Brunch is my favorite part of the weekend — I love making it and I especially love eating it (also because it gives me an excuse to drink a Bloody Mary before noon). Combining two meals into one is a genius idea because you can have your breakfast-type items (eggs, waffles, etc.) and more substantial lunch- or dinner-type dishes.
I’m always trying out fun new places for brunch or coming up with recipes for it. This brunch dish is one I came up with that combines two of my favorite cuisines: Southern and Southwestern. Shrimp and grits are a staple dish of the coastal South, and flavors like ancho and poblano are hallmarks of Southwestern cuisine.
The recipes for this dish require a little time and effort but are definitely worth the end result! I suggest serving it with sauteed spinach or collard greens to give some nice green color to the dish — I like to spike my greens with tequila while they’re cooking for a Southwestern/Mexican twist.
Roasted Poblano and Smoked Cheddar Grit Cakes
(makes 6-8 servings)
Roasting the chilies brings out their heat and flavor. The smokiness of the cheddar is a just great flavor addition to the dish and it adds an extra depth of flavor.
1 large or 2 medium poblano chiles
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted; divided
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth, water or milk
1 cup quick-cooking grits
6 ounces (or more, to your taste) smoked cheddar cheese (smoked Gouda works, too)
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Roast chilies over a flame (or under broiler in oven, turning once) until the skin is blackened. Peel off skin, take out the seeds and small dice.
2. In a medium pot, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add garlic, sauté for one minute (do not let it brown).
3. Add liquid, along with a tablespoon or two of salt (this is crucial to flavoring the grits) and bring to a boil.
4. Stir grits into boiling liquid and reduce the heat to medium, stirring for about 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.
5. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the cheese and diced poblanos. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. Spread grits into a cookie sheet or sheet pan and spread to an even thickness of ¾”. Cool for a few minutes then put into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and allow to harden.
7. Using a 2” diameter round cookie cutter (or shape of your choice) cut out grits cakes.
8. Put a large pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the grits cakes and sear for about two minutes per side to create a golden-brown crust. Remove and set aside on paper towels to drain some of the oil.
1 pound medium or large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 teaspoons ancho chili powder
4 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. Place cleaned shrimp in a large place container or zip-loc bag. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, spices and salt; shake well and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the accompanying sauce (see below).
2. Heat remaining oil in a large sauté pan or wok. When oil is hot, add shrimp and sauté until pink and done (about 3-4 min). Season with salt and pepper. Serve with Red Pepper-Corn Cream Sauce and Poblano and Smoked Cheddar Grits Cakes.
Southwestern Red Pepper & Corn Cream Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, small diced
1 large red bell pepper, small diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (or Mexican oregano/epazote)
1 teaspoon cayenne powder (or more to your tolerance for heat)
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine (pinot grigio, chardonnay, etc.)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1. Heat oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, bell pepper, herbs and spices and sauté until translucent (about 4 min.).
2. Add wine and allow to reduce until almost dry (5 min. or so).
3. Add cream, reduce heat a bit and reduce by half.
4. When it is reduced and of sauce consistency, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.
5. When cooled, put half of sauce mixture into a blender or food processor and puree. Add back to pan, along with the corn, and reheat before serving.