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Jake’s Brandy Flambeed Shrimp and Cheese Grits

Jake’s brandy flambeed shrimp with cheese grits are the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some really good ones in both Charleston and New Orleans. I think what makes his so good, besides the brandy flambé, is the tomato based sauce they’re sitting on. 

It was fun to photograph him while he cooked and I realized I could get a lot more interesting food shots when I’m not both the chef and the photographer.

He made this look so easy, so don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you. It’s really pretty simple if you break it down into the three components–shrimp, grits and sauce.

Next time you feel like a trip to the South, or if you just want to really impress someone with a great meal, give this a try.

  • about 2 cups fresh chicken stock
  • the juice from one large can of whole Italian San Marzano tomatoes and one of the tomatoes from the can
  • about 1 stick butter
  • Shells from 1 lb. of shrimp
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • about 3 TBS Chrystal hot sauce
  • a squeeze of lemon
  • a dash of Slap Ya Mama seasoning
  • 3 whole cloves garlic
  • a splash of brandy
  • about 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 TBS chopped rosemary
  • 1 TBS chopped thyme
  • 2 TBS cream cheese
  • a handful of grated jack/cheddar cheese
  • about 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • a splash of heavy cream
  • a dash of Slap Ya Mama seasoning
  • 1/2 cube butter
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • chopped green onion tops
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • about 1/2 cube TBS butter
  • 1-2 cloves chopped garlic
  • a splash of brandy
  • salt & pepper
  • a squeeze of lemon

Here’s Jake, shelling the shrimp.

When he said to buy large shrimp, I didn’t mess around. These 5 shrimp weighed a pound. But regular large shrimp would work even better.

Start with the tomato sauce. Heat the chicken broth in a small pot. He actually made this broth with leftover chicken bones, but you can use your favorite store-bought brand of chicken broth.

Add the juice from a large can of San Marzano tomatoes, one tomato from the can, butter and heat until butter melts.

Add the cream and Chrystal sauce and bring to a boil. 

Throw in the shrimp shells and continue to boil.

Stir and smell. Add Slap Ya Mama, garlic, brandy and lemon. Continue to cook until reduced to about one quarter the amount and it’s a nice thick, but pourable consistency. Kind of like cream of tomato soup, but thicker.

Strain though a sieve making sure to push through all the flavors.

The sauce is done. You can even make this ahead of time, put in the fridge and re-heat when you’re ready to serve.

Have I mentioned that Jake just sort of wings it when he cooks? I was trying to write down what he was doing and take pictures, but the hardest part was trying to determine how much of everything he used since he just poured in some grits, then added a little more then added cheese, then added more.

To make the grits, heat the milk and water and bring to a boil. Add the grits, stir and bring to a boil. Then add rosemary, thyme, cream cheese, jack cheese mixture, Parmesan cheese, cream, seasonings and lemon.  

Continue to cook, stir and taste. You’ll know when it’s done. But this is what it looked like at the end. A nice thick but still creamy consistency.

He loved my garlic rocker that Susan Ellena gave me–it’s the best. 

Let the grits rest on the stove as you cook the shrimp. Heat a large sauté pan, melt the butter in the pan and add the garlic. Cook until the garlic is just lightly browned.

Add the shrimp and cook until pink on both sides. These were really huge shrimp so they took a little longer but regular large shrimp cook pretty fast, about 2-3 minutes a side.

Here was his line-up on the stove–tomato sauce, grits, shrimp.

When the shrimp were almost cooked he poured in a little brandy. This really gives the shrimp a great flavor.

Let the brandy cook off and the shrimp are done.

Give the grits a final stir and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Now you’re ready to plate. Use a shallow bowl and spoon the tomato sauce in. Just enough to cover the bottom.

 Carefully spoon the grits on top of the sauce.

Arrange the shrimp on top of the grits and garnish with the chopped green onion.

Need a child size portion? No problem–one shrimp should do it.

I took one bite of all three flavors at once. You get a little tang from the tomato sauce, and the creamy cheesy flavor of the grits and then the juicy shrimp. All I can say is, thanks Jake, I want this again!

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