This week, I have a not-so-secret secret for you.
You might have noticed a fair number of gluten-free and/or low sugar recipes hanging out on the blog lately. This is because Beau and I have been undertaking some dietary self-experimentation over the last few months.
As someone who cooks and eats for a living and who doesn’t exactly have skinny genes coursing through my DNA (do genes course?), figuring out how to eat without gaining weight has been an ongoing struggle. Add all the pastry tasting during my culinary tours and you have a closet full of very tight clothes.
On a recent flight back from Paris, I ended up watching a documentary about the staggering amount of sugar in our food these days. Which led to me reading this book about why people in industrialized countries keep gaining more and more weight.
I should pause to say that I am hugely skeptical about fad diets. But the more I read, the more the science seems to point to the crazy amount of sugar and carbohydrates in the modern diet.
So Beau and I decided to cut the amount of sugar and carbs we eat way back. For the last four months we’ve eaten a lot of protein, a lot of (mostly green) vegetables and a good amount of fat. Let me be honest: I did not fully expect this to work. But we figured we’d give it a go and see what happened.
To my surprise, we both feel much better eating this way. We have more even energy throughout the day (no more afternoon slump!), we don’t feel hungry all the time (no more afternoon grazing on sugary snacks!) and we’ve both lost weight.
Because what food you put in your body is a deeply personal choice and because I cannot abide proselytizing in any form, I would not dream of telling you how you should eat. But it was starting to get a little awkward eating one way at home and posting recipes that don’t represent that here on the blog.
Honestly, I feel a bit silly discussing the details of what I do and don't eat (the intricacies of one's diet being among the most boring topics known to man). But this is a food blog. And it’s a blog about trying to live a beautiful, balanced life. So it felt relevant. If anyone has fallen asleep in their soup (gluten-free or otherwise), please forgive me.
By no means will every recipe I post on here be gluten-free, low-sugar or low-carb. I still believe that no food should be 100% off-limits: If I want a slice of chocolate cake or toast with jam for breakfast, I’m going to have it. I’m just trying to make it more of an occasional treat than a daily occurrence!
So, with that out of the way, this week I invite you to try: Shrimp and Cauliflower Grits with Hot Sauce Butter. It's creamy, plenty spicy and just the sort of hearty breakfast (or lunch or dinner) chilly days require. It's the kind of comfort food we all crave from time to time. Happily, it's also quite adaptable. Feel free to leave out the bacon for a pescatarian dish. Up the mushrooms and ditch the meat if you're a vegetarian. Use good old-fashioned stone ground grits if you like. It's up to you. As ever, I want you to make this recipe your own.
Also, I'd love to hear back if any of you have tried out a low-carb or low-sugar diet. Love it? Hate it? Got any tips? Drop me a line in the comments below.
Shrimp and Cauliflower Grits with Hot Sauce Butter
- 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 lbs), trimmed, cored and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups water
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil), divided
- 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- Sea salt, to taste
- 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, or to taste
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 oz cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 6 green onions, green part only, sliced into rounds
- 1 lb medium or large shrimp, peeled, tails removed and deveined if desired, and patted dry with paper towels
- 4 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Tobasco), or to taste
- Splash lemon juice, optional
First, make the cauliflower grits: Place the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until it is about the size of couscous grains. Make sure not to over-process the cauliflower; you want to leave it a little course to replicate the texture of grits. If your food processor is on the smaller side, you might need to do this in batches.
Spread the processed cauliflower out on a large plate or platter and microwave for 8 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. Alternately, you can cook it on the stovetop: bring an inch or so of water to a simmer in a deep pot large enough to hold a fine mesh sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Transfer the cauliflower to the sieve or colander and set it over the simmering water. Cover and steam until the cauliflower has softened but still retains its texture, about 5-8 minutes.
Place the cooked cauliflower in a kitchen towel and wring as dry as possible. You want to remove as much water as possible from the cauliflower so it can soak up the cooking liquid and seasonings. Fluff the cauliflower with a fork to break up any clumps (you should have about 4 cups) and place it in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the cream, water, 2 tablespoons of the butter, the pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter has melted and the cauliflower has started to absorb some of the liquid. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the cheese. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the cheese has melted. Reduce the heat to low and cover the cauliflower grits while you prepare the shrimp.
To make the shrimp: Sauté the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. You want about 2 tablespoons of fat left in the pan. If you have excess, pour it off. If you don’t have enough, add a little butter or olive oil. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms and green onion along with a pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and starting to turn golden, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the pan. When it has melted, add the shrimp along with a pinch of salt and sauté until the shrimp are almost cooked through. The time will vary depending on the size of your shrimp. To check for doneness, remove a shrimp from the pan and cut it in half. You want the inside to be slightly translucent. The shrimp will continue to cook off the heat and be cooked through by the time you serve them.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the hot sauce. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings. (You can add a splash of lemon juice if your hot sauce isn’t very vinegary.)
Divide the cauliflower grits among serving bowls. (If they are thicker than you would like, add a little water to the pot to loosen them. if they are too loose, cook them a minute or two longer over medium-high heat, uncovered.) Top with mushrooms and shrimp. Sprinkle the bacon over the top. Serve immediately, passing additional hot sauce alongside.
Makes 4-5 servings.