sausages, sliced
2-3 tablespoons shrimp and ramp paste
1. Place the grits in a bowl and cover with 2 1/2 cups of water. After the grains settle to the bottom, skim off the chaff and hulls that float to the surface and discard. If you have the time, allow the grits to soak overnight (this will dramatically reduce your cooking time, although it's not necessary if you don't mind tending to the grits for upwards of an hour and a half.)
2. To make the shrimp paste, add olive oil and half the butter to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp are just pink, about 5-6 minutes. Remove shrimp with a slotted spoon and set aside.
3. Add whiskey, lemon juice and cayenne to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, scraping the leftover bits of shrimp from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is reduced to the consistency of syrup. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add shrimps and the reduced sauce to a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Add ramps and remaining salted butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse paste. Season with salt and pepper. Set shrimp paste aside, keeping it at room temperature until ready to use.
5. Place shrimp stock (or water) in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat. Add the grits, with the water in which they were soaking, to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly and simmer the grits until the liquid looks starchy and slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Stir every 10 minutes or so, making sure to loosen any grains that stick to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Each time the grits become thick, add shrimp stock, about 1/2 a cup or so at a time, and continue cooking, adding at least 1 1/2 cups more liquid, until the grits are done. Cooking time will be about 50-60 minutes if your grits were soaked overnight, and about 1 1/2 to 2 hours if they weren't. You'll know when they're done when the grits are no longer starchy in the center. The grains should be a little toothsome but fairly soft and not chalky in texture.
6. Remove grits from heat. Stir in 3/4 cup of the shrimp paste (or about half the batch) into the grits until combined and allow the flavors to sit for about 10 minutes.
7. While the grits are resting, cook the spinach. In a large pan, add butter and oil and heat over medium-high. When butter is bubbling, add sliced andouille sausage and cook until browned, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add spinach, shrimp and a few tablespoons of shrimp paste and reduce heat to slightly above medium. Stir spinach continuously until it's just wilted and soft, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.
8. Ladle the grits into a bowl, making a little well in the center for the spinach. Spoon the spinach and andouille into the grit wells and serve with extra shrimp on top and microgreens.