Creamy "Grits" with Creole Shrimp
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery with green leafy tops, finely chopped
- 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme, intact
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
- 1 to 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons hot sauce (recommended: Frank's Red Hot), divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup beer, 1/3 of a bottle
- 3 cups chicken stock, divided
- 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped frozen okra, optional
- 1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined medium to large shrimp, tails removed
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup quick cooking (sometimes marked "instant") polenta
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When butter melts into extra-virgin olive oil, add garlic, onions, celery, bell peppers, thyme, bay leaf then season with salt and pepper. Cook veggies 7 to 8 minutes until tender, add in the Worcestershire, 1 to 2 tablespoons hot sauce (medium to spicy heat level) and the flour and cook 1 minute more then add in beer and cook it off, another 30 seconds or so. Whisk in 1 cup of stock then add tomatoes and okra, if using, and bring to a bubble. Add shrimp and cook 3 to 5 minutes, until shrimp turn pink and firm then turn off heat. Remove thyme stems and bay leaf.
Bring remaining 2 tablespoons butter, 2 cups stock, 1 cup milk and 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to a boil in a sauce pot. Stir in 1 cup quick cooking polenta. Stir constantly to mass the cornmeal. Once the mixture thickens to the consistency of whipped potatoes, season the "grits" with salt and divide among dinner plates.
Serve generous ladles of shrimp and sauce on a bed of creamy "grits".