Grits and Boudin Make Even Better Leftovers

Much is made of the comforts of Southern food and its has been enjoying praise in many non-Southern cities. My love of Southern food wasn’t really in my mind in college in Virginia, except for Carolina BBQ.

It wasn’t until I lived in Washington, D.C., that I tasted shrimp and grits at a fancy restaurant that my eyes were opened to broader possibilities. I only knew grits as a wonderful breakfast food.

Shrimp and grits have their origins in the Lowcountry and the Gullah people are credited with combining them. Now, it’s not a bad idea for people who have leftover shrimp from dinner to make grits in the morning to combine them. For us, it’s the other way around: we make a batch of stone-ground grits from Georgia and are delighted at how well they keep in the fridge.

Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.
Browning sliced Andouille sausage in a cast-iron skillet.

What to do with the leftover grits? Well, if you live on the Texas Gulf Coast or near it, you can go to the supermarket and get wild-caught Gulf shrimp. Last time, though, there were only a handful of shrimp left and they were unusually expensive. I looked in the freezer aisle and shook my head. Side by side, there were imported shrimp and Gulf of Mexico shrimp packed in nearby by Galveston. The local frozen shrimp were cheaper too, probably on account that they didn’t have to be shipped as freight across the Pacific Ocean.

I grabbed a pack of Andouille sausage prepared in Texas (shhh, don’t tell Louisiana). At home, I sliced the sausage into relatively think pieces and browned them in a cast-iron skillet. Once nicely browned, I transferred those to paper towel.

Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.
Saute chopped bell pepper before adding shrimp and sausage.

Now, for the shrimp, we had the unusual situation of being in possessing of frozen cooked shrimp. Usually, we buy fresh shrimp and my boyfriend shells and cleans them. This time, I boiled water, squeezed in the juice of one big Meyer lemon and pour the shrimp in when the water had reached a roiling boil. I also starting cooking up chopped bell pepper and garlic.

Shrimp and grits in a green bowl.
Shrimp and grits are a wonderful comfort food.

Next, it was time to make the roux. I have yet to master the roux. Frankly, I’m not that good at it and should just listen to a friend from New Orleans who makes it with flour and oil. This time, I once again tried butter and flour. You put those in a pan and stir for 10 minutes until it turns brown. My roux was more like beige. Anyhoo, I combined everything: drained cooked shrimp, browned sausage, peppers and garlic and the roux. The leftover grits were heated in the microwave.

Boudin Balls

These are the best if you are at a good Cajun restaurant. To the uninitiated, let me take a step back: boudin is a Cajun pork sausage that includes rice. It has a soft consistency.

Boudin balls browning in a pan.
Browning the boudin balls in olive oil.

We have a tradition, inherited from my boyfriend’s uncle, of stopping at Boudin King in Jennings, Louisiana, when we are driving back to Texas from Georgia. We have a cooler with us just for this purpose. Their fried chicken is outstanding as well. We keep a few links in the freezer.

Ranch dressing with hot sauce.
Store-bought ranch dressing mixed with hot sauce.

We recently grilled some of the boudin and there was a link left over. Here is how I made the boudin balls. I sliced the link lengthwise and peeled off the casing. In a bowl, I smashed up the meat and rice with a fork, then added an egg and beat it all together. Now, I added shredded Parmesan and Italian style breadcrumbs until the consistency was tight enough to scoop into balls with a teaspoon and my hands. I then rolled the balls in breadcrumbs in a cereal bowl. Meanwhile, I had started heating olive oil in a sauté pan.

I browned them all around and while doing so added slices of red bell pepper and some leftover grilled asparagus. For the dipping sauce, I mixed a Greek yogurt Ranch dressing with Frank’s hot sauce. Voila, I liked my homemade boudin balls as much as great restaurant boudin balls. I love boudin balls more than I like boudin. They are the epitome of leftovers being better than the original meal. Just like shrimp and grits!

Always enjoy your leftovers!

The Sage Leopard

Simple Sautéed Shrimp over Pasta in 10 steps

My mother always says to cook with the freshest ingredients available or, if you can’t make it to the store, what’s on hand. I often look to my man for inspiration and asked him yesterday afternoon what he wanted. His answer was simple: grilled salmon or alternatively shrimp with pasta. At the grocery store, the salmon did not look appealing, but there was Gulf shrimp and given we live in southeast Texas within a stone’s throw of the Gulf of Mexico, I knew they were pretty fresh.  Here is how I went about cooking the shrimp with pasta.

Step 1: Fill pasta pot with water and set on stove over high heat with lid on.

Step 2: Get significant other to peel, devein and clean shrimp.

Step 3: Melt butter with olive oil in a big non-stick pot.

Step 4: Place the following on the counter: lemons, parsley, capers, grape tomatoes, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. The capers add a zingy, salty flavor while the lemons and parsley brighten up the shrimp flavor. Grape tomatoes sliced in half fit perfectly on the bottom of a fork prong while you twirl pasta on your plate or in your bowl.

Step 5: Start cooking shrimp on medium heat. Note that shrimp cooks very fast. As soon as it turns pink and white, it is done, so start adding the rest of the ingredients as described below.

Step 6: Fold in capers, chopped parsley (I use herb scissors right over the pot), and sliced tomatoes (halves).

Step 7: Season the shrimp pot with salt, pepper and a little bit of the red pepper flakes and squeeze lemon juice over it all.

Step 8: Decide if you want to add cheese. I diced up panela cheese, a mild Mexican cheese. I would avoid any particularly strong-flavored cheese for this kind of dish.

Step 9: The shrimp is done by now so turn off the heat and cover the pot while the pasta cooks with a dash of salt and about a tablespoon of olive oil added to the boiling water.

Step 10: Drained cooked pasta in colander and slide drained pasta into a pasta bowl. Pick up shrimp pot and pour contents over pasta. Toss pasta. Eat!

This dish was easy to assemble and cooked quickly. I recommend spaghettini, which is thin spaghetti, for shrimp dishes.

This meal also represents the motto of the Sage Leopard — “Reclaim Your Quality Time, Craft Your Own Happiness”. The motto is my philosophy in general, especially when it seems life has gotten hectic and I want to make sense of things by prioritizing and reordering my activities and time. Here with this kind of cooking I did reclaim quality time because it did not take long and I enjoyed the beauty of making it. I crafted it myself rather than going out or ordering in. We sat together and ate together, and we should take the little things for granted. They say the big thing in life is all the little things.

Friends who saw the shrimp and pasta picture on Facebook were so impressed that I wrote this blog to detail how easy it is to eat well.

Shrimp meeting the parsley, capers and other ingredients in the pot
Shrimp meeting the parsley, capers and other ingredients in the pot

You can either try this version yourself (please do) or invent your own way for this or a similar dish. The point of cooking well is to enjoy it!

The Sage Leopard

 

Shrimp, scallops and black-eyed peas

Only good things come from pancetta. My boyfriend used to travel to a small town in northern Italy and was rather surprised that pancetta popped up in breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have no problem with that whatsoever. For a shrimp and scallop dinner, I opted to cook them separately.

pancetta melting
pancetta melting

The scallops were sautéed after melting thinly sliced garlic into pancetta. The key to pancetta is to dice it and then let it hit a hot pan. Let the fat liquefy and brown the meat. Then add to it, starting with garlic. In this case, then the scallops. To deglaze, I squeezed fresh Meyer lemon juice on the pan. For the black-eyed peas, I just added them to a little pot of browned pancetta. Parsley can also be added at the end of cooking such a dish to brighten up the flavors.

keep parsley on hand at all times
keep parsley on hand at all times

IMG_5905The shrimp for this dinner was paired in the cooking process with a vegetable. I was trying a great recipe from a Food 52 cookbook for roasted cauliflower, which calls for parboiling in a combo of wine, water and olive oil. The cauliflower is then placed on a roasting pan in the oven. I had reserved the wine broth and brought it back to a boil for the shrimp. Surprisingly, none of this seemed difficult. Soon enough, the table was laden with a bowl of shrimp, a bowl of scallops, a dish of black-eyed peas and a plate of roasted cauliflower.

IMG_5910