Cajun Sausage Shrimp and Cheese Grits

Some dishes take a little more love than others. Grilling some meat and veggies? You just slap those suckers with spices and let 'em roast. Pulling together a salad? Toss your ingredients in a bowl, give it a shake-shake and start crunching. Easy, quick, and generally soulless. 

Other dishes are meant to take a while to prepare, meant to be lingered over by the cook(s) with a glass of wine and plenty of time. These recipes generally involve a series of steps, with meats to slice, veggies to dice, pots to tend, and bowls to fill. These are the dishes that I most love, and the ones that remind me of home. 

Anytime I head south to visit my parents, I have one dish to request: my mom's Cajun Sausage Shrimp and Cheese Grits. Traditional southern fare with a Cajun kick, they would feature high on my list of last requests. 

I'm almost always given a sous-chef position, which means my responsibilities begin with the ever important knife. To make this recipes, you'll need to pre-chop and shred ingredients like bell pepper, celery, and onion, 

plenty of sausage,

30-something shrimp,

and artery-clogging amounts of white cheddar cheese.

Next comes the heat. You throw together your grits and let them bubble for about an hour (standing over them with steam-frizzed hair and stirring all the while), and put together a roux in another pan. Add your vegetables to that, then step aside and let the master work.

Within 20 minutes, those vegetables, butter, and flour have mixed with the rest of your ingredients to become your Cajun Sausage and Shrimp.

Can't forget your mcsteamy friend Mr. Grits, though! The foundation of this meal is the most important part. It begins as a humble combination of milk, grits, and seasoning, and the star power comes from that cheese you shredded earlier. Shake and stirrr.

And that's really it. You've spent enough time with your kitchen buddy to get annoyed and make up, consume a half bottle of wine, ruin at least one article of clothing, and put a whole lotta love into your southern home-cooked meal. Time to dish 'er up and chow.

Cajun Sausage Shrimp and Cheese Grits

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

For the Grits:

4 tablespoons butter

5 cups milk (2 percent or whole)

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 1/2 cups uncooked stone-ground white grits

1 (10 oz.) block sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

For the Sausage and Shrimp:

1 1/2 lbs. unpeeled, medium-sized raw shrimp (31-40 shrimp)

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped green and red bell pepper, mixed

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 lb. andouille or smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 (14 oz.) can chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup chopped green onions (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

For the Grits:

Bring 2 tablespoons butter, 5 cups of water, and the milk, salt, hot sauce, and garlic to a boil in a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until thickened.

Stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons butter until melted. Serve immediately.

For the Sausage and Shrimp:

Peel shrimp and de-vein.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; gradually whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is a light caramel color (about 6 minutes). This is your roux.

Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Add sausage and cook 2 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, salt, and pepper, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of skillet. Bring to a light boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 8-10 minutes or until slighty thickened. 

Stir in shrimp, cream, and green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes or until shrimp are pink. 

To serve, spoon cheese grits into the bottom of a large shallow bowl. Using a ladle, spoon some of the sausage, shrimp and broth on top. Add green onions when serving if desired.

Empire Heights

Back in the city! I spent the last five days down south in western North Carolina visiting family. I'm getting all my photos together and will be sure to tell you about some of my favorite parts soon. In the meantime, time for a bit of exploring closer to home..

I extend this series of photos as further and final proof that absolutely everything looks better when photographed from the right angle. Seriously, selfie-stick-angle has never been better at hiding the less than attractive parts of a photo subject (no offense, City).

Going higher gets you photos that like one and this one.

Oh, and this one. 

The Empire State Building provides the perfect vantage point for New York City. Have you made a visit yet? I hadn't and decided I was long overdue, so I packed up my DSLR and made moves that direction after work.

Being a sucker for a good shot, I made sure to time my visit with the sunset. Unsurprisingly, I wasn't the only genius with that thought on a beautiful late summer night, so there were some pretty good lines all around. In the end, I opted to hike five flights to skip the elevator queue and made it just in time for the show.

Don't miss the opportunity to watch the sun go down from an 1,250 foot vantage point and a building that just so happens to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world (at least, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers). 

Hint: take your barf bag if you are afraid of heights. 102 floors is serious business. 

Tickets available on the ESB website for 86th floor observation deck at $29 with additional $17 for the upper level 102nd deck platform.