Test Kitchen - Blackened Shrimp Grit Cakes in Corn Cream Sauce

I have always loved grits in just about any way that I've had them. They usually cannot be messed up other than being blander than preferred. When it became a Test Kitchen ingredient for us to experiment with, I thought of the different applications I have seen it in. Shrimp and grits is a very popular dish but felt overdone...however, what if you combined them into a snackable piece? Chopped up finely, the shrimp would be able to mix in with the grits well enough to make a shrimp and grits cake. What a thought! To prevent it from being too bland, I seasoned both the grits and the shrimp pieces too. The recipe requires several ingredients because everything is made from scratch but this savory, Southern treat is well worth the effort. Give it a try yourself. I got the thumbs up from even my parents who rarely eat non-Asian food!

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 3 dozen cakes)

    Blackening seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsps garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp onion powder
    Grit Cakes
  • 1 lb shrimp, shelled and finely chopped after cooking (I used 31/40 size)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits, fine
  • 1 Tbsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    Corn Cream Sauce
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced (~half a small onion)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup whole kernel yellow corn
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, deseeded and diced (~3 Romas)
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade (extra for garnish)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Step 2: Prepping ingredients
Combine all of the blackening seasoning spices into a well-mixed blend. Remove shells from shrimp. In a large saucepan, add water and grits and bring to a boil. Add garlic salt and lower to a simmer, stirring constantly. Combine shrimp and 2/3 the amount of seasoning; cook on a skillet 1-1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove and finely chop. Combine shrimp, chives, and cheese into grits thoroughly.

Step 3: Making the sauce
On a foil wrapped baking sheet about 13"x9", spread out grits to a 1/2" thickness and let cool. When cool enough, place into the refrigerator to chill for an hour or longer. In a large skillet (can be the same as the shrimp one), gently saute onion and garlic on medium until softened. Add in corn and remaining blackening seasoning; stir until fully coated. Then add in tomatoes and basil. Stir for about a minute and then add cream. This allows the tomatoes not to cook down and lose its brightness. Simmer sauce on low until cream has reduced to a consistency you are happy with.

Step 4: Making grit cakes
Once the grits have cooled enough, use round cookie cutters (your choice of size) to shape the pieces. Fry on each side in an oiled skillet until golden brown. You will need to be quick with your spatula work so as not to break the cakes. They can be fragile since they are only bound by the grits' own tackiness.

Step 5: Finishing
Serve grit cakes hot over the sauce. You may also garnish with purple basil and additional chives if desired. Got extra shrimp? Use those too! Of course, you may have chosen to omit making the sauce - in that case, enjoy your grit cake snacks.

The next Test Kitchen ingredient: fresh dill
"Like caraway, the fernlike leaves of dill are aromatic and are used to flavor many foods such as gravlax (cured salmon) and other fish dishes, borscht and other soups, as well as pickles (where the dill flower is sometimes used). Dill is best when used fresh as it loses its flavor rapidly if dried; however, freeze-dried dill leaves retain their flavor relatively well for a few months." [Wikipedia]

Fresh dill is the newest Test Kitchen ingredient! I used to not like this herb at all but have grown to tolerate it a little more with each time I have it. It strikes me as quite strong but it is very useful overall. So tell me readers, what would you like to see me do with it?

Photography by Duc Duong.