When F&W gave our market basket challenge to Top Chef Season 5 contestant Jeff McInnis, the owner of Miami's Southern-inflected Yardbird restaurant, we purposefully included shrimp but no grits. McInnis didn't care: He made his own fast, fresh version with the corn that was also in the basket. He added pecan butter to his grits, and here's why: "My grandma Daisy had a huge pecan tree in her front yard in Brewton, Alabama," says McInnis. "She'd break the pecans into little pieces with a mallet; I'd eat the sticky nut butter with my fingers."
5 (2 cups pulp and juice) ears of corn, shucked and coarsely grated on a box grater
1/4 cup milk, plus more for stirring
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened roasted pecan butter, (see Note)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces country ham or prosciutto, thinly sliced, cut into strips
1/2 (large) sweet onion, thinly sliced
6 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 cup (from 2 ears) fresh corn kernels
Freshly ground pepper
1 pound (large) shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 cup lager
How to Make It
In a saucepan, simmer the grated corn and juices with the 1/4 cup of milk over moderate heat, stirring, until thick, 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the pecan butter; keep warm.
In a large, deep skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the ham and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, snap peas and corn, season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just begin to curl, about 3 minutes. Add the lager and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
Whisk a little milk into the grits so it's the consistency of polenta; heat until warm. Spoon the grits into shallow bowls, top with the shrimp sauté and serve at once.
To make your own pecan butter, process 1 cup toasted pecans in a mini food processor with 1/2 teaspoon canola oil until smooth, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
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