Friday, December 30, 2011

Revamped: The Most Ridiculous Blackened Cajun Shrimp & Pimento Cheese Grits with Tomato-Tabasco-Andouille Gravy, Collard Green Pesto, Crispy Soft Poached Egg, & Candied Bacon

Welp, we're saving the best for the last. This will be the last "new" recipe for the year. I can't believe it's almost been a year since I started this blog. So crazy to me. I will be posting a list of our top ten favorite recipes from 2011 tomorrow, so please tune in to see what we loved the most. Anyway, back to this delicious meal that we made. I really can't put into words how much we are obsessed with it. I had made Shrimp & Pimento Cheese Grits in my first month of blog, and this new recipe kicks that recipe out the window if anyone is concerned. I added a bunch of different components that just makes it a knockout. This revamped version of shrimp & grits features blackened cajun shrimp, pimento cheese grits, tomato-tabasco-andouille gravy, collard green pesto, a crispy soft poached egg, and candied bacon. And if you are in culinary shock right now, you read the whole sentence correctly, it wasn't a dream. I know it's the most bizarre combination of ingredients, but it all comes together amazingly. I mean can this dish get any more Southern? I don't think so. The crispy soft poached egg was the game-changer for sure. I perfectly poached an egg, breaded it in panko, and then fried it until golden brown & crispy on the outside. But the glory of it all... when you cut into the center, the egg yolk is still deliciously runny. Next up, the tomato-tabasco-andouille gravy would be amazing on just about anything, I'm thinking about topping some homemade biscuits with it next. And for the collard green pesto (similar to a spinach pesto), it's acidity proves to be spectacular in balancing with all of the other creamy & spicy components. I can't wait to top some bread or chicken with this stuff. And don't forget the candied bacon, this was possibly the most important addition because it adds an unbelievable sweetness to the dish that can not be missed!! So please, I beg of you, make this. Make it on a birthday or celebration, make it for your husband, or just make it on a Wednesday night for all I care. Just make it. Because it is hands down the most delicious meal that we have ever had. It's so worth the heart attack in the future!! Enjoy :)

Here are the changes (if I lost you in my description):
1. I used a blackening cajun spice blend on the shrimp to make it extra-spicy
2. I used high-quality stone ground grits that are thick & hearty (I prefer Anson Mills' Grits)
3. I made a Southern tomato gravy with tabasco & andouille that adds a nice creaminess and heat
4. I made a collard green pesto that gives the dish some balance
5. I soft-poached an egg, and then breaded it & fried it until crispy and golden brown (uh-may-zing)
6. I garnished the plate with candied bacon and fresh chopped chives

Here's the view from the top!!
Blackened Cajun Shrimp, Pimento Cheese Grits, Tomato-Tabasco-Andouille Gravy, Collard Green Pesto, Crispy Soft Poached Egg, Candied Bacon, & Fresh Chopped Chives
Don't forget the candied bacon garnish... it's crucial!!
The Most Ridiculous Shrimp & Grits with Crispy Soft Poached Egg (look at that runny yolk)
For the Candied Bacon:
8 Strips of Thick Applewood Smoked Bacon
2t Light Brown Sugar (per slice of bacon)

For the Collard Green Pesto:
5C Fresh Collard Greens, Washed & Chopped
3 Cloves of Garlic
¼C Pecans, Toasted
½C Olive Oil
1/3C Parmesan Cheese, Grated
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Tomato-Tabasco-Andouille Gravy:
1 (15oz) Can of Diced Tomatoes
1T Onions, Finely Chopped
4oz Chopped Pimentos
1C Chicken Stock
½C Butter or Rendered Fat (I used Andouille fat)
½C Andouille Sausage, Cut into Small Cubes
½C AP Flour
1C Half & Half
¼C Tabasco Hot Sauce
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Crispy Soft Poached Egg:
1Q Water
1 ½t White Vinegar
1T Salt
4 Fresh Eggs
¼C AP Flour
¾C Panko
Canola Oil, For Frying
Salt, For Sprinkling 

For the Pimento Cheese Grits:
3C Chicken Stock
1 ½C Heavy Cream
1C Stone Ground Grits
2T Butter
1C Pimento Cheese
Salt & Pepper, To Taste

For the Blackened Cajun Shrimp:
1 ½lbs Wild Georgia Shrimp, Peeled & Deveined
2t Cajun Seasoning
1t Paprika
1t Dried Italian Seasoning
Fresh Black Pepper

For Garnishing:
Crispy Candied Bacon Lardons
Prepared Tomato-Tabasco Gravy
Crispy Soft Poached Eggs
Prepared Pimento Cheese Polenta
Blackened Cajun Shrimp
Fresh Chopped Chives

1. For the Candied Bacon: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the strips of bacon on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat. Sprinkle each slice of bacon with 2t of brown sugar. Bake for 12-16 minutes. Midway, flip the bacon over and drag them through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet. Continue to bake until it is as dark as mahogany. Remove from the oven and cool the strips on a wire rack. Once the bacon is cool and crisp, chop into cubes.
2. For the Collard Green Pesto: Cook the greens in boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process, and then drain well. Process the garlic and pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Add the greens, oil, cheese, salt & pepper, and ¼C water. Pulse into smooth. Set it aside. 
3. For the Tomato-Tabasco Gravy: In a small pot, sauté the sausage on medium heat until all the fat has been rendered. Drain the sausage onto a plate, and then add the chopped onions to the fat and cook until tender. Whisk in the flour and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. Slowly pour the stock, while constantly whisking, until smooth. Add the tomatoes and its’ juices and chopped pimentos. Stir in the half & half and Tabasco hot sauce and let it simmer for 5-15 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.
4. For the Crispy Soft Poached Eggs: Pour 1 quart of water into a saucepan that holds about 1.5 quarts. Add the vinegar and salt and heat the water to 205 to 208 degrees. (If you don't have a thermometer, bring the water just to a boil and then turn the heat down so that the bubbling stops. If the water is boiling when the eggs go in, the egg whites will tend to fly apart). Meanwhile, place a fine strainer over a custard cup, small ramekin or bowl. Crack one egg into it and let the egg sit, undisturbed, for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the strainer (with the egg still in it) and pour out any accumulated thin white from the cup. Carefully tip the egg into the cup. Repeat with the other egg and another cup. (If you have two small strainers, you can do the two eggs simultaneously). When the water is hot, tip the eggs, one at a time, into the pan. This works best if you place the lip of the cup right at the surface of the water and tip it quickly so the egg goes in all at once. The eggs will sit at the bottom of the pan for a minute or so, then start to bob toward the surface. For barely set whites and runny yolks, cook the eggs about 3 ½ minutes, depending on the temperature of the egg. If your eggs have been out of the refrigerator just long enough to strain, they'll still be cool. If they're at room temperature, then 3 minutes may be enough time. Check the first egg at 3 minutes. If the white around the yolk still looks translucent, give it an additional 30 seconds. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and, if desired, drain very briefly on a paper towel. (If the egg sits on the paper towel more than a couple of seconds, it may stick. Set up a battering station. I use 3 pie tins. For the first station, I mix the flour. For the second station, I whisk the eggs together. For the third station, use the Panko breadcrumbs. Now, place the soft poached eggs into the flour mixture, then into the egg wash, and finally the panko (making sure they are completely covered, but still doing it softly with your hands). In a medium sauté pan, heat about 2 inches of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil has heated, fry the goat cheese medallions for 45 seconds to 1 minute until golden-brown & crispy on all sides. Place them onto a baking sheet & sprinkle with salt.
5. For the Pimento Cheese Grits: Bring the chicken stock and heavy cream to a boil. Add in the stone ground grits in a thin stream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes (adding salt & extra liquid if needed). When the polenta is done, whisk in the butter and pimento cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with the shrimp. Keep the grits warm in the pot while you prepare the other components. 
6. For the Blackened Cajun Shrimp: In a small bowl, mix together all of the seasonings until combined. Toss the shrimp in spice mixture until coated. In a large sauté pan, melt some butter or oil. Add the seasoned shrimp and cook until just done and still tender (don’t overcook). Remove the shrimp from the sauté pan and set them aside on a plate until ready to serve.
7. Assembling the Shrimp & Grits: Scoop some of the pimento cheese polenta into a deep bowl, and then spoon the Tomato-Tabasco gravy around the outside edge (surround the outside of the polenta). Place the crispy soft poached egg on top and in the center of the polenta and scatter some of the blackened Cajun shrimp around it. Garnish with the candied bacon pieces and fresh chopped chives. Serve warm and enjoy!!


  1. One of the best meals I've ever had, thanks for the recipe!

  2. Oh my Gosh!! Can I move in??? I have gotta try this!!

  3. Haha you certainly could try, but it would be a tight squeeze in this downtown apartment! It's my favorite dinner recipe that I have made thus far, so I definitely suggest you trying it sometime. Especially if you love Southern food :)