This recipe is a nod to the Kentucky in my blood and the love I have for rich and flavorful southern food. It’s a perfect dish to serve at a Mardi gras party or on Derby day. My wife and I enjoyed it for Valentine’s day this year. It also makes for a killer brunch dish to round out a night of overindulgence, a la French Quarter style. No matter the occasion, you’re gonna love it! Warning, I like spicy, so if that is not your forte, perhaps substitute green pepper for the fresno red peppers or go easy on some of the spices.
2 oz dried lobster mushrooms (or about one 16 oz jar...if using fresh mushrooms, one lb thinly sliced should suffice)
16 large blue shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 tbsp butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 yellow onion finely diced (brunoised)
2 stalks of celery, brunoised
3 fresno peppers (2 brunoised, 1 sliced on a bias)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 c chicken stock
1 ½ c parmesan or extra sharp cheddar (shredded)
¼ c AP flour
Cajun seasoning (or, if you don’t have this, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and italian seasoning will do)
Hot sauce to your liking
Recipe serves four people.
Take two and a half cups of hot water and cover the dried mushrooms in a large bowl. Make sure all the mushrooms are fully submerged in water. Let mushrooms rehydrate for at least an hour. If working with fresh lobsters, skip this step. Meanwhile, prep veggies.
Once the mushrooms have sufficiently rehydrated, squeeze water out of the mushrooms, strain the mushroom liquid and set liquid aside for later. Take one third of the mushrooms and finely dice and set aside with the two clove’s worth of garlic.
Heat a tbsp of olive oil in 3 qt pot. Add one clove of minced garlic to hot oil and turn to low heat. Once garlic starts to get crispy, add four c of chicken stock. Turn heat up to medium-high.
In a saucepan, heat a couple tbsp of olive oil on medium heat. Add one clove’s worth of garlic, all of the brunoised onion, celery, and the fresno peppers. Salt the veggies and stir occasionally. Once the onion begins to soft and turns translucent, turn heat down to low.
Drop two tbsp of bacon fat into cast iron and heat on medium high. Once hot, throw the two thirds of the lobster mushrooms into the frying pan--leaving out the one third set aside earlier. Saute, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are cooked through and turn heat off.
At this point, the chicken broth should be boiling. Turn heat down to low and stir in grits. The grits should take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook and will need regular stirring to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot.
While grits are cooking, drop four tbsp of the cubed butter into the onion mixture. Stir butter in until the vegetables are completely coated. Sprinkle a tbsp of flour over the buttered veggies at a time, stirring until the flour is completely mixed in. Do this until the veggies have a sticky brown roux, almost like a batter. Do not forget to keep stirring the grits regularly. This balance may require an extra set of hands.
Add sauteed mushrooms to roux veggie mixture. Take mushroom liquid, which should have an orange color from the lobster mushroom skin, and pour into the veggie roux. If using fresh lobster mushrooms, substitute mushroom liquid with chicken stock. Stir in until sauce has even consistency. At this point, the sauce will be fairly thin. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally.
At this point, the grits should be fully cooked. Turn off heat and immediately drop in remaining four tbsp of butter and stir in. Next dump in the shredded cheese and stir in as well. Salt generously. Replace lid.
In the same cast iron the mushrooms cooked in, heat another three tbsp of olive oil on high heat. Drop in the remaining chopped garlic and mushrooms in the center and season generously with creole seasoning. After four minutes, once mushrooms and garlic are just starting to turn golden, set all the shrimp around the mixture in the center, with the thick part of the shrimp towards the center. Sprinkle cajun seasoning over shrimp as well. Turn shrimp over after a minute or so, so that it is white on each side and is not translucent in the middle. At this point, mixture in center should be crispy.
Take four pasta bowls, add two scoops of grits to each. Spoon étouffée over grits. Add four shrimp to each bowl. Sprinkle with crispy cajun mushroom, garlic mix and with the minced chives and sliced fresno.
Enjoy! Add hot sauce if you like. Note: if you don’t have lobster mushrooms at all, you can use other mushrooms. You can also use crawfish instead or chopped bacon.