Lowcountry Shrimp and GritsSo satisfying, to be the conjuror of an incredible potion. That’s what I was, with the “Lowcountry Shrimp and Grits,” from the May 2015 issue of Cooking Light. In a single sauté pan, I put together the “shrimp mixture.” In another pot, the creamy grits. All magical.

Notice the long list of ingredients, the particulars. Black coffee? And then, the tomato juice + red wine vinegar + sugar + ground red pepper. I was a sorceress, with my measuring spoons and cups. If you stick with it, you’ll win with some great flavor combos. For instance, bacon + thyme does something. And coffee + scallions, yes! The red pepper heat is present.

I admit I was doubtful about the 1/4 tsp. of salt (divided!) that the recipe asks for (it’s Cooking Light, you know). But amazingly, the recipe doesn’t need more salt. Believe the magic, here.

And let’s not downplay the grits. Chicken stock and milk are stirred with the grits into a wonderful, crowd-pleasing creaminess. You can make friends with this stuff. Do it.

PRICES:
Cremini Mushrooms (8 oz.) = $1.71
Shrimp (1 lb.) = $15.76

PREP TIME: set aside an hour for the prep and cooking
TASTE:
mushrooms and shrimp are dressed in a sauce deepened by bacon, thyme, coffee, scallions, and red pepper, on a soft pillow of grits

Next time, I’ll delve into the May/June 2015 issue of Cook’s Illustrated, to make the “Vietnamese-Style Caramel Chicken with Broccoli” (recipe below). Come back to my site next week, to see how this goes.

Vietnamese-Style Caramel Chicken with Broccoli
Cook’s Illustrated, May/June 2015
Serves 4 to 6

1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved crosswise
7 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 lb. broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

Combine baking soda and 1 1/4 cups cold water in large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Rinse chicken in cold water and drain well.

Meanwhile, combine sugar and 3 Tbsp. water in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture begins to turn golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, gently swirling saucepan, until sugar turns color of molasses and registers between 390 and 400 degrees, 4 to 6 minutes longer. (Caramel will produce some smoke during last 1 to 2 minutes or cooking.) Immediately remove saucepan from heat and carefully pour in 3/4 cup hot water (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). When bubbling has subsided, return saucepan to medium heat and stir to dissolve caramel.

Transfer caramel to 12-inch skillet and stir in fish sauce and ginger. Add chicken and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken is fork-tender and registers 205 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through simmering. Transfer chicken to serving dish and cover to keep warm.

Bring 1 inch water to boil in Dutch oven. Lower insert or steamer basket with broccoli into pot so it rests above water; cover and simmer until broccoli is just tender, 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. Transfer broccoli to serving dish with chicken.

While broccoli cooks, bring sauce to boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water together in small bowl, then whisk into sauce; simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Stir in pepper. Pour 1/4 cup sauce over chicken and broccoli. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve, passing remaining sauce separately.