Cheese Grits Cake
These cheese grits cakes are served with a relish of bell pepper, corn, and mirliton, a pale green pear-shaped vegetable popular in New Orleans and also known as chayote squash. Chef Brigtsen manages to blend flavors from Southern cooking, New Orleans, and the Southwest in this one dish. This is a perfect brunch dish.
- Grits Cakes
- Water - 5 cups
- Jalapeno Chilies - 3 tablespoons minced
- Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Unsalted Butter - 2 teaspoons
- Grits - 1-1/2 cups (not instant type)
- Cheddar Cheese - 2 cups (8 oz), grated sharp
- Mirliton-Corn Relish
- Corn - 1 large fresh ear, husked
- Mirliton - 1 medium-large, halved
- Red Onion - 2 tablespoons, minced
- Red Bell Pepper - 2 tablespoons, minced
- White Vinegar - 1/2 teaspoon, distilled
- Basil - 1/2 teaspoon, minced fresh
- Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- Tabasco - 1/4 teaspoon (alt. other hot pepper sauce)
- Tomatillo Sauce
- Vegetable Oil - 1/4 cup (alt. peanut oil)
- Corn tortillas - One 6-inch
- Olive Oil - 1 tablespoon
- Yellow Onions - 1 cup finely chopped
- Tomatillos - 8, husked and quartered
- Garlic - 1/2 teaspoon, minced fresh
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Jalapeno Chilies - 1/4 teaspoon, minced
- Cumin - 1/4 teaspoon, ground
- Oregano - 1/4 teaspoon, dried, whole-leaf
- Shrimp Stock - 1-1/4 cups (alt. clam juice)
- Cilantro - 1/2 teaspoon, minced fresh
- Seasoning Mix
- Salt - 1 tablespoon
- Sweet Hungarian paprika - 2 teaspoons
- Oregano - 1 teaspoon, dried whole-leaf
- Onion Powder - 1/2 teaspoon
- Garlic powder - 1/2 teaspoon
- freshly ground black pepper freshly ground black pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
- freshly ground white pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
- Cayenne Pepper - 1/2 teaspoon
- All Purpose Flour - 1 cup, unbleached
- 4 teaspoons Seasoning Mix (above)
- Egg - 1, whole
- Milk - 1 cup
- Fine dried bread crumbs - 2 cups
- Olive Oil - 2 cups
- Unsalted Butter - 2 tablespoons
- Shrimp - 24 medium, peeled and deveined
- Cilantro - 6 fresh sprigs
To make the grits cake: In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the jalapeno, salt, and butter. Slowly stir in the grits, reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook until the grits are tender and thick, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, stirring until it is melted and thoroughly incorporated.
Pour the grits mixture into an 8-by-12-by-2-inch baking pan and smooth the top, then refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Use a 3-1/4-inch cookie cutter or the top of a glass to cut out 6 cakes. Keep them chilled until ready to finish and serve.
To make the relish: In a large pot of boiling water, cook the ear of corn for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and lift out the corn, reserving the liquid. In the same pot of water, boil the mirliton until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Remove from the water. When the corn is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob. Break the kernels apart with your fingers and place them in a large bowl. When the mirliton is cool enough to handle, remove the peel, seed, and cut into 1/4-inch dice. Add the mirliton and remaining ingredients to the corn in the bowl and toss thoroughly. Set aside until ready to serve.
To make the tomatillo sauce: In a large, heavy saucepan or skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable or peanut oil. Add the tortilla and fry until both sides are crisp and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain the tortilla on paper towels and crumble it with your fingers.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until they begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the tomatillos, and cook until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, jalapenos, cumin, and oregano. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the shrimp stock and cilantro, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the crumbled tortilla. Place the mixture in a blender or food processor and puree, then set aside and keep warm until ready to use.
To make the seasoning mix: In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. The mixture may be stored, sealed in a jar, for 2 to 3 months.
To cook the grits cakes: Mix the flour and 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix and place in a shallow dish. Mix the egg and milk in another shallow dish. Mix the bread crumbs with 2 teaspoons of the seasoning mix in a third shallow dish. In each of 2 large, heavy saute pans or skillets over medium heat, heat 1 cup of oil to 375 F, or almost smoking. Lightly coat each grits cake with some of the flour, dip it into the egg mixture, then coat with some of the bread crumbs. Fry the cakes in the hot oil, turning once or twice, until they are crisp and browned, about 4 minutes total. Remove the cakes from the oil, drain on paper towels, and keep warm in a low oven. Using two pans lets you cook six cakes simultaneously without crowding the pan. If necessary, cook in a single pan in batches, letting the oil return to temperature between each batch.
Discard the oil and return one of the pans to the stove over high heat. Add the butter, shrimp, and 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning mix. Cook, stirring constantly, until the shrimp turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the mirliton-corn relish and cook just until heated, about 1 more minute.
To serve: Ladle about 1/4 cup of the sauce onto each serving plate and place a grits cake in the center. Place 3 shrimp around the cake and 1 on top. Spoon some of the relish around the cake and between the shrimp, and a small amount on top. Garnish each plate with a sprig of cilantro.