Why this recipe works so well and the reason I’m sharing it is that I found a voice as a foodie: one who has cultivated a passion for the tools, the ingredients, and the techniques of eating well. My philosophical perspective is focused on creating sublime cuisine that I enjoy cooking and eating. Don’t get me wrong: I am a self-taught home cook with a particular style of cooking: I like to call it Inclusion Fusion – fusing foods across borders. While this recipe is technique heavy – it is what makes a simple recipe so beautiful to cook and eat.

To begin, I’d like to touch on some flavor notations to help you understand my motives with this dish. When I made it this week for a quick weeknight dinner, it was something I was ruminating about for an hour or so before I set out to cook it. Below are my thoughts on it:

Salt Wisely

I’m a bit of a salt fiend: I have four (okay – five) types of salt on my counter or in my pantry. Kosher for general pre-preparational uses such as blanching, seasoning water to cook starches, and brining. Fleur de Sal: my table salt. It has a delicate floral flavor that is only to be used to “finish” a dish. Himalayan pink salt for dishes and baked goods requiring a fine-grained salt. Maldon flake salt from the British Isles; used most often because it’s a light, mineral-packed salt that dissolves when you need it to and stays crunchy when you don’t. Again, a little goes a long way. Canning Salt – its use is fairly obvious, no?!

Understand Where Your Protein Comes From

The fresh chorizo links used in the recipe were purchased from the butcher department at a local coop. It is a small batch Basque-style chorizo. I’m sure you could use an imported dried chorizo if that’s what is available in your pantry.

The shrimp was wild-caught in Alaska by these really nifty fisherpersons we met at the farmer’s market.

Our chicken bone broth is homemade with gnarly old hens producing a product that results in the most incredibly flavor-filled bone broth I’ve ever tasted. The hens, too, purchased from our local farmer’s market.

If you feel adventurous and have a flair for frugality, you could supplement a cup of the chicken broth with a quick shrimp stock made with the shells of the shrimp you deshelled. This will definitely enhance the gravy’s complexity, and it is easy and quick enough with a quick internet search for a base-recipe.

Grits, By Another Name

The polenta was purchased by a small-scale farmer who was impassioned by the quality of his corn choosing to focus on heirloom strains: The grower has the corn stone ground to maximize the corn’s flavor profiles. Please: NO “quick-cook” cardboard here; select your product carefully because for yummy grits (okay, it’s polenta, but pretty much the same thing for our purposes), you really do need quality stone milled corn. So, ditch the popular supermarket brand and go with the best your budget can afford – organic and local is best in my experience.

No judgment – just (hmm…isn’t just ‘but’ in disguise?) a bit of a caveat here: what I am using is locally sourced and organic so I can get away with allowing the grits to do all the heavy lifting, flavor-wise: this means the end result doesn’t require a lot of butter, salt, or cheese to make them taste good.

The Chilies

I’m a pepper-head. I love chilies. I typically substitute the mild heat of a poblano pepper for green peppers because I enjoy the heat and fruit-foreword flavor it brings to my dishes. I will also sneak in a bit of fresh cayenne pepper when I have them: When I don’t have them, I will dust the dish with dried, to my taste.

What is FOND?

Fond is so very important to this recipe since it lends its intensity to the creation of our sauce: otherwise known as the gravy in this recipe. Fond means base in French: It is simply the browned bits of caramelized drippings of meat and veg on the bottomed of the pan. It is what gives a great gravy or sauce it’s intense, deep flavor. If you take anything away from this recipe, take this: if you make gravies or sauces – you need fond to make great sauces and gravies.

Do Deglaze

Deglazing is a fancy word for cleaning up the bottom of the pan because there is a great deal of flavor waiting there to be pulled into your sauce or gravy. Once you create the fond or brown, caramelized bits of protein and veg matter on the bottom of your pan, deglazing is the addition of a stock, alcohol, or water to literally lift the fond off the bottom. Did I mention I’m a bit of a foodie? Let’s crack-on!

Ingredients and Method:

Start with the Polenta:

1 cup.              High-quality grits/polenta
3 cup               Bone broth (chicken or fish)
1 cup               Whole milk or heavy cream
½ brick            Boursin cheese (any of the varieties work)
1 TBSPN         Pat of butter
Flake Salt and (fresh milled) pepper to taste

Bring broth to a strong simmer, light boil. Slowly whisk in grits: SLOWLY adding the grits helps the grits be lump-free. Once incorporated and the mixture comes back to a simmer (if you let it boil now – well, molten grits really hurts when it sputters and could burn skin) then add the milk. Bring back to a simmer, stirring frequently but intermittently for 45 minutes. This is a good time to salt and pepper to taste. Now, while the polenta simmers…

Make the Chorizo and Shrimp with savory gravy:

1 Link               FRESH Basque Chorizo
½ – 1 LB           Raw Shrimp, deshelled & deveined
¼                      Red Pepper (fresh)
¼                      Poblano Chili Pepper (fresh)
½                      Small sweet onion, sliced thin
½ cup               Biased-sliced celery
1-5 cloves        Garlic, sliced thin
¼ cup               Cilantro stalks, small slice
¼ to ½ cup       Bone broth (chicken or fish)
½-1 TSPN        Chili spice (use what you like to use for taco or chili nights)
½-1 TSPN        Good quality smoked paprika
3-6                    Biased-sliced green onions
1 TBSP             Butter
1 TBSP             AP Flour
1-3 TBSP          Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – mostly, I eye-ball this
                          Flake Salt and (fresh milled) pepper to taste

First prep the peppers, celery, onions, garlic, and cilantro then set aside.

Deshell and devein the shrimp then season with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili spice. Set aside.

Remove the chorizo out of its casing (if in link form). Heat a heavy bottom pan to medium-high (preferred cast iron or stainless), add EVOO first (to the hot pan) then chorizo and brown the protein until the fond coat the bottom of the pan (3-5 minutes). Once a fond begins to form on the bottom of the pan, add the chili peppers, onions, celery, & cilantro stalks: once onions are softened and near caramelized, add the sliced garlic then salt and pepper to taste.

Deglaze the pan with a bit of broth, approximately ¼ cup, just enough to pick up the fond because there lies the flavor needed to make the “gravy”; really the goal is we are making a sauce and the fond is what makes the sauce taste FABULOUS!

Once the fond is dissolved in the stock and much of the stock you started with has evaporated, add a tbsp. of butter into the mix and melt. Once butter is incorporated, dust with the flour and sauté until the flour coats the mix, approximately 1 minute: at this point, you are just “cooking” the flour and making it ready to receive just enough stock to make a light sauce. The trick is to only add enough stock to give the “gravy” a bit of viscosity to coat the mix – the objective is NOT to make a thick gravy – coating the back of the spoon: bring to a light simmer. Lastly, add the shrimp and cook 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of the shrimp).

By this time, the polenta you have been nursing (by stirring frequently) should have thickened nicely and is cooked: turn down the burner to “warm” or “low” then add one tbsp. (pat) of butter and ½ a brick of Boursin cheese: adjust the salt and pepper for taste. Stir until incorporated then keep warm. The polenta should be creamy: if it becomes too thick, add a little bit of stock or milk to loosen it to the desired creamy texture.

I’m a nut for veg

At this point, I will sauté a bit of kale, salt, and pepper to taste, then toss with the leaves of cilantro to use as a coverlet to the polenta before I top with the shrimp and chorizo gravy.

6-10                  Stalks Dinosaur Kale, deveined and sliced
½ cup               Cilantro leaves, rough chop
1 TBSP             Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – mostly, I eye-ball this
                         Flake Salt and (fresh milled) pepper to taste

Now, I prefer dinosaur or Lacinato kale to Russian kale because it has a sweeter taste to the bitterness of Russian kale. You do you. I do believe, too, that a bit of fried, breaded okra would be a delicious topper to this dish. Just saying.

I hope you enjoy my version of Shrimp, Chorizo, and Grits!