About a cocktail and a half into our museum chat, I found myself kindly invited out to see the mill and distillery in action. So last weekend, I went. My fellow Slow Food DC board members oohed and ahhed, as I did, at local grain being ground by a giant water wheel contraption and our first president's whiskey recipe being made at the (ahem, only legal) woodfire-powered distillery. We even got to sample some of the rare rye whiskey. (Don't worry, I wasn't driving.)
I was beside myself when Sam handed me a bag of the pancake mix (that Steve had raved about), a bag of cornmeal (also roundly praised), and, my favorite, a bag of stone ground grits. I used the cornmeal to make a batch of cornbread with 5th graders this past Friday, and then whipped up another batch of cornbread for our Slow Food DC annual potluck yesterday -- both were delightedly devoured, and the slow foodies remarked on the lovely flavor and texture. But let me tell you what I've been daydreaming about for the past 36 hours: the DELICIOUS shrimp and grits I made for a dinner party with my friends Sheffy, Aimee, and Griffin on Friday night. Oh, lord, it was a good meal. For your mouth-watering pleasure, I offer you this recipe, adapted from Saveur....
- 1 cup George Washington's Gristmill grits (seriously, they're the best!)
- 4½ cups chicken broth
- Olive oil
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 lb. medium shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1-2 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, washed, patted dry, then thinly sliced (I like the ones from North Cove Mushrooms, at the Dupont farmers' market)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¾ cup grated cheddar
- ¼ cup freshly shaved parmesan
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
In a medium cast iron pot, bring 4 cups chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. Open the wine....
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium/large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a dish that you can keep warm in a 200F oven. It's probably time to get another glass of wine....
Lower burner heat to medium, then add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 5 minutes), then add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
Raise heat to high, add remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half (about 3 minutes).
Return shrimp to skillet along with remaining butter and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, (about 1 minute).
Stir 1 TBSP butter into grits, along with parmesan. Sprinkle cheddar on top, then use a blowtorch (if you're Griffin) or a creme brulee torch (if you're fainthearted like me) to melt the cheese. Have a fire extinguisher nearby. And make sure at least one person is sober enough to use it.
Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and sauce. Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions. You can also have lemon wedges and hot sauce for garnishes, but I forgot those. (I blame the delicious wine Sheffy and his wife brought.)