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Shrooms and Grits

Shrooms and Grits

Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish household, shrimp was never on the table, but that didn’t curtail my curiosity about classic dishes that happen to feature shellfish, like shrimp and grits. I chose to see this as an opportunity to find the very best plant-based alternative for those ingredients, and to create a dish that was equally delicious as its seafood counterpart. There’s a reason that mushrooms are so often a substitute for meat, and it’s because they really can bring similar texture and flavor when they’re cooked the right way. For this recipe, I chose pink oyster mushrooms, which have a slight seafood-y taste and smell, and so are the perfect substitute for shrimp, right down to the color! I sear them off in butter before adding a medley of fresh vegetables: bell pepper, tomato, scallions, and garlic. Once everything is sauted to perfection, I add smoked paprika and cayenne as a nod to the dish’s cajun roots, letting them toast for a couple of minutes to really bloom their flavor. Finally, after a sprinkle of flour and stock to make everything extra saucey, this flavor-packed mixture is spooned over cheddar cheese grits.

If you aren’t familiar with grits (porridge made from stone-ground corn), or you’ve had them and were underwhelmed, this preparation will absolutely positively change your mind. They are classic southern grits, cooked low and slow for a super creamy texture, and enriched with cream, butter, and lots of sharp cheddar cheese. Imagine risotto’s southern cousin at half the price, and you’ve got these grits. I finish mine with a hefty amount of freshly ground black pepper, and they become the perfect, rich, cheesy foundation for the bright, vegetal mushroom saute. After a sprinkle of scallions and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, there’s nothing that can stop me from eating this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack…you get the idea.

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