Monthly Archives: January 2010

Shrimp and Grits Recipe

Ann Arbor Food

Ever since my trip to  the low country, Northern Georgia, South Carolina, last winter, and I had shrimp and grits, I have been a big fan. Here is the picture of  the shrimp and grits I had in Birmingham, Alabama.

I purchased a 5LB bag from a small local mill, and have since used it all. There a few different ways to make grits. Grit are basically course corn meal. The white corn variety is not found much up north, so I use the yellow often labeled polenta.

Grit are basically a corn porridge. The recipe I am sharing uses milk, and cheese, and it is topped with saute shrimp. Broiled shrimp, or grilled shrimp are great too. I sometimes use sausage instead of shrimp, or use these cheese grits as a starch side dish for other meals.

Shrimp and Grits: Serves Four

Ingredients:

2 cups of water
2 cups of milk
1 cup of grits (or polenta)
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup parm cheese
4 pieces of bacon
4 scallions slices small
2 cloves of minced garlic
juice of 1 lemon
Old Bay seasoning
1 pound of shrimp

Procedure:

In a sauce pan, bring the water, milk, and cream to a boil. Stir in the grits. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Mean while, peel and de-vain the shrimp, and dust with some old bay seasoning.

In a saute pan, cook the bacon until crisp, and chop into a small dice. Remove the fat from the pan.

In the same saute pan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute in the butter for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, in batches if you need to, and saute for 1-2 per side until they turn pink. squeeze the lemon juice on top of shrimp.

When the grits are done, add both cheeses and stir. Serve the grits in a bowl, grate more parm cheese on top, top with shrimp and garnish with scallion and bacon.

Add pepper to taste.

Vegetarian Version: Omit the shrimp, and bacon, and add two thick sliced onions, and two red peppers cut into strips. Cook the polenta and add the cheese. Saute the onions and peppers in butter, and add some smoked paprika and pepper to taste. Garnish with scallions.

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Cinco Lagos: Brian Polcyn’s Mexican Restaurant

Ann Arbor Food

I went to Cinco Lagos, in Milford, Michigan for my B-day meal this year. It is the newly themed restaurant by Brian Polcyn which used to be the Five Lakes Grill and featured upscale cuisine. The restaurant has now morphed into a fine medium priced Mexican eatery. We went on Friday night and the place was packed. There were not many people waiting to get in, but the place was full with a steady stream of people leaving, and others being seated.

The food was what one would expect at a Mexican restaurant. There are Tacos, Chiles Poblanos Rellenos, Enchiladas, Nachos, Fajitas, and as a nice surprise Pozole Soup (pictured above).

A big basket of chips comes to your table for free to start, with pico salsa, and a hot red salsa.

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I order the Pozole, and loved it. It was rich, hearty, porky in a good way, and full of flavor. I am a big pozole fan, and make it every other week or so at home.(see my recipe) Mine is made with chicken, not pork, to please a family house majority.

The pozle is so rich, that I could have had it for my meal. At $3.50 a bowl it is a bargain. The next time I go, I might just order two bowls for my meal, along with the chips and call it full.

For our entrees, Emily and I both ordered the three taco platter, which consisted of three large chicken, pork, and beef tacos, each with there own sauce, which came with rice and black beans($11). They were some of the best tacos I ever had.

In general the place is very affordable, the service was very good, and the atmosphere nice yet with a lot of TV’s going made for a kind festive, sport bar like feel. The most expensive entree on the menu was a shrimp, chicken and steak fajitas($16)

They offered a only one special, mahi mahi with a tequila butter sauce, and manga salsa. It sounded great, but we both wanted tacos.

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They were more like six tacos because they came with six soft taco shell. The idea being that you placed half the filling into one of the two shells provided with each taco.

The meal was very filling, and after my pozole, I only had three of the six tacos. The rice and beans are very good and worth noting. Most of the rice and beans I get at mexican restaurants were a filler and after thought, but these were expertly prepared and very tasty.

The big star of the place was the margaritas.($5). Every table besides ours seemed to be having a margarita party, which explains the business model for the place (sell great inexpensive food, and encourage margarita orders). But this is not a margarita bar with lame food. The food is excellent, and affordable. And considering the packed crowd, I felt that Chef Polcyn made a great decision.

For dessert I had the spicy brownie with vanilla sauce which was excellent. It was a warm brownie with a touch of spice for a pleasant, subtle back ground favor.

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Emily had the Mexican flan, which I tasted and it was great, very smooth.

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In general the food was great, and affordable. The check was $40 for two, with soup for me, a soda, and dessert for two and we took home a full meal each for lunch.

Some online comments mentioned that the menu was playing it a little safe with featuring the more familiar Mexican fare. The menu does seem very standard, but the food was all great. Maybe some additional special would satisfy the more adventurous crowd, which I encourage, but the people I saw seemed perfectly happy as was I.

I will definitely go there again. In fact if this place was in Ann Arbor, I would probable go there almost every day. (smiles)

Alabama Trip: Day five

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Shrimp and grits, green green tomatoes, and sweet potato souffle

My last day in the south would not be complete without shrimp and grits. It is more of a South Carolina low country dish, than a traditional Alabama fare. I had it for the first time on a trip last year. I brought home some grits, and since then it has become a celebrated staple, which seems to excite the house in a food frenzy when ever I make it.

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Gumbo

More pics of southern snack foods

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Various Cereal Bars

These gave me a chuckle. I am used to rice crispy treats, but never thought about taking the concept to other cereals. These seems in my opinion as an over the top variations.

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Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts are a southern thing. I have never seen them anywhere else. These were found at a gas station. Unlike other cooked peanut preparations, boiled peanuts are soft, on the salted side, and taste in my opinion more like a starchy pea or bean. They remind me of edamame. Southerner’s eat them as a snack. I like them, but find the ones I have had to be overly salty, so I could only eat a small amount.

Alabama Trip: Day Four

Ann Arbor Food

“This is some of the best BBQ I’ve every chewed on.” I overheard this in the doorway from a guy waiting to be seated. And I have to agree.

The place was Jim ‘N Nick’s, in Birmingham. It s a huge place, and because there was a bowl game in town, UConn vs South Carolina, the place was packed.

Did I eat BBQ (Pork) almost was day in Alabama? I think so. That is why I bring oatmeal and fruit and cut the heavy eating I tend to do down south.

For Dinner: Meal down south come as a meat and two-three sides. Some people go for the Vegetable Plate which is three sides and corn bread. The veggies are so rich from being fried, cooked with bacon, with butter or cream, that the veggies plate is more than enough

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Sweet Tea (popular in the south)

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Corn biscuits

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My Dinner of Pork ribs, ham, creamed spinach, collard greens with BBQ sauce

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Pulled Pork BBQ, with sauce and pickles, Baked beans and collards

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Turkey BBQ

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Chicken BBQ with potato salad and collards

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Tilapia with apples and creamed spinach

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Lemon Pie

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Chocolate Cream pie

Happy B-Day to Me: 41 Years Old

Ann Arbor Food

Today is my 41st B-day, and to celebrate I am having cupcakes from the Cupcake Station this year for my cake. The love the idea of cupcakes because you can have a variety, they are cute little cakes, everyone can have their favorite, and you only need one candle.

Cupcakes are all the rage these days. It make sense. Along with coffee shops, cupcakes places offer a place to hang out and have both coffee/hot coco and cake. Most cupcake places sell mini’s, which lets people to have a small taste instead of eating a whole big sized cupcake, or other full serving size desserts. I figure that 3-4 minis make one ful sized cupcake, so if you want a cupcake, but do not want to over do it, you can get a mini sampler which I prefer.

So how are the cupcakes at the Cupcake Station? They were voted the best of Ann Arbor this year, and I have to excitingly agree. They are the best in the city, and in my opinion the best I have ever had. I am a big fan of what I call hearty frosting. The chocolate frosting is rich, thick and fudge like, and the cream cream frosting was also what I call on the hearty side. Some cupcakes I have had in the past were all show. The cake and the frosting are a pretty cloud, but there is not much there, there.

The Cupcake Station offers some 24 varieties of cupcakes. I have tried four (mini’s) so far (red velvet, pb & c, vanilla petal, and the original vanilla cake and chocolate frosting) and have been please with all of them.

Deep B-day thoughts?: 41 is not a freak out B-day like the ones that end in a zero. But 41 is no small event either. In the not so far past 41 was a ripe old age, and most were considered lucky to hit 41 in good shape.

I am planning for a very productive 41st year on the planet.I am in process of writing a few books (comic book/graphic novels), will be launching my microgreens biz this spring and summer, and relocating to Lansing to attend MSU in the fall to study documentary film. Also, along with writing this blog, I hopefully will be taking up the ukulele, which I got for last years B-day but have not touched.

CB

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Alabama Trip: Day three

Ann Arbor Food

Home cooked Southern meal: Corn bread, fried okra, creamed corn, BBQ, veggies, and cinnamon apples cooked with Jack Daniel’s

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fried okra

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chowder peas

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sock doll I made with Aunt Boots (a hobby of mine) its a rooster cow

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Southern flour brand

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Sweet Summer Squash Pickles

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Grits box with picture of a Southern Breakfast of country ham, grits and eggs

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Sock doll #2, this one is called Lebin

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Old Fashion Butter Press

Trip to Alabama: Day Two

Chicken BBQ with Alabama with sweet potato pie and chips

Chicken BBQ sandwich with Alabama hot slaw and sweet potato pie

Here is dinner number two. The South is all about BBQ. I usually get pork BBQ, but because I had ham the night before and for breakfast, I went for the chicken. What makes Alabama BBQ unique is the hot slaw. It is a hot vinegar cabbage slaw which is eaten with the BBQ. The BBQ sauce is also more of the thin vinegar based variety than the thick tomato sauce type found in the grocery store.

Another stand out is Hot Vinegar. Hot Vinegar is basically hot chili peppers infused in vinegar. It is on every table in every restaurant in the south.

Pork BBQ with Alabama Hot Slaw

Pork BBQ with sauce and hot slaw

Alabama Hot Slaw: Serves 6-8

2-3 LBS of purple, or green cabbage or a mix
1 carrot grated (optional)
3-4 pieces of bacon small diced
1/3-1/2 cup of white white, apple cider or rice wine vinegar
pinch of celery seed
pinch of red pepper flake (or more)
salt and pepper to taste

Splash of Hot Vinegar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 thai chili pepper (fresh or dry)

Add to a jar, and refrigerate over night. It will be ready to use in 24 hours, and keeps for months in the refrigerator.

Procedure:

Boil a 1-2 quarts of  water. Blanch the cabbage and carrot for five minutes then drain in a colander. In a large saute pan, saute the bacon until crisp. Reserve the bacon and set aside. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrap the bottom of the pan to release the brown bits on the bottom. Add the cabbage, carrot, red pepper flake, salt, pepper, and celery seed to the pan to combine. Cook for a few minutes.

Add some Hot Vinegar to taste. Put the vinegar out on the table to let others add more hot vinegar to taste.

Serve with BBQ or as a side dish