Disclosure: I was given a free copy of Texas on the Table to review from University Press, but I wasn't paid for this post or obligated to share it with you. My opinions are all my own.
I read a lot of cookbooks. It's one of my favorite things to do, and recently a few publishers started sending me copies of books to check out – which for a book-nerd like myself is really pretty thrilling. I've probably received about a dozen books this year, but only a few really stood out. Texas on the Table is one of those few.
It's a massive book, and packed with gorgeous photos. The book shares stories from Texas chefs and food producers, adding a rich background to each of the amazing recipes within. Most of the recipes aren't everyday fare, but they tend to focus on fresh whole ingredients, which is nice. These are the kinds of meals you might make for a holiday – or when you feel like spending a few hours in the kitchen fixing up something really special.
Being short on time lately my choices for recipe testing from this book were a bit limited. There were so many recipes I would love to make, but I didn't have time to glaze pecans or craft intricate sauces, so I ended up picking out Jack Gilmore's recipe for Shrimp and Cheesy Grits. Shrimp n' Grits happens to be one of my personal favorites, so the stakes were high. When I saw that Gilmore's recipe included blue cheese I had my doubts, but whoah mama, this stuff was GOOD.
This was easily the best Shrimp n' Grits I ever ate. The recipe worked like a charm, being easy to follow and incredibly tasty. We followed the book pretty closely but didn't bother to hunt down either of the blue cheeses Gilmore reccomends. We actually just grabbed the generic store brand. Nor did we grow our own tomatoes for this dish. That would have taken a bit too long.
We did use Gulf Shrimp – though that was not called for by name. It tickled us how specific Gilmore was about the brand of cheese and origin of the tomatoes, but not the the shrimp. Maybe it's just us. After all, we do come from a family of fishermen, so of course the shrimp seem much more important to us.
My mom and I ended up making this dish together along with another recipe from Texas on the Table, Mixed Green Salad with Cilantro Dressing. The dressing was really great – though a touch too spicy for my mom's sensitive toungue. I loved it – and drenched everything else I ate in the leftovers for days.
My mother and I both enjoyed the book so much that I expect I'll end up buying a second copy. It's too good to share.
On a side note, if you aren't familiar with Jack Gilmore, he's the chef and owner over at Jack Allen's Kitchen in West Austin. Since cooking this recipe we've enjoyed a few meals at Jack Allen's and it's now become a family favorite. He has his own cookbook out as well which is defnitely going on my wishlist.
Jack Gilmore's Shrimp and Cheesy Grits
(Recipe excerpt from Texas on the Table by Sandy Wilson. Shared with permission. Courtesy of University Press)
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup whipping cream
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground grits
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled Veldhuizen Family Farm Bosque Blue Cheese, or substitute another Texas blue cheese, such as Mozzarella Company's Deep Ellum Blue
- 1 pound large (16 to 20 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail section left intact
- Spicy Cajun seafood seasoning
- 6 smoked bacon slices, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped homegrown Roma tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup thinkly sliced green onions, including green tops
Combine the water and cream in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pan over medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a full, rolling boil. Add the grits and whisk vigorously until the water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes; don't let them burn. The grits should be smooth and creamy. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the butter and cheeses, makking sure they are well incorporated. Set aside to keep warm.
Rinse the shrimp and pat them completely dry. Toss with enough of the seafood seasoning to coat the shrimp heavily; set aside. Fry the diced bacon in a heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces and set aside to drain. Add the onion to the pan and cook just until onion is wilted and transparent, about five minutes. Toss in the garlic and shrimp and cook, stirring often, just until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque throughout. Add the lemon juice, chopped tomatoes, parsley, green onions, and reserved bacon. Saute for three minutes.
Spoon a portion of the hot grits into individual rimmed bowls. Spoon equal portions of the shrimp mixture over each serving and serve immediately.